Bread & Fred by Sand Castles Studio is a co-op platformer where you and a friend must work together to climb the peak of a snowy mountaintop.
Despite the cutesy exterior, Bread & Fred is intended to be a grueling and obscenely difficult experience. Inspired by the streaming phenomena of “rage games,” the ones designed to be brutally unfair to make for some entertaining content, Bread and Fred lives up to its controller-throwing aspirations.
The mechanics are simple, tasking the players to jump, swing, and hold on for dear life with level design that demands mastery over its core platforming gameplay. Even from the game’s opening minutes, no obstacle has a simple solution, requiring patience and practice to get the perfect momentum and timing to overcome.
But no victory is easily won. With the entire game built on vertical movement, the stakes are incredibly high because any mistake you make could reset you back to the beginning of the whole game. It’s a punishing design that elicits frustration and genuine despair at the progress lost. That said, I can’t help but admire how cleverly executed each puzzle is to not only make you want to think and work hard, but to also deliver maximum emotional damage when you fail them. I was deeply impressed, even if that type of game design isn’t my usual taste.
Luckily, there are assistance settings for players like me who purely want to experience the thrill of succeeding at every puzzle so I could actually triumph over the mountain. During my playthrough, my partner and I planted flags as save points that we could return to if we fell down a considerable distance and pull each other up when one of us didn’t stick a landing. These options didn’t make the game any less difficult, but they did allow us to make meaningful progress that would have otherwise been impossible.
During gameplay, we encountered a bug where we would glitch into a platform during a fall and get stuck in our falling animation, preventing us from returning to our assistance flag and resetting our progress to the point of the glitch. There will be a “day one” patch for Bread & Fred, but it’s uncertain if the patch will fix this specific bug. Here’s hoping there is a fix, as these were devastating moments that soured our otherwise gleeful and raucous time with the game.
Because when we didn’t encounter bugs, we had a hysterical time. We counted ourselves down for every jump; we laughed so loud my throat hurt and my gosh did we fail. Every little splat animation as we slammed down from great heights softened the blow of disaster and made us chuckle. All in all, we had a blast with it once we found our rhythm and understood what the mechanics were asking of us. And even when we didn’t, we laughed and that made it so worthwhile.
For those without a willing accomplice, there is a single-player mode that is considerably more difficult than the local co-op. It sees you attach a rock with a smiley face called Jeff to your little penguin body, which I think is just hilarious. Online co-op will not be available at launch but is expected to release with the game’s next content update around June.
If you’re a masochistic and enjoy pain, you’ll love this. And if you aren’t, there’s still a fair bit of fun to be had here if you have a friend brave enough to join you.
Bread & Fred is available now for $14.99 with a 10% launch discount on PC via Steam and GOG.
Watch the Review in 3 Minutes for Bread & Fred.