Every year, video game companies spend thousands of hours and millions of dollars creating the next big title. Press conferences are held long before a launch date is announced, trailerss are produced showcasing the various features, and huge events are planned for the eventual midnight release. Fans cosplay as the game’s main character at conventions, while others upload artwork to their favorite forums. Downloadable content is planned to keep new content coming for years. Books are written expanding the universe, movies are released, and people take the day off of work just to buy the next exciting installment in the game’s story.
And then there’s the game where you play as a piece of bread.
Platforms: PC, PS4 (Version Played)
Publisher: Bossa Studios
Developer: Bossa Studios
Genre: I, Uh… I Have No Idea
Release Date: April 9, 2015 (PC), August 25, 2015 (PS4)
ESRB Rating: Everyone 10+
I Am Bread is a difficult game to describe, but basically the premise is this: you are a self-aware piece of bread, and your goal is to become toast. Sure, that sounds absolutely absurd – and it is. But it’s also fun. Surprisingly fun. More fun than you would think it should be. And why is that? Because it doesn’t take itself too seriously.
Trying to describe I Am Bread is really quite the fascinating task. On its surface, it looks like a wacky platformer, but under its crust, there’s so much more. Each level is designed around different parts of a house – for example, a living room, bathroom, and garage – and you are tasked with maneuvering the titular piece of bread to a heat source in order to turn into toast. Normally, that’d be a piece of cake, right? Not so much. Your bread has an “edibility” bar, and as you traverse each level, you have to avoid anything that would lower this bar. Land on some pencil shavings? There goes some of the edibility. Scooting across a surface covered in mildew? Yuck. And then there’s the ground. Let’s just say it takes the phrase “five second rule” quite literally. You really need to plot your course in order to make it safely to the heat source. And once you get to said source, the nasty surroundings become the “yeast” of your problems.
In the first level, you simply find a toaster and get inside it; no problem. Each subsequent level, however, is missing that all-important appliance, so you’ll need to find an alternate heat source. Not only that, but once you actually find a way to toast yourself, you’ll need to quickly flip yourself over in order to reach effective “toastiness,” lest you burn yourself. It’s really harder than you think.
This is where the controls (and physics) come into play. Movement is both hilarious and frustrating. Each of your slice’s four corners are mapped to the PlayStation 4’s shoulder buttons. When you press a button, the corresponding corner of the bread sticks to whatever surface it happens to be on. Then, you use the analog stick to move the bread along that axis. Eventually, you’re going to want to hold two buttons at the same time, then press forward to make the bread flip over. Then, alternate buttons until you’re flip-flopping around, just like a real-life piece of bread would. There is a fairly steep learning curve to controlling your bread, but once you get used to it, your bread will be zipping around in no time.
The bread can stick to pretty much any surface, and climbing walls is, for the most part, easy. I say “for the most part” for two reasons. First, you have a grip meter. Bread, like any other inanimate object which suddenly springs to life, only has a certain amount of stamina, and by sticking any of your four corners onto something, this stamina level slowly decreases. If it decreases all the way, the bread loses all grip and you’ll have to wait for your stamina level to recover. So you’ll want to go as fast as you can – no loafing around. This adds a certain level of intensity and urgency to each level. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve yelled at my bread to move faster as it’s climbing up a wall, just inches away from the shelf I’m trying to reach.
The other reason for the difficulty is actually based on your ability to control the bread. The best way to maneuver is by flipping around, end-over-end. I found that to be the quickest form of travel. The problem is that at times it’s difficult to see exactly which button controls which corner of the bread. The shoulder buttons are shown to you on-screen, but it becomes quite easy to lose track of where the correct buttons are. Couple that with the grip meter, and you’ve got a control scheme that works, but at times can be frustrating. Think of it as the “rub your stomach while patting your head” game, and you’ll understand where I’m coming from.
I Am Bread has several modes. There is an actual story mode, and it is very interesting, to say the least. Each time you beat a level you’ll be treated to a new chapter in the story, which is at the same time tragic and hilarious. In addition to the story mode, there are several other minigames. You can race a bagel through checkpoints, destroy as much as possible using a baguette in a sandbox-style level, try to locate cheese as a very frail cracker, and enjoy a zero gravity section that really takes the game’s physics to new heights. Finally, there’s the much-needed free-roam mode, where you can explore each level to try to come up with a plan of action to toast your bread. You certainly get a lot of content for the price.
The game is not without its flaws, though. The most glaring issue is the camera. Most of the time, you have a pretty clear view, but at times the camera gets stuck and you can’t even see where you’re going, despite your best attempts to change your viewing angle. This is most prominent when getting through tight spaces, and at times while climbing up a wall. In one instance, I had to get out of a tall garbage can, and really struggled due to the combination of the limited stamina and frustrating camera. Additionally, I Am Bread isn’t for everybody. Casual and younger gamers may quickly get aggravated and abandon the game due to the difficulty and control scheme. It’s definitely a tough game: but you get such a sense of accomplishment when finishing the level. But it’s more suited for those of us with a lot of gaming experience.
I Am Bread is a fun game. It’s a breath of fresh air to see something with such a silly and simple premise yield something so deep and challenging. It’s also quite the social game: I can definitely picture a bunch of gamers around the TV, taking turns trying to turn the bread into toast, while yelling instructions at each other. And I will say that I Am Bread did something not many games do: passed the wife test. My wife isn’t a gamer, and aside from the occasional Candy Crush, doesn’t have much of an interest. But when she caught a glimpse of a piece of bread pushing a bowling ball off a shelf onto a TV to create an electrified heat source, she was intrigued. Soon, she was sitting there with me, coaching me as I tried to beat the level. Despite a few issues, I Am Bread is a game that works. It’s different, it’s quirky, and it’s a great experience – but for the right audience. And while not a multi-million dollar AAA title, it certainly felt a lot more fun than some of those games.
Oh, and I must add that I’m extremely proud of this ninja-esque move I did on a potted plant.
Review Disclosure: A review copy of I Am Bread was provided by Bossa Studios for the purposes of this review.