The sun crests the horizon and birds explode into song. The sound of woodland life wakes you from your slumber. You kick on your slippers and shuffle your way to the dining room for a breakfast of mint tea and mashed potatoes, waving at the strangely hirsute creature lumbering towards you. Is that a bear, you ask yourself? Surely not. After all, he’s wearing a dapper baseball cap. This is the premise behind Bear and Breakfast – a laid-back hotel management sim in which you play a B&B proprietor who happens to be a bear.
You are Hank, a charming, well-meaning, but clumsy bear who found himself in some sort of B&B pyramid scheme being run by a robot shark. You’re convinced that opening a chain of hotels will bring humans back to the area, which means money for you, and dibs on all the best garbage that they inadvertently bring with them.
So you get to work collecting wood, scrap metal and cloth, and use it to renovate buildings and build rooms for guests. From basic beds to a brewery, everything you craft is made from stuff you scavenge from the world around you.
But humans are picky creatures though, and they like all manner of soft furnishings. They don’t even need to look nice, as the game helpfully points out. Here is where the second recycling mechanic comes in — you pick up the trash the humans leave behind and trade it for decorations with the local racoon who guards the bins.
More humans means more trash, which means more and better decorations to entice more humans. And so, our B&B empire grows.
Like Hank, Bear and Breakfast is charming at a glance, but is sadly let down by its clumsiness. As you go about building your empire, you happen across the denizens of the wood — some are human, but most are other animals. In order to progress, you’re constantly sent on quests to keep everyone happy. These mostly tend to be repetitive fetch quests which gets really boring, really quickly.
Putting the storyline and missions to one side — which is virtually impossible given the linearity and restrictions as to where you can build – and just trying to focus on your empire, Bear and Breakfast is hamstrung by both the building mechanics and a sore lack of smoothing that would give a huge obvious quality-of-life boost.
One case in point is inventory management and crafting. Hank has a reasonably large amount of backpack space, but items often stack weirdly. A few times I found myself wondering why I had stacks of 87 and 22 of the same type of wood, and was consolidating items to free up space. That’s nothing short of daft when the game caps item stacks at 99.
I then had to go stash things in the box near my workstation so I could grab the copper plating I needed to make a new bathtub, only to find out that you can’t craft with items from your box. This leads to a weird inventory management side-game of trying to get the items I needed in one place so I could finish building a room for a new customer. For a game that doesn’t take anything seriously, it’s weird to force you into walking 10 metres back and forth when you forgot to pick up the plastic sheeting you dumped in the box earlier.
The same is true for the breakfast part of the B&B experience — you can’t cook with items you’re not physically holding, and that’s after spending a solid 10 minutes trying to figure out how to cook. Again, great if you’re going for a meta overview of the farcical nature of Hank’s experience, but this felt more like an oversight than clever commentary.
Which brings me to my next gripe — there is no logic in terms of decorating rooms. If you want to up the decoration score of a room to make a guest happy, you can literally fill it with cardboard boxes and wall-to-wall possum clocks. This nightmare hellscape, as it can only be described, satisfied the customer and I got a 5* review for my decoration skills.
After that, I stopped trying to make things nice for my virtual customers and started just cramming whatever I could, wherever I could. Sure, there’s something to be said there about the unbridled chaos of Hank running a B&B out of a ramshackle shed in the middle of nowhere, but it also just breaks the immersion with how sloppy it feels. A little more nuance here, requiring different types of item would at least encourage some more creative effort.
Lastly, we have the writing, which in some ways is the saving grace of Bear and Breakfast. The premise is very cute. Hank and his friends team up to try to coax some life back into the forest, and are very endearing in the process. And Hank himself is a loveable, albeit dim protagonist. When he speaks to a human and the subtitle *Affirmative bear noises* pops up for the first time, you have to chuckle. However, Bear and Breakfast is so very verbose that, for all its cuteness, you wind up speed reading as you rapidly click through what feels like endless dialogue.