Impressions from the generous Steam demo
I’ve come out of E3 2021 with too many games swirling around my mind, and Steam Next Fest — a gathering of hundreds of demos for upcoming PC games — sure isn’t helping. But it’s a fantastic problem to have, you know? I tried to pare down a list of demos to check out this week, and the keyword there is “try”; there are simply too many calling me.
First on my list? Bear and Breakfast. This recent story trailer nudged me into action.
Bear and Breakfast is coming to Steam and Nintendo Switch this year. In it, you play a mild-mannered bear with a hat (who can also wear shorts!) who has stumbled onto the perfect woodland retreat. Well, not quite — it’s more like a few once-great buildings full of junk and lost dreams. With guidance from a kind old woman who innately gets the gist of your bear lingo, you’ll rebuild Pinefall Resort room by room, one guest at a time.
A laid-back bed-and-breakfast management game is a wonderful idea, and I can’t say enough good things about the art direction, which looks great in screenshots and even better in motion. It’s just buzzing with detail, yet everything seems readable at a glance.
In the early portion, I spent a lot of time picking up trash (to trade with an NPC for decorative items), rummaging through scrap (for crafting resources), and plucking plants (for eventual cooking). Bear and Breakfast takes its sweet time. Once you accumulate enough items, you’ll be able to freely build out rooms in your B&B and welcome guests.
There were several moments where I tripped myself up by not quite knowing what precisely to do or where exactly to go. I’ll save you some time: there’s a toggle on the hotbar to hide ceilings and walls; sometimes you’ve got to check back in with Barbara before you can move onto the next step, even if the next step seems like it should be doable right now; you can find stone bricks down south, and they’ll replenish over time.
The resource-gathering mechanics are a tad basic for my liking in that it’s a lot of just one-note clicking and waiting, but I was pleasantly surprised with the building mechanics. In a pre-defined two-story lodge (just one in the demo, but more in the full game), you’ll trace out distinct room layouts, add doors, and fill them out with the requisite comfort items.
I built out a bedroom, a top-floor shared bathroom (that was honestly kind of gross), a strategically tucked-away utility room for the heater, and a kitchen where I could serve up meals for guests. The cooking is also a bit more elaborate than expected — it involves learning a recipe, placing down “cards” like Boil and Fuel, and adding the necessary ingredients like a potato and wood to, for instance, make a humble baked potato.
Even though I didn’t get super deep into my build, I can already see the appeal of trying to cram as many nice-looking rooms as possible into the resort. Meeting guests’ varying needs, maximizing their happiness (and payouts), and balancing functionality with your ideal aesthetic will be a challenge. At the same time, Bear and Breakfast is very chill; it’s about as stress-free as they come. For some players, there won’t be enough stakes.
Outside of the demo content, which includes a couple of voiced story scenes (that fall short of the stellar art style), it seems like the full game will have a larger tale to tell, as hinted at in the trailer. That’ll be important, especially for people like me.
I’ve enjoyed my time, but I can’t say I’m as gripped as I was in games like Stardew Valley or even Graveyard Keeper. I’m the type of person who likes to build everything just so — until suddenly, I’m spent. If there’s a larger carrot on the stick apart from the innate fun of designing and then managing a B&B, that would go a long way to keeping me hooked.
The Steam Next Fest demo for Bear and Breakfast is very generous — almost to a fault, if that’s even possible. It’s such a big and seemingly comprehensive look at the game that it feels like a total slow-burn in this one-week limited-time demo context, and yet, if you’re okay with a slower pace, you’re going to love melting into the coziness.
I spent something like 90 minutes poking around, learning the ropes, and finishing the main tutorial-esque quests. If I wanted to, I could’ve kept playing to really fine-tune both floors of my main building — the demo tosses up a “thanks for playing but keep going if you want!” message — though I’d rather savor it and wait for the final version.