Bread and Fred is a must-play if you love challenging platformers and some chaotic co-op but it’s not for the faint of heart. If the difficulty of the platforming itself doesn’t break you the communication (combined with the pressure to execute) just might. Though it’s worth noting there are plenty of assist options to get you from point A to point B.
In this co-op, rage game you play as one of two penguins tethered to each other, trying to make your way up the mountain. This means jumping, swinging, gripping, and perfectly timing your way to the top. I’ve played plenty of self-proclaimed friendship-killer games but what’s unique about Bread and Fred is that you’re stuck together. If one person messes up both of you come tumbling down. Unlike other teamwork challenges, it’s impossible for one player to carry y’all to victory.
Bread and Fred takes communication and mixes it with precision platforming. It’s a recipe for satisfying and hilarious hurdles but it takes the right mindset to enjoy it. I found myself enamored and exhausted with the flow of it all as I desperately tried to get to the next safe spot to plant my flag. But my co-op partner and boyfriend, Isaiah, felt differently.
There’s an assist feature that lets you plant a flag on any stable ground, this serves as a checkpoint. More hardcore players can try to make it up the mountain in one go but we weren’t interested in that level of torment since missing a single jump will have you tumbling down the mountain.
I’m still in tears when this penguin duo falls from great heights, sliding down the level like a disc drop/pachinko game. But at the same time, the fact that you can fall for so long means it can take a while before you can call to get flown back to your flag. This sizeable gap between failure and being able to try again, especially when there’s a good chance you’re going to fail one more time, compounds the frustration and raises the stakes in a way that can get offputting after a while. I personally found it amusing to see all the different ways these penguins would fall but Isaiah grew tired of it, acknowledging that it was “funny at first but got annoying after a while.”
Both Isaiah and I agree that there isn’t enough environmental diversity or gameplay development to make Bread and Fred feel fresh throughout. “If you’ve played a few minutes of this game you know exactly what you’re in for, not much is going to change,” said Isaiah.
I had a good time throughout but Isaiah was much more split, saying “sometimes I wasn’t having fun because of the game, sometimes because of Janet’s [failures], and sometimes it was because of my own [failures].”
When pressed about what aspects of Bread and Fred floundered, he struggled to pin down exactly what it was but felt the repetitive nature of the game was a point against it. This combined with the general difficulty made the whole thing wear thin over time. “Despite the controls being simple [the combinations got complex,” said Isaiah, “mechanically it often felt like patting your head and rubbing your belly.”
For me, getting the timing right was a lot harder than the general execution. There’s an emote you can do that starts a countdown and Isaiah and I relied on that heavily. This is a crucial tool but it does mean Bread and Fred is basically “3-2-1-go” the game which isn’t terribly exciting.
While Bread and Fred is a team sport you can play to individual strengths a little bit. For instance, I was great at grounding myself onto a platform and being in charge of jumping as Isaiah swung around me to build momentum. Meanwhile, Isaiah was in charge of countdowns. This was our go-to division of labor but I think dividing it that way, each time, exacerbated that feeling of repetition.
In fact, the reason this isn’t a formal review is because the two of us didn’t get to the top of the mountain. We were definitely capable but I felt like Isaiah wasn’t really enjoying his time so we stopped playing.
Bread and Fred does have a single-player mode where you’re a penguin tethered to a rock you can throw and have stick to the wall as a player 2 replacement but I ran into a bug where the checkpoint flag system wasn’t working correctly so, unfortunately, I wasn’t able to spend significant time with that mode. I was assured a patch is coming to fix this but it wasn’t available in time for me to give it a go.
To me, Bread and Fred is a blast overall but is held back by a few quality-of-life hiccups and its ultimately run-of-the-mill level design. If I had to score it I’d give it a 3/5 for good but it’s a 3/5 that I love like a 5/5.
For Isaiah, he recommends Bread and Fred if you see the trailer and are drawn to it already. He does not want to finish it and, while he found it interesting, he did not like it overall. If he had to score it he would give it a 2/5 for okay.