Bread & Fred review: Penguin relationship test

Sandcastles Studio succeeds at creating a thoroughly challenging co-op platformer with Bread & Fred.

Apogee Entertainment

The “rage game” has become a genre of its own in the era of YouTube and Twitch, with titles like Jump King and Getting Over It with Bennett Foddy being a mainstay in rage compilations and Let’s Plays. It’s the exact same rage-fueled magic that Sandcastles Studio wanted to capture with Bread & Fred, a co-op platformer that’ll test the strength of any relationship as players work to climb through levels together.

It takes two

Bread and Fred running on an icy platform.

Source: Apogee Entertainment

In Bread & Fred, the titular characters embark on a dangerous journey from their hometown that will take them to various unique environments. The game doesn’t spend much time getting into narrative and exposition, as it’s looking to get you to the platforming bits as soon as possible. It’s all about the rage, and it doesn’t take very long to get there.

Bread & Fred puts a new spin on the platforming formula with its co-op aspect. Not only will two players be taking on every obstacle, but you’re also tied together by a rope, forcing cooperation and teamwork into every puzzle. In addition to being a vehicle for frustration, it also works to create a lot of new challenges in ways I hadn’t thought of until it was time to play.

For one, it was nigh impossible to get the timing down when I first started playing with a buddy of mine. If one of us was half a second off on a jump, neither of us were making it to the other platform. We took advantage of an in-game countdown feature and found ourselves in perfect rhythm as we sunk more hours into the game.

Since you’re tied together, the rope can also be used to make traversal a bit easier. Either player can pull on the rope to slowly bring the other one closer, which is incredibly helpful if one of you makes a jump and the other doesn’t. It can also be used to swing in order to gain momentum and pull off some massive jumps to reach otherwise unreachable platforms. Players can also hunker down and make themselves an anchor to prevent any unwanted sliding around. Understanding the physics of the rope is one of the keys to success in this game.

Roped together

Bread and Fred inside of a mine.

Source: Apogee Entertainment

In true “rage game” fashion, Bread & Fred’s platforming will often punish pretty heavily for failing jumps and other sequences. There were countless cases where a miss by the smallest of margins sent me and my buddy tumbling down, erasing 15 minutes of progress in an instant. That’s all good fun, and we found ourselves laughing at each other more than raging.

That said, it does feel like there are so many sequences designed to deliberately frustrate players. While the game succeeds at this, it feels like having a good “gotcha” moment got in the way of engaging level design. It’s because of this that Solo mode, where you play as a penguin tied to a rock, didn’t really work for me. There’s not much enjoyment to be had when there’s not another person to share the misery.

Reach the peak

A single penguin attached by rope to a rock.

Source: Apogee Entertainment

Replaying segments over and over again, I spent a lot of time staring at the environments in Bread & Fred. Luckily, most of them are quite gorgeous. Not only does the pixelated art style give the game an old-school feel, but it also gives a warm and charging look to an otherwise brutal world. The developers also use shading to give a visually pleasing depth to each level, and the lighting made a lot of the interior areas distinct.

While a lot of difficult, rage-inducing games opt for dramatic scores and epic tunes to accompany your arduous adventure, Bread & Fred has quite the idyllic soundtrack. Songs that would be relaxing in just about any other game, but here, it’s a fun juxtaposition to the highly stressful gameplay experience on display.

It’s all downhill from here

Bread and Fred standing on an icy platform.

Source: Apogee Entertainment

Bread & Fred has solid platforming mechanics, and the introduction of the rope opens the door to brand-new frustrations and gameplay elements. It succeeds greatly at producing a co-op experience that’ll either have you at the throats of your friends and loved ones, or laughing uncontrollably, even if it feels like there isn’t much more substance beneath the surface.

This review is based on a digital Steam code provided by the publisher. Bread & Fred launches on May 23, 2023 for PC.

News Editor

Donovan is a young journalist from Maryland, who likes to game. His oldest gaming memory is playing Pajama Sam on his mom's desktop during weekends. Pokémon Emerald, Halo 2, and the original Star Wars Battlefront 2 were some of the most influential titles in awakening his love for video games. After interning for Shacknews throughout college, Donovan graduated from Bowie State University in 2020 with a major in broadcast journalism and joined the team full-time. He is a huge Scream nerd and film fanatic that will talk with you about movies and games all day. You can follow him on twitter @Donimals_

Review for
Bread & Fred
  • Solid, consistent mechanics
  • Charming art style
  • Hilarious co-op experience
  • Some segments feel more annoying than fun
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