Game: Bear’s Restaurant
Genre: Adventure Simulation
System: Nintendo Switch (also on mobile)
Developers | Publishers: Odencat
Age rating: US Teen| EU 12+
Price: US $12.99 | UK £11.99 | EU € 12,99
Release Date: June 18th, 2021
Review code used, with many thanks to Odencat
Look at the title screen of Bear’s Restaurant. The B from Bear wears a jaunty chef’s hat. Lovely colors in the image and the little retro characters look happy. This clearly is a game about cooking and making customers happy. I mean, Bear’s Restaurant, the title is pretty spot on eh?
Wrong. If are looking for a game about cooking, look further. If a happy retreat from real life is what you are looking for, don’t go for this one. Bear’s Restaurant has a dark story to tell, a deep, meaningful story that just happens to be told around a restaurant, owned by a bear.
Does it do a good job at telling the tale? Let’s dive in…literally, you’ll see.
A Special Kind of Restaurant
The game starts with you waking up as a Cat. A Cat, that works in a restaurant run by a Bear. No ordinary restaurant: there are only a couple of seats and the chef, that’s Bear, doesn’t need a lot of fancy appliances to make the dishes. In this restaurant, the dead will have their last supper. And that last supper is the meal they loved the most, their favourite dish from the time they were alive.
As the assistant, it’s Cat’s job to find out what their favourite dish is. At first, the customers just come out and mention it, but soon Cat has to delve deeper, by diving into the customers’ memory. Cat is instantly transported back and witnesses what the favourite dish is and why. After that, Cat gets a memory shard and gives Bear the order. It can be anything, like hamburgers, omelettes, sushi, pudding. No biggie for Bear, with the blink of an eye the meal is ready.
The dead find their peace and fade away from the restaurant seat.
The Train to Heaven or to Hell
Bear takes Cat with him to the Station, where the dead wait for the train to heaven. Here’s your chance to get more of an insight into their former lives, by asking some pre-determined questions.
Before the day ends, Cat can watch the memory shards before she turns in. Bear’s Restaurant’s description in the European Nintendo eShop gives you fair warning for that: “this game contains potentially distressing materials, such as traffic accidents, suicide and murder. However, there is no gore” It’s true, there were so many sad stories in the memory shards and still it kept me watching.
Most are predictable after you dove into their memories to find out the favourite dish and after you’ve talked with them at the station. I think I was hooked when the pregnant mother came in for her last meal and found out she was the victim of a traffic accident before she even met her baby. So sad!
But just who is Bear? And come to think of it, who are you, who is Cat? The story takes on a new turn when one day Bear is too sick to cook and Cat has to take over, diving into Bear’s memory to find out how. I’ll not spoil the rest of the story, but suffice it to say there’s a train to Hell as well.
Lots of Emotions in Retro Looks and Lovely Music
As you may expect after reading the first chapters of this review, Bear’s Restaurant is very much story-driven. There are light puzzle elements, but mostly it’s about reading and experiencing.
I’m not usually into retro looks in a game, but it fits Bear’s Restaurant. The pixels do an excellent job of conveying the emotions in the deceased. The music, a soundtrack made by Xion, fits in seamlessly. It is soothing to listen to with a sad undertone.
Bear’s Restaurant is a short game, some three hours I think, but it kept me playing on to find out what the story was behind Bear and Cat, and if I’d get a happy ending. Despite being short, it is a story that will stay with me for a long time. The same way The Stillness of the Wind did when I reviewed that.
Bear’s Restaurant is a game about loss, regrets, redemption and death. But it’s also about the power of love that will conquer it all. This is no relaxing and laid back story, but one that will make you sad. It will stay with you for a long time, particularly because of the beautiful ending.
If you like story-driven games and aren’t afraid to explore deeper feelings, then give Bear’s Restaurant a try. It’s available on mobile where you can try the first part for free, unlocking the rest and the sequel story, The Nihility, being a paywall. The Nintendo Switch version has everything included!
It feels strange to measure how much you like such a sad story, but the way the developer manages to bring such a deep story in a relatively simple way is pretty amazing.
Final Verdict: I Like It a Lot