Bear And Breakfast Review - Four Star Stay

  • First Released Jul 28, 2022
  • PC

Bear and Breakfast's darker narrative themes don't complement its management sim elements but it still delivers a compellingly rhythmic gameplay loop.

You're getting pretty much exactly what you sign up for with Bear and Breakfast: You're playing as a bear named Hank who opens up several bed and breakfasts to host humans looking for a place to stay. Developer Gummy Cat does sprinkle in a bit of an adventure game in this management sim to act as a narrative backdrop, but Bear and Breakfast's story is simple window dressing for the far more wonderful cycle of building up a lodge, hosting some guests, and then using your hard-earned cash to afford grander renovations. The loop has a satisfying rhythm to it and a challenging complexity as the days roll on and your responsibilities grow, and Bear and Breakfast rewards creative solutions with fulfilling results.

Despite that complexity, you don't need to jump into this game with a degree in design. Bear and Breakfast eases you in, with Hank and his friends simply trying to make a quick buck by transforming a rundown shed into a vacation spot. Making a room to house a guest isn't all that hard, as even the small shed is spacious enough for both a room and your front desk. As you progress, you'll unlock additional locations--like a restaurant off the freeway and two cabins up in the mountains--which are larger and afford you even more space.

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With the increase in size comes an increase in considerations, though. Humans are selfish creatures, with wants and needs that you'll need to account for--failing to do so will mean negative reviews, which will tank your business. Some guests require bathrooms attached to their rooms, while others want free on-site food, a nearby campsite, a fully decked-out movie theater, or heating. These services take up additional space on your property, forcing you to put those Tetris skills to the test and find a means of getting everything to fit and still look nice.

Bear and Breakfast's delightful management system is based on grids and blocks, so constructing the perfect motel is like putting together a puzzle and fitting things together, only there's no right answer. Once you've created a room, you can decorate it with anything you've got stocked up in your inventory, all of which can be rotated and fit into an empty space with a satisfying snap. Every item contributes to your bed and breakfast in some way--an increase in comfort, for example--and solving the puzzle of each open space requires you to figure out how to squeeze in everything to meet the needs of your future guests.

Each type of room has a minimum size and furniture requirement, which acts as a great starting point when you're planning everything out. That won't get you far if you're looking to attract pickier and more loaded guests, however. Making rooms bigger allows you to fit larger, fancier furniture, like a queen-sized bed for the bedroom or a buffet serving station for the dining room. It's a lot of fun to stare at an empty space and try to fathom how you're going to possibly fit five bedrooms, five bathrooms, and an assortment of other services into it, and then, with a spurt of creative genius, you manage to find a way.

Obviously, you could just host one guest at a time, completely remaking your properties every other day to fit the next arrival. Doing so is costly, however--money is needed to make new rooms, and so you won't make much of a profit destroying and making new rooms in order to fit the ideal of every guest that crosses your doorstep. The good money lies in making a multi-roomed bed and breakfast that can host many guests at once, and still features enough amenities to keep a variety of humans happy. And then, over time, breaking down a single room and building it back even better to attract a richer clientele and slowly doing that with every room across multiple locations.

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You'll earn plenty of incentives beyond simple coin when building and rebuilding properties too, especially once you have two or three up and running and can pause service at one to completely redesign it while still making money elsewhere. Each property comes with an assortment of unique challenges (tasks like, "try to build this many rooms within the space" or "raise the prestige of the dining area to this specific level"), and completing them nets you some nice rewards, like larger inventory space, faster walking speed, or being able to craft items even when you're not at a crafting table.

These optional challenges also help in kickstarting your creativity when you may be engaging in bad practices without even realizing it. For instance, I didn't think one of my properties could even fit more than four rooms and four bathrooms until I saw a task asking me to do it. Figuring out how to make that work benefited me in the long run, as it forced me to learn the importance of conserving space--an incredibly helpful lesson to grasp ahead of tackling the endgame and final property. Setting up that final bed and breakfast is a lot, but it felt like I had been adequately trained to overcome that gauntlet through the series of challenges I had been asked to complete up to that point.

