My Little Restaurant
DSiWare | Qubic Games | 1 Player | Out Now | 500 Nintendo Points
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13th June 2011; By KnucklesSonic8
My Little Restaurant may sound like it's been designed for very early gamers, don't let the name turn you off. Qubic Games' restaurant simulation title successfully accomplishes what it sets out to do and for a cheap alternative, it's not bad at all.
At the start of the game, you'll select a young boy or girl and watch as the game uses simple illustrations for a rather lame intro. I'll spare you the boring details and just tell you that the two characters are smitten over each other and wind up working together in a nearby fast food establishment. A series of NPC's appear over the course of the game, including a wealthy relative and a burger-obsessed coach. Outside the rough-looking "cutscenes", brief dialogue takes place at the start of a new level. Jokes are told presumably to counter the dullness of it all but they actually make these scenes more annoying.
Getting into the actual gameplay, you'll take on all sorts of tasks as you try running a smooth business. Your duties will include seating customers, taking their orders, delivering food to their tables and retrieve tips. In case you're wondering: all the food preparation is handled by your teammate, so at least you don't have to do everything. The game eases you with an accessible set of controls, keeping up the appearance that it's a user-friendly experience.
As soon as the restaurant opens, customers will begin to make their way inside in groups of 3 to 6, in pairs, or just as individuals. To seat them, all you need to do is use your stylus to drag them from the entrance to a free table. Once they've been seated, tap the table to direct your on-screen character so he or she can take their order. Tables will then be marked with a number as you make your way back to the kitchen counter and deliver the order to your teammate for cooking. Good thing you have a helper for something around here!
Once the food is ready (indicated by a "Ding!" noise), you'll grab the silver platter from the counter and bring it to the table of the corresponding number. After they've finished eating, you'll need to retrieve their empty plates before they can give you a tip and make their way out of the restaurant. And that's the gist of what you'll need to remember.
Multi-tasking does have its limits when you only have two hands to work with, and I was happy that the game conveyed this realism. Your character can only carry so much before he is forced to head back to the counter to drop off items. Although you can do two different things at once, like carrying plates in one hand and taking orders in the other, there is the caution of neglecting other important tasks. So it's that sense of balance you'll be constantly shooting for as you play.
It should be no surprise to learn that customer satisfaction is crucial in this game. A single star icon will appear above the head of one person at each table to indicate how they feel about their service whether they're on their own or with a group of friends. The longer you make them wait, the more their satisfaction will decrease so it's important you get a good handle of managing everything at once. And just when you start to get the hang of things, the game will add in new features to throw you off! How considerate.
The first of these is a restaurant expansion that will allow you to hold a greater capacity of customers, but will likely slow down your processing time for a bit as you try to appease them all. Planning becomes even more important here as you could easily wind up with a lot of customers spending most of their time just waiting for their food to be delivered or cleared off the table.
Your view on the Touch Screen is limited to just one area of the restaurant at a time, so when your restaurant expands, things get a little clunky. You'll have to use the D-Pad to quickly change which part of the restaurant you'll focus on at a given time. The fact that you can't zoom out and view the entire layout of your establishment is a serious disadvantage for the player, and I was surprised the developers didn't catch onto this during development. The first few levels aren't bad because it's just a horizontal plane, but when you have multiple areas to focus on, the camera control can be irritating.
As you restaurant grows, new add-on's will appear, serving one of three purposes. The first is to increase morale, like with the jukebox add-on. The second is to stall for time, as in the case of the water cooler. And the third is to properly cater to individual customers, as shown by the quick-bite area. In stages where this addition isn't available, you'll need to plan your sequence of seating very carefully to avoid having the individual customers disrupting your progress. This becomes more important later on when you experience a greater number of customers coming in on a regular basis.
You'll also unlock special one-time power-ups that can help you when you need it most, like the morale boost (mapped to the A Button) or the speed-up move (B Button). With all of these elements, you'll need to strategize and consider when the best time is to make use of them. And for the most part, these do help make the game a bit more enjoyable.
My Little Restaurant is split up into three main areas with multiple restaurant types. For the first handful of stages you'll be managing an American-style restaurant, while the next set will appeal to Japanese tastes. Before each stage begins, the loading screen will quickly inform you of the amount of time you have and the minimum score required to pass the mission. Along the top screen is an analog clock that gives you a general idea of how much time you have left before closing time, but you'll be so busy running around, you won't pay much attention to even check your score.
In terms of presentation, the silly cutscenes and the weak dialogue don't do much for the game nor does the simple-natured music. The visuals shown during gameplay are average, though. I found it interesting that the in-game sound effects were put to good use. For example, customers will make gibberish noises to call you over when they're ready, and after hearing these repeatedly, these can actually aid you in your planning process.
For a $5 title, there's a predictable amount of content here. The game features more than 30 levels in total, with four different restaurants to try out. Another layer of challenge gets added in some of the bonus levels, like when roman numerals are used to replace the standard numbering system. You also have brief mini-games where you'll drag ingredients from a conveyor belt to make burgers or sushi, but these activities are quite boring. Other than the fact that the game could have used an endless mode and a profile system, I liked what I saw.
Overall, My Little Restaurant delivers on providing addicting gameplay with a small amount of challenge. Admittedly, the game isn't unique and the fun factor isn't always there, but for what it is, it's not a bad buy.
19/30 - Good
Gameplay 7/10 - User-friendly setup, new elements get introduced over time, realistic character limits, satisfaction system, quick strategies, power-ups
Presentation 6/10 - Clunky camera control for large-sized restaurants, lame cutscenes, decent visuals, basic music, sound effects assist in planning ahead
Enjoyment 3/5 - Mini-games are weak and boring, especially fun to manage lots of customers at once, special bonus levels are kind of interesting
Extra Content 3/5 - Features a good number of levels with differing restaurant layouts, lacks a profile system for additional players, no endless mode
Equivalent to a score of 63% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating)