The world’s most realistic bread simulator lands butter side up, in what is one of the year’s most original, and silly, indie games.
Controlling a piece of bread that desperately wants to be toasted is a stupid idea for a video game. But then not a lot of what happens in video games ever makes any real sense, from magically healing yourself by standing still for five seconds to the peculiar concept of double-jumping. Admittedly, controlling a sentient slice of farmhouse loaf is pushing things a bit far, but if it makes for a good game that should be all that matters. And I Am Bread is a good game.
Thanks to games like Surgeon Simulator British developer Bossa are often accused of making ‘YouTube fodder’ – games designed primarily to encourage amusing videos regardless of how they actually play. But that’s unfair. Surgeon Simulator is purposefully clumsy and silly but it’s also purposefully funny, the video game equivalent of physical comedy versus witty one-liners. I Am Bread is closer to being a ‘real’ game but still much of the entertainment comes from the bizarre situations you find yourself in, as much as it does the actual gameplay.
The closest comparison for I Am Bread is undoubtedly cult hit Katamari Damacy. The two games have much in common in terms of their purposefully imprecise controls, their bizarre sense of humour, and the fact that anything you roll over sticks to you (although in I Am Bread that’s a bad thing).
The story in I Am Bread is surprising dark and revolves around a man named Mr Murton, who seems to have a student’s grasp of basic food hygiene. A psychiatrist’s report is the bookend for each level, revealing that Murton is aware of the bread’s perambulatory powers, and the final stage takes an amusingly sinister turn that you really wouldn’t expect from such an absurd concept.
However, the meat in the game’s sandwich, as it were, is simply controlling the slice itself. It really is just a piece of bread, so the only way it can travel is by moving each corner to flop and flip towards its goal. A button is mapped to each of the corners, and so the standard trick is to hold down the buttons for two of the sides and then flip up the other two so that you crawl along in the desired direction. Or if it’s a big flip jump a short distance.
This is just as difficult as it sounds and if you even manage to move at all in your first few minutes of play, let alone in the right direction, you’re doing well. The learning curve is buttery smooth though, and soon you can start to focus on what is apparently the one and only goal of bread-based lifeforms: to be turned into toast.
We’re not sure what they have against a nice ploughman’s lunch but although a toaster is provided on at least some of the levels you often have to resort to whatever heating appliance is to hand: from hairdriers and barbecues to the smashed innards of a burning TV.
The game’s physics system is rather less than realistic, but you have just enough weight that you can cause fridge doors to swing open, push skateboards across the floor, and knock spanners into car windows. The bread has a grip meter that allows it to cling onto even vertical surface for a short time, an ability that can be augmented by covering yourself in butter or jam.
Creating a path for yourself is vital not only for reaching your chosen heat source but also for keeping yourself clean. Your slice has an edibility rating and this decreases whenever you move over anything unsanitary. Everything from toenail clippings to ants end up getting stuck to you as you move, but the most consistent danger is simply landing on the floor.
The story mode will probably take you around five or six hours to complete, since there’s only eight stages. But as you progress you unlock an impressive variety of other play modes. There’s Rampage mode where you get to play as a baguette trying to smash as many objects as possible within a time limit, the self-explanatory Bagel Race mode, and Cheese Hunt mode where you’re a cracker looking for five pieces of smelly cheese. (Really, we’re not making any of these up.)
Free Roam mode doesn’t have any objectives but is a good way to explore each environment and experiment with its contents. And finally there’s Zero G mode, which was apparently inspired by an early bug and then turned into a proper part of the game.
Just like Surgeon Simulator, I Am Bread revels in its bugs and glitches. And although the game is now officially out of Early Access it’s not at all uncommon to see the bread spinning inexplicably out of control, falling through the floor, or otherwise defying the game’s already loosely defined laws of physics. Maybe these problems will be fixed over time but it’s hard not to imagine that the developers have been purposefully lax in order to ensure a good supply of YouTube videos.
It’s not enough to spoil the enjoyment, and we have to admit that occasionally it does add to it, but it blurs the line between laughing along with the game and simply laughing at it. But you can make a good argument that it doesn’t really matter which it is as long as you’re entertained, and as frustrating and clumsy as I Am Bread can be it is nearly always entertaining.
I Am Bread
In Short: The best bread simulator ever made, and despite the rampant silliness there’s some inspired gameplay mechanics and level design baked in.
Pros: The basic concept is as enjoyable as it is ludicrous, with some clever physics-based puzzles and physical humour. Even the story is surprisingly good.
Cons: The clumsy controls and slapdash physics engine can easily frustrate with their lack of precision. A number of considerably less forgiveable bugs and glitches.
Publisher: Bossa Studios
Developer: Bossa Studios
Release Date: 9th April 2015
Age Rating: N/A