Bread & Fred review – A Co-Op Climb That Falls Short

Bread & Fred review

There aren’t many games designed with local co-op as the main feature, but Bread & Fred carves out a unique niche by making this its central focus. Placing communication and teamwork at the forefront, you must support one another in a dangerous climb to reach the summit. Will it elevate the co-op experience to new heights or will it leave us hanging?

Your task is simple, you must venture upwards to reach new grounds. The game doesn’t focus on the story, allowing you to quickly learn the mechanics and begin your perilous climb. Getting the hang of timing and the physics is much harder than it should be leading to frustrating segments which plague the entirety of the experience. While you’ll ultimately grasp some aspects, having to rely on another person’s skill leads to repeated failure. Although this creates some amusing moments, it also gets annoying quite quickly as you wrestle with the mechanics.

A Troublesome Trip to the Top

Even though the game is primarily designed as a cooperative platformer, you can tackle Bread & Fred on your own using a rock as your partner. Although this lessens the level of irritation, it also highlights issues with physics. Swinging the rock and using its momentum to fly over larger gaps is massively inconsistent and leads to replying sequences as you repeatedly fail. Luckily, several assist options are included to help ease this issue. When turned on, you can plant checkpoints so that you can quickly go back to your previous location when you fail to make a jump. The game should embed this essential option, providing players with the choice to remove it for a bigger challenge instead of struggling without it.

Other assist options include the ability to pull your partner with the rope which is helpful if one makes the jump and the other doesn’t, better grabs so that you can cling to the wall for longer and infinite jumps. The last of these essentially breaks the game. With infinite jumps, you can bypass all obstacles and repeatedly tap the button to ascend to the very top. While I understand the need to add support mechanisms to aid accessibility, this exploits the premise of the game.

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

The environment alters to offer interesting twists on the gameplay requiring you to maneuver onto lifts and other contraptions to reach the top of the mountain. Each area features a well-designed, interconnected ethos that builds the idea of a large adventure. Failing to make a daring jump will plummet you into a previously visited area allowing you to make connections on where unclimbable sections lead. Although it’s great to experience the thoughtful world design, having to re-do complete segments after losing your progress after one jump is extremely frustrating. More often than not, failure appears to be due to design rather than your ability. Swinging is inaccurate and at times, I even got stuck in the environment that adds to the overall sense of irritation which undermines the engagement.

The pixel art style builds a charming aesthetic for the adventure. Vibrant blues and white snowflakes combine to create a cozy atmosphere for your journey. There’s an unmistakable retro-inspired design that enshrouds the game and successfully whisks you back to yesteryear. The instruction booklet describes gameplay features with cute illustrations depicting each skill. Although visually appealing, they don’t clearly explain the mechanics which makes it harder to comprehend how to perform specific feats. Each step is accompanied by a calming soundtrack that conflicts with the stressful gameplay.

Almost There

Bread & Fred is a novel concept that fails to deliver due to its frustrating climbing mechanics. The idea of climbing a large mountain and working with a partner to do so is appealing; however, the inconsistent physics and anger-inducing design that allows you to lose progress in an instant hinder the game. Although SandCastles Studio adds an array of assist options to address these concerns, at its core, the game struggles to balance challenge with enjoyment. The fundamental design flaws overshadow the creative premise, resulting in an experience that is more exasperating than entertaining.

***A Nintendo Switch code provided by the publisher for review***

The Good

  • Nice Visuals
  • Strong World Design
  • Good Concept

The Bad

  • Inconsistent Physics
  • Continually Losing Progress
  • Frustrating Gameplay Loop