Being unique isn’t enough to be a good game these days. The most unique thing about “I am Bread” is that you play as a slice of bread, and your only objective is to make it to a heat source and become toast. Unfortunately, that premise may be the best thing about the game, as it lacks almost all other criteria that would make a game fun or engaging.
“I am Bread” doesn’t feel like its developers had a lot of experience with puzzle games to begin with. While the tutorial capably trains the player in the bread’s basic movement, it also includes an odd section near the end that teaches advanced climbing, recommending it for advanced players, and cautioning, “beginners may want to skip this.” Right out of the gate, Bossa studios has included mechanics that may go beyond the skill of many players, hardly a good start.
Of course, most players won’t have any experience with a game like “I am Bread.” Players don’t so much move the bread as aim it. The player can stick corners of the bread to walls, books and other items by pressing a corresponding key, but when you’re flying through the air it’s nigh impossible to know what you need to push to avoid a game-over.
Yes, surprisingly you can fail in “I am Bread.” The bread’s “edibility” functions as a health bar, which rapidly ticks down while on the floor. In addition to a health bar, the game also gives the player a limited amount of “grip,” which depletes as long as the bread is holding onto something, be it an object or a wall. Separately, these features might have worked, but together they combine for an experience that’s shockingly punishing for a game about a slice of bread.
Thankfully, when you fail a level for the third time, you get access to marmalade, which makes you invincible and removes the grip gauge. However, it feels like the game is being patronizing. Overall, it would have been better to have these things be options that could be turned off for casual players, who I assume made up a large portion of the audience for “I am Bread.”
It’s hard to say what the biggest issue is for “I am Bread.” While you can blame the controls for a lot of issues, the level design contributes heavily to both the punishing difficulty and lack of rewarding experiences in the game. Players navigate various rooms in a house, from a kitchen to a garage, and are often forced to cling to objects that shift around when the bread lands on them. Pulling off a mump from the windowsill onto to fall onto a plant that abruptly hits the ground is both frustrating and common.
Players can adjust the camera to see what they’re doing, but oftentimes the game will attempt to assist mid-jump, leaving you scrambling to try to find your bread and figure out where you are before you lose edibility. The soundtrack initially helps prevent frustration with playful music, but before long the looping will only add to your frustration when you fall down a refrigerator because the controls failed you yet again.
The best of the game’s many modes is “rampage,” in which bread controls are simplified, as you play as a baguette with just two edges and your only objective is to destroy as much of the room as possible. Unfortunately, you can only access each level by playing its equivalent in the main campaign. Before long, even the promise of a grain-based rampage won’t be enough to keep you playing.
The biggest factor in deciding to buy a video game should be “is it fun?” Unfortunately, “I am Bread” is not fun, but an exercise in frustration. The interesting premise may be enough to draw in buyers, but it’s hard to believe that any other developers will try to emulate anything more than the uniqueness of Bossa’s design.