Sometimes I lie awake on long, sleepless nights thinking about what life would've been like had I been born into different circumstances. What if I hadn't been born human at all? What if I'd been born a bumblebee, or a rhinoceros? What if I'd been born one of the inhabitants of the Federation planet Xaldorfigan-III?
At no point in my entire life have I wondered "What if I'd been born a sentient piece of bread?" But now, thanks to the magic of video games, I can experience that strange and disturbing scenario for myself.
It is, if you'll pardon the pun, the greatest thing since sliced bread. Well, not quite. But I had to make the pun.
I am Bread is the first game from developer Bossa Studios since 2013's Surgeon Simulator, and the two share a pretty similar mold: Start with something boring, add physics, and watch the world burn.
But where Surgeon Simulator had you performing ad hoc surgery on hapless victims patients, I am Bread is the epic tale of your journey to...become toast. You play the part of a sentient piece of white bread, and your goal is to crisp up both sides of your squishy frame and be the best piece of golden brown toast you could possibly be. Think Toy Story but, you know...with toast.
It's possibly the stupidest idea since Goat Simulator, which was utterly wonderful.
Bossa's fast becoming known for its daunting control schemes, and I am Bread is no exception. Half the challenge of I am Bread is mastering the game's controls. You're probably the most limber piece of bread ever created, but that doesn't make your ascent towards toastdom any easier. Four keys (or buttons, if you're using a controller) are mapped to the four corners of your bread slice, allowing each to individually "grab" onto surfaces. From there, you'll kind of learn how to walk/flop/fling yourself around the room, or scale walls like some sort of doughy Spider-Man.
Because as I said, this is an epic journey to toastism. It's not like you just roll out of bed one day and fall over into a toaster. From the very first level--the kitchen--you're going to struggle. And just wait until you have to cross the entire garage.
Nobody wants to eat a soggy, dirty, burnt piece of toast ridden with ants. They want the sublime. They want toast so golden brown and buttery and delicious it reminds them of Saturday mornings perched in front of the TV watching cartoons. They want toast you'd serve to Toastino, patron saint of Toast.
You can't just slide your bread-body across the floor and then hope someone still eats you. There are rules. Don't fall into the sink! Don't let the ants eat you! Don't laze around on the garage floor! Or any floor, really. Floors are gross. Here's a good guide: If you wouldn't eat it in real life, don't expect to get away with it in the game. Generally.
And if you think you're just going to find a toaster in the bathroom, well you're sadly mistaken. This ain't no Hollywood suicide. Me? I used the hair dryer. Perfect, golden brown toast.
Yeah, I Am Bread is dumb, but it's the fun sort of dumb that makes for iconic video game memories or silly Twitch streams. Just imagine explaining what you're playing to a friend. "You're a sentient piece of bread and you're trying to become toast, and you can't touch the ants or anything because then you won't be edible and..."
Unfortunately like most gimmick games (Goat Simulator included) I am Bread straddles a weird fence where it's hard to tell whether the fun is found in the game itself or merely in the concept. In other words, "Am I enjoying the game or do I merely think it's hilarious to watch a slice of bread ride around on a skateboard?"
It's probably a bit of both, though I think I am Bread leans pretty heavily on the absurdity and novelty of its "protagonist." It's not exactly a great game as much as it's a great game to show people, or to tell people about. And that's also in line with Bossa's games--Surgeon Simulator was similarly better when shared with others. That's why it became an early Twitch phenomenon.
You'll likely notice your excitement waning as you reach the later levels and long before you experience the game's many alternate modes (though the recent "Starch Wars" expansion is genius), but there are a few novelty-filled hours of enjoyment to be wrung from I am Bread. Changes made towards the end of the game's Early Access period also make the game far less punishing--including a "magic marmalade" that pops up after a certain number of deaths in Story Mode, granting you invincibility and allowing you to essentially bypass a level you're stuck on.
Is I am Bread going to be your favorite game this year? Unlikely. It's clever, but shallow--the hallmark of most gimmick games. Regardless, its inspired premise proves there's plenty of alternate perspectives left for gaming to explore instead of retreading the same themes over and over, and on top of that, it's a solid entry in the silly-physics-sandbox genre.
Pick this one up for the novelty, and then stick around for...actually, the novelty is pretty much the whole reason to play. But that alone is fodder for a few fun-filled hours.