Flour, water, yeast, touch of oil, add salt. The domestic bliss that the smell of freshly baked bread can evoke has resonated throughout the ages - real estate agents have even been known to artificially pump the stuff in. It’s this kind of passion which has led to Bossa Studios' next game - the carbohydrate-based madness of I Am Bread.
Part quirky puzzle game, part absurdist pastiche of the increasingly bizarre simulator genre, I Am Bread nevertheless defies expectation. The premise is simple, you are a slice of bread whose (sometimes burning) desire is to become toast. To do this you must navigate your way across rooms, interacting with objects and avoiding anything that brings down your edibility health-meter, such as ants or running foul of the five-second-floor-rule.
Contextual mechanics allow you to control a lively slice of bread - different buttons allow you to grip with different corners, and you soon learn the best ways to manipulate the games physics and make progress. In time, flipping end to end gives way to wild corner to corner swings, and it’s satisfying to increase your speed.
Further motivation to move quickly comes from the grip meter, which drains at a reasonably quick pace while you climb walls or other surfaces. It adds tension and challenge, and really motivates you to find the best way to manipulate the physics in order to clamber up walls in time.
It’s a bizarre concept, but one which, even in these early access stages, is met with equal reward. The difficulty curve is fairly high, which turns the game from a novelty into a genuine challenge. The quest for the toaster or an incendiary alternative is usually a satisfying one. There are a handful of levels available in the early access version, and so far they feature a pleasingly varied selection of solutions. Far from just the standard toaster, you can complete a level using a hair straightener, or element - but be careful to get an even toast, and don’t burn one of your sides.
As in Octodad: Deadliest Catch, frustration itself is a core part of the mechanics of this title. I Am Bread takes great joy in turning everyday objects into huge challenges. There is enough variation and freedom here that you can create interesting situations and solutions - for instance, at one stage you can use a pot to protect yourself from the floor, using the physics to roll it along while avoiding taking edibility damage. Other things, like mould on some of the walls provide additional hazards you don’t think about until they decrease your health.
I Am Bread is still in Early Access but redressing difficult keyboard controls ought to be a priority for Bossa Studios. There's also a story here told on a title cards between levels, and while it isn’t polished yet, it promises to be a tidy addition. Camera quirks and the occasional bug don’t cause too much grief and shouldn't be too difficult to iron out in the months ahead.
Bossa Studios' quirky next game shows plenty of promise. This is one worth keeping an eye out for.