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a bear wearing a suit overlooking the bay Image: Gummy Cat/Armor Games

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Bear and Breakfast finds the magic in woodland resort management

Just a bear trying to run a business

Nicole Carpenter is a senior reporter specializing in investigative features about labor issues in the game industry, as well as the business and culture of games.

When you — a bear named Hank — stumble upon an abandoned shack in the woods, you do what any eager, well-meaning bear would do: You start a rustic resort for corporate getaways under a company named Pawn Voyage. The woods have long been abandoned by humans, the old buildings left to fall into disrepair. Pawn Voyage doesn’t seem to care who takes over the work. There’s money to be made from humans — why shouldn’t a bear benefit?

Bear and Breakfast is developer Gummy Cat’s debut project, an adventure game that pulls management inspiration from the likes of Theme Hospital and RollerCoaster Tycoon and life-sim elements from Stardew Valley and Animal Crossing: New Horizons. When Hank and friends capitalize on their sylvan discovery, humans slowly start to return to the woods. They bring a hunger for adventure, food (Hank needs to learn how to cook), and tons of garbage to toss on the ground.

Are humans concerned that their bed and breakfast is run by a bear? Yes, if he’s not wearing a hat and shorts. (Otherwise, they’re cool.) Despite any misgivings, they stay, for better or for worse, as Hank and his fellow animal pals expand into multiple resort areas across a few different biomes. Each new area adds some new complexity to the mix; your first cabin only needs beds, but later ones require bathrooms, entertainment, and heating. (Humans, am I right?) Hank manages each of these resort areas in tandem, while also learning a lot more about life in woods: Where did these buildings actually come from? Why were they originally abandoned? What was the catastrophic event that led him and his mother to this very area?

managing a bed and breakfast in a grid with lots of tools available Image: Gummy Cat/Armor Games

Bear and Breakfast combines the management elements with the woodland adventure without much friction. You’ll make progress even if your B&B kind of sucks. Hank’s eagerness and naivety are the perfect foils for the resort-running gameplay — much like the player, he’s simply doing what he’s told, because he’s eager to help.

That job begins simply enough. Hank needs to clear cabins of any junk before collecting resources that are scattered around the environment. Hank picks up various types of wood, mechanical parts, and all sorts of stones, all of which can be used to fix up and build out the cabins. The early hours are a solid mix of gathering resources, crafting furniture, and outfitting rooms. With a solid business up and running, Hank’s free to explore more areas and plan out future expansions.

The early hours are as leisurely as they sound, especially considering that there’s no real punishment for keeping a shitty bed and breakfast. The humans won’t be happy and will give you bad reviews, but they will still pay. (I forgot to feed my guests at one location for multiple stays. They were upset, but… not that upset.) Pawn Voyage, the creepy corporate entity, doesn’t really care about the specifics as long as humans keep showing up.

Their demands do eventually increase, though, when they urge Hank to improve comfort, decor, and amenities. There’s a benefit to doing this — more money! — but there’s no “game over” for failing to meet their expectations. (If only real corporations operated like this!)

One of Bear and Breakfast’s greatest qualities is the sheer amount of options available for crafting. As Bear and Breakfast progresses, new furniture, customization, and recipes unlock at crafting tables outside of each branch of the resort. The system will be familiar to anyone who’s built a room in The Sims 4 or Animal Crossing: New Horizons. (I am glad to report that you can craft multiples of objects at once!)

an open inventory, when the player can choose clothes for the Hank the bear Image: Gummy Cat/Armor Games

The first couple builds are simple, but there’s eventually space for lavish bedrooms, decked-out bathrooms, and grand dining rooms with attached kitchens. And then there’s the specialized rooms, like movie theaters, bars, and arcades. Some resorts need special amenities, too, like heaters to keep guests warm.

Despite the abundance of options available, I quickly fell into a very pleasant cycle in Bear and Breakfast. There are ways to automate certain elements, like booking guests, cooking and serving meals, and picking up trash. I found a lot of mundane joy in doing these tasks. At the start of each day, I’d cycle through my properties and make sure all empty rooms were filled for the next day, ensuring I had a consistent flow of guests through the spaces. Then, I did a quick loop around the rooms and the rest of the property to pick up trash that my human guests left behind — not only out of the goodness of my heart, but because you can use trash (or valuables, as they are to Hank) to buy new decorations. At the properties with kitchens, I’d cook and refill the buffets so everyone had something to eat — except for that one resort that I conveniently forgot about for multiple in-game days.

Once finished with my dailies, I’d start to work on whatever upgrades or quest lines I had amassed. Sometimes, this involved leveling up the bedrooms to be more comfortable for guests, or ushering 10 guests through their stays. This post-chore period is also when I liked to explore all of the map’s nooks and crannies. I often checked in on all my animal pals to see what’s up — getting friendly with them and helping them out meant additional assistance at the bed and breakfasts.

That’s also how you’ll learn about some of the forest’s mysteries, and answers to the questions of why there are so many abandoned buildings in the woods to begin with. Bear and Breakfast actually gets pretty dark at some points, if you’re willing to go deep into the woods to look for answers. These mysteries are, ultimately, second to the gameplay; Bear and Breakfast is about building a vacation spot, and all roads lead back to the resort. It means that some questions are left unanswered — like what the heck is going on at Pawn Voyage — but it’s easy to overlook any lingering mysteries.

a glowing fox that says it has no obligation to make sense to you Image: Gummy Cat/Armor Games

Hank is such a charming character and a lovely reflection of the best parts of Bear and Breakfast. As you’ll discover when playing, humans returning to the area is complicated. That’s all part of what happened in the area and why it’s been largely deserted — by humans and animals — for so long. Some characters want humans to return. Others are more hesitant. And Bear and Breakfast isn’t really making a judgment itself. But the game does handle the balance between mystery and joy throughout the entire playthrough, even when some questions are unanswered.

There’s a lot to do in Bear and Breakfast, a lot of story to unspool, and a lot of different characters to meet. You’ll pick up tons of trash and serve food to the humans that threw that trash on the ground. You’ll put down carpets and hang photos on walls, install plumbing and hire someone to fuel your fires.

And who better to do it than Hank? He’s just a little guy who wants to help some folks out.

Bear and Breakfast is out on July 28 on Windows PC. The game was reviewed using a pre-release download code provided by Armor Games. Bear and Breakfast is expected to come to Nintendo Switch at a later time. Vox Media has affiliate partnerships. These do not influence editorial content, though Vox Media may earn commissions for products purchased via affiliate links. You can find additional information about Polygon’s ethics policy here.