Today the Steam digital platform has a genre classification of "Memes." As my fellow Internet browsers know well, a meme is a viral phenomenon like an image or a reference, but over time the word has also grown to encompass the simple meaning of "a joke." When I think about "meme" games, or "joke" games, entries like I Am Bread come to mind. Of course, just because a game is designed to be funny or a joke doesn't necessarily mean it's bad. These often outrageous ideas deserve their fair chance, just like any other game. I approached I Am Bread with all of this in mind.
I Am Bread is true to its name. Simply put, you are bread. While you can dive into a sandbox tutorial if you like, which allows you to experiment with the various bells and whistles of being a doughy, delicious morsel, you can also jump straight into the life of a single slice of bread. While this may sound like some type of simulation or role-playing game, it's actually heavily physics-based. The goal of the game is to become toast. How does one get from the kitchen table to the toaster on the counter top? Well, a slice of bread doesn't have any appendages, so it all comes down to putting force into the right places to throw yourself around and grip to surfaces. Sound easy? It's not — one wrong direction, putting too much or not enough power into your movement, or losing your grip, and you'll be on the floor in seconds. Five second rule aside, no one wants to eat a piece of bread that's been on the floor. Level failed.
Although there is a slight background story, told through pop-ups at the beginning of each level — a psychiatrist's notes of a patient who is convinced a loaf of bread is wreaking havoc in his house while he is away — I Am Bread isn't about a story or simply completing the game; it's about perfection. Think Trials but with bread. To complete all seven story levels wouldn't even take you an hour. To complete every level of every one of the various game modes will only take you a few hours. But I Am Bread wants you to do it faster, better, and with more Deliciousness than the last time. It's about getting an A++ on a level, the highest award, instead of an E.
This one is called the "Doughny Hawk"
Is this fun? No. NO. NO. While my first moments of I Am Bread were joyful and my face was exuberant with the hilarious prospect that I was playing a video game where the protagonist is a piece of bread, the novelty quickly wore off and the frustration set in with how hard and unfun this game is. It's utterly punishing and frustrating. It's not like Dark Souls frustrating, where it's a good game that also happens to be challenging. It's the type of frustrating where the game as a whole is so unfun you wonder why you're bothering in the first place when you could be spending those precious moments occupying yourself with anything else on the planet instead of lunging a stupid piece of bread toward the nearest toaster.
To make matters worse, I Am Bread is accompanied by a poor control scheme and lackluster camera. You're constantly gripping all of the top buttons with your fingers on , , and to control each corner of the bread as needed, making it downright uncomfortable to grasp the controller this way for long periods of time. There is very little room for error here, especially in situations requiring tricky maneuvering. One wrong button press or mis-flick of the joystick and you're going to ruin your nice slice of bread, fail the level, and, depending on how many times in a row this has occurred, possibly throw your controller through the nearest plate glass window. The camera is never there when you need it the most. While it mostly operated fine and you can maneuver it to further adjust the angle, when it was bad, it was bad. The camera would be stuck inside a cabinet, box or wall while I couldn't get view of my bread at all. In many genres this wouldn't be a big deal, but when you're hanging from the ceiling with your Grip Meter about to run out, after which you'll fall into some hazard or other and die for the 2,488th time, a camera screw-up is the worst thing that could possibly happen.
This poor, poor individual...
There are plenty of other game modes in addition to the story. This prospect sounds promising, but they range from boring to just plain awful. Rampage, which is like the Grand Theft Auto missions of the same name or Burnout's Showtime mode where you attempt to cause the most destruction possible, sounded great when I read the description. In practice you take control of a impossible to control loaf of French bread and do your best to flop around aimlessly knocking things over until the timer runs down. In the end, it's just more frustration as it's difficult to get a moderate score. Other modes like Zero-G, which is just as it sounds, have you propelling bread through a gravity free environment to toast yourself, and Cheese Hunt, where you search for pieces of cheese, are tedious and lacking the fun factor. Bagel Race is easily the most enjoyable of the modes, although that's not saying much. Here, you'll flip on your side as a bagel and roll through a race course and checkpoints. It's a fast-paced mode that's not a big deal if you mess up, since you'll only be replaying a race that lasts no more than a minute or so.
Something that is also mind-boggling is the amount of error messages I received while playing the game. Often you'll be playing a level, and out of nowhere an error message will pop up. Never before have I gotten so many errors interrupting my gameplay. I have noticed some consistency with it. For example, if you do anything involving the Guide, such as look at an achievement or read a message, you'll always get an error message when you pop back into the game. But sometimes it's out of nowhere, and multiple times the game asked me which profile I was using and had me sign back into my gamertag mid-level. Before mentioning it in this review, I verified it was occurring with other players of the game, just to make sure it wasn't an odd bug specific to my Xbox, my account, or perhaps an Xbox Live issue on that given day. An hour into the game I was left wondering whether I was playing I Am Bread or I Am Error Message.
Meet Error Message: your new best friend
Much like the rest of I Am Bread, the achievements are punishing. Don't be fooled by their cheery, punny names like "The Rye of the Tiger" or "Cool Story, Dough"; these are hard. Completing the game in its entirety will require getting an A++, the highest ranking, on every level of every game mode. No one has completed it yet as of this writing, and in fact, no one has even gotten some of the individual achievements like getting an A++ on all story levels. There are some miscellaneous achievements for interacting with certain objects or completing a level in a certain way. Thanks to Magic Marmalade, which grants invincibility, these are easy and often fun, but if you want the big gamerscore, you're in for a long and challenging haul. I have almost every achievement you can barring the A++ achievements, and I only have 20 out of 35 achievements for a measly 320 gamerscore.
SummaryAt its doughy little heart, I Am Bread is a physics game that is easy to play but challenging, time-consuming and quite possibly rage-inducing to master. While the novelty is good for a few laughs, once that wears off, I Am Bread is a loaf of sourdough that's nine parts frustrating and one part fun. Despite the abundance of varied game modes, it's hard to find one that doesn't make you want to smash your television on the floor and set it on fire. Other problems like poor controls, a finicky camera and a phantom error message only serve to hinder the experience further. My advice would be to wait for whatever price you think a chuckle is worth, as there's not much else here unless you're a hardcore fan of punishment.
- A funny, silly concept that I'm glad I experienced at least once
- Novelty wears off quickly
- Frustrating and unfun at its core
- Controls and camera often feel wonky
- Recurring error message
- Not a lot of content for those who don't plan to perfect every level
EthicsThe reviewer spent approximately eight hours doughing through every story, Rampage and Bagel Race level, and experimenting with Cheese Hunt and Zero-G. She also spent time launching a rocket ship, driving a car, blowing up a gas station, and failing miserably at most of the A++ rankings. 20 out of 35 achievements were earned during the adventure. An Xbox One code was provided by the ID@Xbox program for the purpose of this review.
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