I Am Bread – Review

Title   I Am Bread
Developer  Bossa Studios
Publisher  Bossa Studios
Platform  Windows PC
Genre  Puzzle platformer/action adventure simulator
Release Date  April 9th, 2015
Official Site  http://www.iambreadgame.com/

While other genres amble along, rarely giving their coke bottle of innovation so much as a nudge, happy to churn out yearly sequels and identikit releases, the puzzle genre has, for years, been gleefully shaking it up and popping the cap. The results have been fascinating. Some of the zaniest, most bizarre themes and games have emerged in the endlessly innovating puzzle/platform genre and I Am Bread by Bossa Studios is just the latest. Currently clinging stubbornly onto Steam’s Early Access, this kooky little puzzle game (billed as an action adventure simulator) is the oddest fucking thing I think anyone has come up with since a slab of meat set off on a quest to save his girlfriend. But it works. Somehow. Believe me.

You are a slice of bread. Your mission: to become toast by any means necessary. Set in the unhygienic home of the increasingly unstable Mr Murton. The slice – erm, let’s call him Warburton – must traverse the environment in whichever room he finds himself, overcoming obstacles and general grime to reach whatever heat source he can in order to become toast. Simple? Yeah, no. That’s the kicker. The controls, while seemingly simple (“it’s a piece of bread, how hard could this be?!” – me, at precisely five seconds into the tutorial and approximately thirty seconds from a meltdown) are a grade-A bastard. Despite having a tutorial mode in which to play around, it will take a great deal of practice to master, whether you favour mouse and keyboard or controller (I would recommend the latter).

The key is to flip around, end over end (or corner) by using the keys/buttons/triggers; each corner of Warburton has a button label and holding that button/trigger will cause you to grip or anchor that corner. Usually for a standard flip you depress two buttons at once on whichever side you want to anchor and then move the stick, flipping you over. For those tricky jumps, one corner flips and flings are the order of the day, giving greater momentum and distance, but slightly less control, as you pinwheel across gaps and grasp desperately for purchase on walls and furniture. Yes, you can climb. And yes, that’s a dick, too.

It is hard to explain and even harder to become accustomed to, but it is a smart, fascinating mechanic that feels ‘in character’. Character, what am I on about, it’s a slice of bread (no offence, Warburton). Anyway, with the wall climbing thrown into the mix, it gets even trickier, especially as you have an ever-decreasing grip-gauge to worry about. Spend too long struggling and gripping a wall/box/wheelie bin and the controller will vibrate and you’ll take a tumble – something that can amount to certain doom or endless backtracking frustration.

So you aren’t indestructible? Nope. Each room is a veritable pit of grease and grime, with ants crawling on work surfaces and bottles, plates, suspect videotapes, and erm… liquorice allsorts strewn over surfaces and shelves. And therein lies the problem. Warburton can’t just power through everything like Stallone, because you have a rather delicate Edibility meter to worry about, which, if you even think about flipping through a swarm of ants or smashing that jam jar for kicks, will drop quicker than a venerable studio from EA’s treacherous grip. If your Edibility meter hits zero, then it’s game over and you’ll have to start the level again. Bugger.

Help is at hand, however, as if you screw up twice (entirely likely), the benevolent developers at Bossa have thrown in a invincibility pick-up – Magic Marmalade. Flipping into it imbues you with a never-depleting Edibility meter and unlimited grip. Don’t celebrate yet, however. You still have to navigate the environment and locate a heat source, which is never as simple as it sounds. As you progress through the levels, each set in a different room of Mr Murton’s house, things get trickier. You’ll have to turn dials, flip switches, and figure out how to get the heat you need in order to become toast, and exploration and experimentation are encouraged (and necessary). There are plenty of things to be nudged off shelves and tables, pushed over, or flop-smashed. It was in this shamelessly destructive manner that I stumbled on the solution in the lounge, for example.

While the ingenious gameplay is both absorbing and frustrating in equal measure, it isn’t all roses. The graphics won’t exactly smack the tits off you, but they more than do the job – besides, now I come to think of it, I don’t think I want to see Mr Murton’s sheets in glorious graphical detail. The music is simple, but upbeat, twonky, and playful – almost bordering on happy-insanity. It may drive you mad the fifteenth time you fall out of the bathroom cabinet and into the sink, but it somehow fits the on-screen lunacy.

With the relatively few levels on offer and small environments, it could be easy to struggle through the game and then wash your hands of the whole thing, so the devs are to be commended on trying to inject a little more life into it, extending the game beyond what you would likely think possible. The desire to do better is always a big draw, and you are assigned a score at the end of every level, which depends on your Edibility and time it took you to complete it. Limping home every time, covered in pencil shavings and dead ants, I was never going to rank highly, but, if you are so inclined, such a performance can inspire a burning reason to return and improve. So, too, do the extra modes: Free-Roam, Rampage (in which you play as a baguette and race against the clock to smash whatever you can), Bagel Race (lurching and tumbling around the level, rolling through checkpoints and trying to snag a decent time), and Hunt the Cheese, and Anti G all give the game more longevity than it may have otherwise enjoyed.

While its innovation and humour are to be praised, there are a few issues… the camera can be a dick at times, forcing itself behind you in close quarters and clipping through walls, scenery, and objects, so you’ll get the inside of a wheelie bin or the outside of the level suddenly leap in front of you, screwing up your view. While you never lose sight of your corner tags, it is less than ideal when trying to perfect jumps or get the lay of the land, especially when your grip meter is going and there is an edibility-killing puddle of ‘what the fuck’ on the floor beneath you.

Tricksy, bijou and with an odd charm, this kooky puzzler is another gem in the twisted crown of the puzzle/’what the hell’ genre. While other games fester in their fear of originality, games like I Am Bread will forge bold new paths off the beaten track and take their genre to new, oddball, but wonderfully playable places. Bossa Studios may be more twisted than Talkie Toaster, but they’ve come up with a nifty, hair-tearing game that will swallow your evening.

  • Utterly silly
  • Innovative movement and gameplay
  • The concept of playing as a slice of bread is either genius or pure lunacy
  • The controls, despite being tough, feel and look natural and work with the subject matter
  • Extra game modes wring more longevity and enjoyment out of an otherwise short title
  • Nice little mini-story provides a neat framework for the game
  • Utterly silly
  • Controls are a bastard to master
  • Camera can be a pain in the arse when up against walls/furniture
  • Graphics won’t blow your syrup off
  • Anti Gravity mode. Fuck off

Few, if any, genres do ‘what the fuck’ like the puzzle genre. The endless innovation in recent years, coupled with a diehard sense oddball and straight-up silliness often give rise (no pun intended) to some kooky gems. I Am Bread is one of those. That said, it bills itself as an action adventure simulator, but falls more to puzzle/platform territory.

With tricky-to-master controls, and a warped sense of humour, the game will have you raging as you try and navigate its messy environments in order to fulfil your raison d'être and become toast. The controls may be tough to master, but the option for invincibility after several failed tries makes it more accessible for everyone, although the camera still proves quite problematic at times.

While it may be short and sweet, the devs at Bossa Studios have packed in a surprising amount of extra modes to extend the game’s shelf life, each as bizarre as the last, and they make for a great distraction, as well as a smart way to reuse the levels, wringing every last drop of entertainment from them. Smart stuff. Weird, wonderful, and harder than a kick in the bread tray, I Am Bread is one of those insidious little bastards that you can’t help wanting to play. If only to say that you have.

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