May 23, 2023
Get ready for a frosty adventure like no other with Bread & Fred, the slippery co-op multiplayer game from SandCastles Studio. This challenging platformer will test your precision and cooperation as you guide two adorable penguins, Bread and Fred, on a daring climb up a snowy mountain. Does it master the art of penguin platforming or fall flat on its face?
Arctic adventures and scaling new heights
Bread and Fred are two penguins from a colony who are lucky/unluckily tied together by a short rope. Professor Rosseforp sets the two budding birds on a mission to climb the mountain, complete with a backpack, tether, and belt to make sure they climb “safely”.
“While there isn’t a true narrative driving this puzzle adventure, the real story is the hilarious moments you have with a friend.”
Along the journey are a handful of NPCs you’ll interact with and collectable album photos, which offer a snippet of cute story regarding the lives of these flightless birds. Every dialogue is a nice laugh, too. There’s the devoted mother named Sandra who is interested in selling her son Patrisio because he says oddly philosophical things for a young nestling, and even a suspiciously tall friend in a large overcoat who looks forward to the best of adult life such as taxes. While there isn’t a true narrative driving this puzzle adventure, the real story is the hilarious moments you have with a friend.
Players must work together to overcome treacherous jumps and perilous obstacles. Utilising momentum to swing and propel each other to new peaks, the physics of this slippery winter wonderland becomes a puzzle in itself. You’ll need to strategise your moves, hold on to walls, and make each jump count to progress further up the mountain.
For those without a buddy to play, a single-player mode featuring Greg and Jeff the rock allows you to still suffer the risky mountain. Unfortunately, the game really doesn’t hold up playing on your own. Picking up and moving the stubborn Jeff is an incredible chore, making each small platform gap a larger milestone than it already is. It’s just not appealing or fun to play alone. But primarily, you won’t have another person to laugh about how terrible you both are at the game. Co-op mode shines as the true heart of Bread & Fred.
Journey to the top
At the core of Bread & Fred’s gameplay is Penguin Mechanics, which elevates cooperative play to new heights. These adorable penguins are tethered together as they embark on a thrilling journey through the five 100-meter sections of the chilly mountain. Momentum-based swings take centre stage, demanding your mastery of physics-based puzzle-solving. The precise timing of your movements becomes crucial as you navigate treacherous gaps and tiny platforms.
Hanging onto walls with the left trigger for a limited time allows you to swing your partner around, offering a clever way to overcome a deep fall. However, the chubby penguins can’t hold on for long, adding an extra layer of urgency and decision-making.
Playing with someone who doesn’t have much background with tricky physics co-op games like this, it was noticeably clear how easy it is to understand the controls and mechanics. The initial area serves as a gentle tutorial, acquainting with the basics of movement and anchoring to the ground while your partner swings around. The learning curve strikes a fine balance between challenge and accessibility, making the game a captivating experience for both seasoned platformer enthusiasts and newcomers alike.
As you ascend the mountain, each major section introduces new hazards. Moving platforms are the first challenge, requiring well-timed jumps. Then, you’ll encounter mighty gusts of wind that threaten to blow the humble penguins off their perches unless they anchor themselves at precisely the right moment. The final section combines all these dangers, presenting the ultimate test of coordination. These twists keep the climb an ever-evolving battle, motivating you to reach the top.
An ice-cold climb
Still, Bread & Fred is a formidable challenge. The game pushes you to endure failure and repeated falls, which can be both disheartening and daunting. Moments arise where you’ll be uncertain whether you’ve chosen the correct path or if the next platform is even attainable. Yet, these moments are often followed by a surge of willpower to attempt the impossible, resulting in glorious penguin disasters. The joy that comes from eventually accomplishing these trials outweighs the initial frustration.
“…accessibility options that can make the climb easier… are incredibly helpful for keeping the game exciting and avoiding too much burnout.”
Thankfully, SandCastles Studio is well-aware of how difficult the game is. The checkpoint system allows Bread and Fred to place a flag and return to it at any point, alleviating the burden of retracing your steps after plummeting 200 meters. Additionally, there’s an infinite jump toggle that acts as an aid in overcoming demanding areas that appear insurmountable. There will undoubtedly come a moment when you and your partner, after valiantly attempting a section 20 or 30 times, silently agree to embrace the infinite jump. These options are incredibly helpful for keeping the game exciting and avoiding too much burnout.
Bread and Fred can also activate an in-game three-second countdown. This emote is key for timing your jumps accurately, allowing both players to sync to the same visual aid on the screen. It’s a great idea that undoubtedly resolves many timing issues otherwise. There is also a game of Rock, Paper, Scissors so you can fairly decide who will be the unlucky bird to hang off the edge while the weight of making the jump relies on the other.
One downside worth mentioning is the eventual repetitiveness that creeps into the game. Repeating the same small sections, encountering similar pitfalls and platform obstacles, becomes tedious over time. The inclusion of more mechanics, creativity in level design, or amusing NPCs to enhance the trek could lift gameplay, offering more than just a test to reach the mountaintop. Beyond the exhilarating falls and comical cooperative mishaps, Bread & Fred feels somewhat lacking in content.
Pixelated polar paradise
Bread & Fred is a visual delight, capturing hearts with its charming pixel art style. The endearing penguins coupled with vibrant backgrounds and diverse environments create a lively arctic world. The intentional simplicity of the art style pays homage to classic platformers of the past, adding a touch of familiarity.
The animation is undeniably charming. The movements and emotes of the penguins, as well as the friends they encounter along the way, are adorable. Whether it’s Bread pulling up Fred by a rope or the duo hilariously tumbling into the snow from great altitudes, the animations are brimming with cuteness.
Accompanying the visuals is background music that projects a sense of peace. While it complements the pixel art style, the music also serves as a pleasant contrast to the cooperative chaos happening in the gameplay. Its chilled-out melodies help alleviate the frustration of how incompetent you think your partner might be, and hopefully will ease a handful of arguments.
It’s worth noting that Bread & Fred does not feature online multiplayer upon its initial release, which may disappoint some players. The alternative is to use Steam’s “Remote Play Together” mode and local co-op on the same PC. According to the developers, the addition of peer-to-peer online multiplayer is expected to be part of a free update in June 2023.
During our playtime, we encountered a handful of minor bugs that, fortunately, did not hinder progress or significantly impact the overall enjoyment. These included issues like the flag return button not functioning correctly, all the text on the credits screen appearing jumbled together, and some NPCs not responding. While these bugs were noticeable, they did not detract significantly from the general experience.
- Hilarious co-op gameplay
- Cute and stylish visuals
- Physics and mechanics work well
- Options to make it easier if needed
- Not fun playing alone
- Difficult sections can be repetitive
- Handful of bugs
Bread & Fred is a delightfully enraging cooperative physics puzzle that combines charming pixel art, adorable animations, and a challenging platformer experience. The game’s world, filled with cute penguins and vibrant environments, will bring smiles to faces. The chaotic gameplay and repeating failure might bring frustration but will be followed by big laughs and lots of fun with your penguin partner. Still, for solo players without someone to play with local co-op, this game won’t be for you.