Also On: PC, PS4, Xbox One
Publisher: Bossa Studios
Developer: Bossa Studios
ESRB: NR – Not Rated
Not being a fan of iOS games myself, it's a mystery as to what struck a chord with me to look at I am Bread when it hit smartphones. The only rationale likely falls into the same category that the game did: so crazy it probably works. And such is the question we'd all be asking at this point, "How exactly does flopping around as a piece of bread play out on mobile devices?" Is it playable? Interesting? Fun, even?
Without having played the original PC game, the whole of my experience in I am Bread has been touch-based. This includes nearly every compromise a game endures when moving to mobile, skimming visual effects off the top and simplifying control schemes to a core experience that delivers something resembling the original game. In this regard, it seems like a watershed moment for mobile games in that I am Bread is fully playable without the need for any onscreen buttons.
If only the option to actually remove the remaining UI was present in the game. Bossa Studios makes a great effort to translate a control scheme to iOS, mostly relying on swipes and taps for broad strokes and delicately inching the bread onscreen, but the real estate provided on a device like the iPhone 5S (as was used for review) sits on the border of functional space. Considering that the camera controls and UI eat up about 25% of the screen, it's bold to even think of keeping them in a mobile version of this game — moreso to neglect the option to disable these elements. I'm surprised that the team who managed to make this game work with touch controls didn't recognize the inelegance of its overall presentation.
The goal of I am Bread is centered around the journey of becoming toast. It's halfway between a cute gimmick and a bread physics simulator, but I get the feeling that I should be performing more daring acrobatics than touch controls are capable of operating. The design of each room gives way to multiple paths which are sprinkled with knick knacks and everyday items which become major obstacles, or in the case of a carefully placed chair, a tilting shortcut. Due to the unreliable nature of the physics processing and touch input, maneuvering these complex areas becomes less of a fun experiment and more of an unpredictable mess. Too often I found myself incidentally leaping onto the ground, sticking to some invisible geometry, or clipping through an object that the bread would become married to.
While the mechanics are operational, playing on iOS devices brings drawbacks that don't center around a guessing game between the player and software about what gestures will be easily recognized. The available screen space, for instance, resulted in activating Apple's Control Panel menu by accident — pausing the game at inconvenient points. This simple mistake may cost players a chunk of their edibility percentage when returning from the pause menu, as there's no way to compensate for the split second of missing input when resuming play.
On one hand, it's a small miracle that I am Bread delivers an experience which resembles its PC origins. I'm impressed with the control scheme that Bossa Studios implemented, considering how vague all the tapping and swiping may be for controlling an unwieldy piece of bread, but the lack of precision leads to a slow and clumsy experience on mobile phones. I was more comfortable grappling to a wall and taking my time to reach each area's heat source, but the game seems originally designed to encourage some goofing around that I felt I was missing out on.
For $5, it's hard to recommend I am Bread except for the novelty of having it on a phone. It's quite a short game, but with legs to stretch if players decide they want to go back and improve their grade. Whether it's worth the effort of wrestling with the touch-based controls is based on your level of determination. For a game that can be completed in a couple hours, I spent a week slogging through levels as sparingly as possible because it quickly became a chore to play. It's an ambitious port, but with an end result that doesn't pay off.