Bear & Breakfast Switch review – paws for thought

Our Bear & Breakfast review dives into the delightfully laid-back management sim featuring a cast of quirky characters, fun mechanics, and oodles of charm.

Bear & Breakfast characters Hank, Anii, and Will skipping through the woods

I’ve been looking forward to Bear & Breakfast since I first caught a glimpse of it last year, eagerly anticipating the opportunity to hang out with Hank and friends. It saw a successful launch on other platforms back in July but, unfortunately, the Switch port was met with some delays. However, I’m happy to say that – like all good B&Bs – it was well worth sticking out the waitlist.

Bear & Breakfast is an extremely cosy, wholesome game, with an art style that oozes charm in its every detail, reminding me of much-loved early 2000s Cartoon Network shows. Naturally, Hank is beyond adorable, and even more so in motion, with his simplistic design and dry sense of humour. Equally as endearing are his companions and the acquaintances he meets along the way, from Took the trash-loving racoon, to Ipswitch the existential turkey.

At its core, Bear & Breakfast is a laid-back, simple management sim, easing you in gently before growing in complexity towards late-game. You play as the aforementioned Hank, a young bear who lives with a group of pals and his mama bear in the woods. After a series of catastrophic events tore through the surrounding wilderness, most humans have abandoned the area, leaving piles of junk (or valuables, if you ask Took) and derelict buildings everywhere.

Upon straying further than their usual foraging route, Hank and his delightful friends, Anii the brave but clumsy dog and Will the grumpy Poorwill, hear a mysterious sound and stumble across a run-down shack. A chance encounter with a shady shark from a company called ‘Pawn Voyage’ plants an idea in their noggins.

Armed with little more than their teenage ingenuity and a hint of naivety, they set about fixing up the shack and turning it into a humble B&B, hoping to earn them a quick buck and encourage human tourists to venture back into the woods (more humans means more trash-treasures, after all). The rest is history.

Bear & Breakfast character Gus the possum

Considering its simple premise and relaxed gameplay, Bear & Breakfast has a surprisingly rich story that hints at some very dark themes. As your business expands further into the forest, you find yourself uncovering crumbs of information hinting at the mysterious plot that lies within. Unfortunately, a lot of these spookier story threads end up somewhat neglected and unresolved, and I hope to see them explored further in future updates. However, the narrative is embellished with a colourful cast of characters each as charming as the last, and the wonderfully witty dialogue and quirky interactions Hank has with the critters and humans he encounters are full of personality.

Mechanically, Bear & Breakfast mostly revolves around completing story quests and missions, foraging for materials, renovating buildings and amenities to attract new tourists, and decorating your various B&Bs in order to keep up with your customers’ needs. Later, you can also hire staff and get to cooking those prophesied breakfasts – though, admittedly, this comes quite far into the game, considering the word ‘breakfast’ is right there in the title.

Bear & Breakfast gamplay showing the player placing furniture in one of the B&Bs

Each location starts as an empty shell, in which you can build different types of rooms and decorate with furnishings via the workbench outside. Placement is based on a grid system, making later developments feel like an engaging puzzle as you attempt to slot all the required rooms into place. You assign guests to specific rooms through your reception desk, and each guest has their own requirements. Naturally, guests get more demanding as you progress, and, as a rule, the fussier the clientele, the more they’re willing to pay for the perfect room.

You have very few time limitations, no stamina meter, and Hank doesn’t need to sleep (though he can snooze through the night if you want to skip time). Resources are abundant, respawning at the start of the day, and the only thing I found myself occasionally running short on was cash.

It’s clear that, above all else, developer Gummy Cat intends for players to have a relaxed, laid-back experience when hanging out with Hank, slowly building up to the more complex gameplay rhythm you fall into later in the game. This is quite a unique approach to the usually manic, high-pressure vibes associated with the management sim genre, and, while it does sometimes fumble with its pacing as a result, I personally appreciate its chill atmosphere.

Bear & Breakfast screenshot showing Hank collecting wood

At the start of the game, progression is heavily reliant on the main story missions, making the first few hours feel pretty slow and linear – if you’re looking for a beefy management sim to sink your teeth into, this title probably isn’t for you. It starts off as a consistent cycle of accepting quests, completing them (usually by gathering a specific number of materials, talking to characters, or getting a certain amount of positive reviews), and then wandering around to find the next quest-giver. Most blueprints, schematics, furniture, and new locations are inaccessible until you do so.

However, with a little patience, the training wheels come off and the game truly begins to shine. Initially, I was expecting Bear & Breakfast to be set around one B&B, so I was pleasantly surprised to see Hank become a fuzzy tycoon with multiple properties to manage. Each B&B you open has its own unique challenges, with some coming in weird shapes that turn room placement into a real noggin-scratcher.

The different environments also have unique requirements, such as the frosty mountaintop cabins which needs heating and the dusty desert calling for more washing facilities. This variety of settings really pushes you to get your creative juices flowing, as you Tetris all of your guests’ requested luxuries into tight spaces in order to keep that cash flowing.

Bear & Breakfast guest requests screen, showing different guests and their requirements

I find that management sims often struggle to find a comfortable control scheme on Switch and, unfortunately, that problem persists in Bear & Breakfast. When exploring, accessing features like your inventory, quest log, and map relies on you pressing the ‘Y’ button to toggle your joystick between controlling Hank and selecting the tab you want to view, which feels cumbersome at first and takes some time to get used to.

Similarly, when looking at your B&B rooms, guests, and reviews, and when choosing between the crafting, room creation, and inventory screens at the workbench, you’re also forced to battle with the ‘Y-button to toggle’ system. I often found myself selecting the wrong thing or accidentally backing out of a menu as a result. I feel this is likely due to its multi-platform development, as it looks like the UI was designed with PC in mind. This isn’t an issue exclusive to Bear & Breakfast and is, in fact, a critique I’ve had for quite a few Switch games.

Bear & Breakfast Hank inspecting a bridge

When it comes to performance, the Switch version of Bear & Breakfast runs smoothly and looks beautiful both in docked and handheld mode. The character models look a little blurry when zoomed in on a large screen, and the game often stutters during auto-saves, but aside from that, I had no issues throughout many hours of play. The wonderfully stylised artwork looks stunning on the OLED Switch, too, and I often found myself stopping to admire the scenery.

Overall, Bear & Breakfast is a charming little title that shifts the boundaries of what we’ve come to expect of a management sim. It’s a laid-back, chill experience that prioritises relaxation and character in its early stages, slowly ramping up the complexity as you progress. It may not be to the taste of seasoned genre veterans, but has plenty to offer to the right audiences – just like Hank’s B&Bs. Despite some pacing issues and fumbles with Switch controls, I’m completely enchanted by its quirky cast of characters and unique world, and I’m excited to see more from Gummy Cat in the future.

Bear & Breakfast Switch review

Bear & Breakfast is a delightful, laid-back management sim with heaps of personality. Despite some fumbles with pacing and controls, it’s an enchanting experience that oozes charm, and offers plenty of unique challenges to explore as you delve deeper into its world. Thanks for the wonderful stay, Hank!