I also love that Bear and Breakfast features multiple properties, as opposed to one bed and breakfast that you're forced to focus on over the course of its runtime. The different locales are located in vastly different environments and each is differently shaped too--from a small rectangular shed in the forest to a massive two-story L-shaped cabin in the mountains--so you're not tackling the exact same problem over and over. You're always trying to make the best bed and breakfast you can, but how you go about it evolves with each new location that you unlock. You only need to worry about investing in heating in the game's two colder locations, for example, and your guests will ask for higher standards when it comes to comfort and good hygiene in the arid desert in comparison to the lush forest. Your solutions for tackling one property might not work on another, encouraging you to grow as a designer and experiment further as the game goes on and you take on a greater variety of bed and breakfasts.

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If you need a break from all the building and planning, spending time away from your properties is also worthwhile, as you'll find plenty to help you throughout the valley and woods that Hank calls home. While exploring, you'll find materials needed to craft furniture and ingredients that can be cooked into a wide variety of delicious dishes. Perhaps most helpful is the trash that your human guests leave behind--incentivizing you to have as many guests as possible in order to accrue a large amount of litter--as it can be spent at raccoon-owned dumpsters to buy fancy cosmetics like rugs, house plants, and bookshelves. These decorations can increase the reputation of a property, bringing in guests with deeper pockets.

As you explore, you'll meet plenty of colorful critters and helpful humans, from a shy goat to a friendly park ranger. Assisting them with their tasks will oftentimes benefit you, unlocking perks like new cooking recipes or staff that can oversee certain services at your properties while you're out and about. There's not too much to these characters' stories, though I found myself helping each one all the same--the promise of new services being incentive enough to go out of my way and get my friends out of whatever pickle they'd found themselves in.

It's in these interactions that you also get characterization for Hank. Frankly, there's not much to him beyond being a swell guy that likes to help people, and in his discovery that he has a knack for decorating and hosting humans, he finds his purpose. He is cute though, and I love the game's adorable translations for how his well-articulated sentences actually sound to humans. Though the animal characters all seem to be included to add some charming humor, the human characters are pretty fascinating and my favorite faces to see in the game. Barbara is especially well written, with her good-natured disposition hiding a somewhat tragic backstory that ties into the game's spookier elements.

Those spookier elements are only hinted at in Bear and Breakfast. The only explicit tell that they're there are the game's opening--in which Hank dreams of a nightmarish entity hidden in the woods--and then the reveal of Barbara's past near the end of the game. The rest is scattered about in optional collectibles and hidden quests, tying Bear and Breakfast's cutesy tale to a dark past of political upheaval and a dangerous cult. These elements don't seem to lead to any sort of meaningful conclusions (at least as far as I've seen), which I found to be somewhat disappointing--those small threads are interesting and I had hoped they'd go somewhere.

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That's not what Bear and Breakfast is largely about, though. This is a game all about making your business pop off and maybe befriending a colorful critter or two along the way. I would have liked to discover that the spookier narrative elements amount to something more, but the enjoyable management sim that I found instead kept me pleasantly entertained for hours, offering plenty of creative challenges for me to puzzle my way through, all in the name of making the cutest set of bed and breakfasts there's ever been.

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The Good

  • Increasing number of complex considerations encourages creative growth
  • Cute protagonist is a lovable guy
  • Multiple bed and breakfast locations allow for greater experimentation

The Bad

  • Spookier narrative themes aren't interwoven into the game very well

About the Author

Jordan has put 17 hours into Bear and Breakfast. Most of his bed and breakfasts are running smoothly, save for those cabins in the mountains that he's abandoned. It's just too expensive to keep the heating system working for all those whiny humans showing up in jeans and t-shirts. He played Bear and Breakfast on PC using a code provided by the publisher.