Look at a single screenshot of Bear’s Restaurant and take a guess as to the type of game it is. There’s a very good chance you’re completely wrong.
Because what looks like a cute, cuddly game about walking, talking animals cooking for a variety of human customers is, in fact, a heart-melting tale of life, death and memory.
You see, the restaurant of the title is actually where those waiting to get into heaven go for their last meals. The bear in the kitchen cooks by request; you play his feline assistant who takes orders and then tells the chef what to prepare.
Occasionally, punters want something more specific – an unfamiliar food cooked in a particular way, perhaps, or a relative’s recipe. In these cases, you’ll need to ‘dive’ into their memories and figure out the secret.
Either way, the bear has an uncanny knack of leaving every customer satisfied. At which point they’ll vanish to the station, finally ready to catch their train to the afterlife. They’ll also leave behind memory shards that give you a brief look into how they lived – and how they met their demise.
At times it’s deeply moving. But there’s intrigue, too. Why can’t the bear and the cat move on? Will they recover their own memories? And who is that shadowy figure who can’t decide what to order?
There’s no traditional challenge here, just a series of simple dialogue exchanges and a handful of optional interactions. But everything from the wistful piano soundtrack through the darker turn the story takes in its second half to its hopeful finale is perfectly judged.
So Bear’s Restaurant probably isn’t the game you’re expecting. No, it’s something much more memorable and profound than that.