I Am Bread PS4 Review
As video games become more mainstream, they tend to get easier. After all, how better to get mainstream people into the mix than to allow them to succeed? This has been a practice as far back as America getting their personalized Super Mario Bros. 2. Every once in a while, though, something comes along that scoffs in the face of that learning curve. Some hit a sweet spot, and we end up with Super Meat Boy or something of that ilk. Then, there are games that border on parody, such as the infamous QWOP. Also, as games strive for realism, games like this go back to the basics, when a Brooklyn plumber saves a princess from a dragon while using mushrooms and strange plants to his advantage wasn't considered normal. I Am Bread recently struck back at both societal norms. Does it succeed, or was this game toast before it came out?
When released on the PC, I Am Bread required you to complete the story mode before trying some other options; on consoles, they are unlocked from the start. I Am Bread allows you to follow the plight of the slice on it's way to become delicious toast, race around in-home tracks as a bagel, smash things to smithereens as a baguette, or search for cheese to top your tasty cracker. If all else fails, you can simply switch off gravity and find a way to rocket-boost your toast to crispy perfection. The simple story shows a man's psychological notes as he slowly goes mad from animated bread taking over his home. He tries to move to other rooms of the house, but by taking his food with him, he continues to slip into madness as the loaf slowly breaks all his stuff.
While a single-player game at heart, I Am Bread is much better played in groups. The awkward controls, reminiscent of Octodad, find you holding various triggers to grip corners of the bread while you scale the wall and various appliances to get to the other side of the room. The difficulty comes in the flip: your corners stay assigned to the individual buttons, so you have to double-check which corner you wish to grip, and you need momentum at times, requiring quick reflexes. Sometimes, the angle lets your bread bend and flex, while other times you think it will bend, but it stays rigid. The inherent clumsiness of the bread makes for plenty of laughs: my kids loved it as the freezer door swung wide open just as I thought I had made it across, leaving me dangling near my start position time and time again.
Unfortunately, this is where my one beef with the game occurs. Yes, I get it. It's designed to be hard. But we have the game on a home console now. I may be stereotyping, but by and large, your youth of the world aren't high-end PC creators. They're going to be playing on consoles. My kids loved watching me play. They wanted to try. Then, they couldn't even get a few feet without being frustrated. It's one thing to have rough controls, it's another to not even be able to get to the silly parts to make you laugh. After a few fails, the Magical Jar of Marmalade shows up, protecting you from all germs on your way to the toaster. It changes the game from "insanely difficult" to "moderately easy", and bypasses all the places humor abounds as you traipse across the floor to your destination. I don't expect a kids game, but I do wish that maybe my 4- and 9-year-olds could have an easier time.
With all modes unlocked from the beginning, we notice that the game isn't rewarding you for success, so some easier modes could have been put in. The corners are assigned to the shoulder buttons, and the icons on my bread are incredibly tiny. A scaling option to see them easier would have been nice. Perhaps a way that the shoulders represent the nearest corner, so you could hold L1+R1 to climb steadily instead of constantly swapping. Or even just a twin-stick mode with a single grip button for the simplest of people just looking for a silly time. My kids really enjoyed watching it. I could see sharing it with friends. But it's not accessible enough for me to feel like sitting down to play it in my free time. I thank developers for crafting new-age difficult games, but I Am Bread may fall a bit too close to QWOP for my tastes: difficult for the sake of difficulty.
I Am Bread is on sale for $12.99 on the PlayStation 4. The corny mechanics warrant the purchase price enough for me, but unless you really like hard challenges or have plenty of like-minded friends to laugh with, it may get stale quickly.
Score: 2.75 out of 5
A review copy was provided by the developers.