Have you ever just gotten the urge to run out to the woods and live a quiet life among the trees? As a New Yorker, it’s a thought that crosses my mind at least once a day. The urge to just settle down somewhere with only a few residents and a handful of local establishments is one that grows stronger the nosier the outside world becomes.
Bear & Breakfast lets me live out that cozy fantasy – and as a bonus, it lets me play as a bear. Developed by Gummy Cat, the soothing management game is about a brown bear who starts running a bed-and-breakfast franchise in his woodland home. It’s a bit like if you took some of the systems-heavy gameplay of Stardew Valley and combined it with the room decoration aspect of Animal Crossing: New Horizons’ Happy Home Paradise DLC.
As you can probably guess from that description, Bear & Breakfast has a specific audience in mind and, like a good B&B owner, it knows how to cater to them. Though it could benefit from some post-launch updates to fix its slow pace, Bear & Breakfast is a relaxing summer game for those blistering days where you just want to hang out by the AC and chill.
A bear’s life
In Bear & Breakfast, players are dropped into the woods and are quickly tasked with turning a small abandoned building into a modest bed-and-breakfast. The introduction quickly throws a few systems out: material scavenging, furniture crafting, room building, hotel management, and bartering for decorations with a raccoon who sells them out of a dumpster. There’s even more to do the deeper you get in the story, like cooking.
Everything is easy to understand, which is no small task for a systems-heavy game like this. In particular, building a room is especially intuitive and satisfying. It’s just a matter of dragging the mouse to select some blocks on a grid to put up walls. From there, players can drop in anything they want, from beds to mirrors to succulents. Decorating is the best part of Bear & Breakfast, bringing an Animal Crossing-like appeal to the game. I love building tiny hotel suites that feel like cozy woodland hideaways. I’m even a little jealous of the digital characters that come to stay in my rooms.
The hotel-management aspect of the game is easy to pick up too, though it naturally escalates in complexity over time. At first, I’m just renting out three rooms, making sure to put new arrivals in rooms that best suit their requests. Later, I add a new location to my franchise: a much bigger motel that needs a bathroom and a distillery. Guests become more demanding and soon I’ll need to start thinking of hiring staff to juggle it all. For those who love management games like Rollercoaster Tycoon, Bear & Breakfast scratches that itch without getting too stressful. It carries itself with a relaxed, low-key energy.
Perhaps too low-key at times. The game runs into some issues when it comes to its laid-back pace. There’s a day/night cycle, and the only way to skip forward in time is by sleeping when nightfall hits. I found that I’d often walk around twiddling my thumbs waiting for night so I could actually progress. At one point, my only objective was simply to wait for two guests to fully finish their stay. Since I was waiting for them to leave and write their reviews of their stay so I’d get paid, there wasn’t much I could do with an empty wallet. I wandered around collecting resources, eventually just walking away from my computer altogether until nightfall. I wouldn’t be surprised if the game gets a post-launch update adding better ways to skip time, as the day-to-day grind can feel sparse depending on how many quests are active.
While that’s made my short time with Bear & Breakfast a little more slow-going than I like from the genre, it’s the little hits of charm that keep me coming back. I love chatting with humans and seeing the dialogue responses I choose get translated to “confused bear noises.” I find its cartoon visual style soothing, with its simple shapes and colorful palette. Though most of all, it’s that creation aspect that stands out. It’s a game about fixer-uppers, one that plays with the satisfaction that comes from mending a broken space and making it feel like home. Building comfortable, miniature spaces out of a few well-placed objects makes for a zen-like gameplay loop that has been chilling me out amid an un-bear-able heat wave.
As far as summer releases go, Bear & Breakfast is the peaceful digital getaway I want, one that makes the dream of escaping to the woods seem even more enticing. Though if a real bear ever asks you to rent out its hotel room, I’d advise you to pass on the offer. Some things are better left as escapism.
Bear & Breakfast is available now on PC. It’s coming to Nintendo Switch at a later date.
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