CAFETERIA NIPPONICA — A REVIEW

Developer: Kairosoft

Platform: Android

The advice every writer gets told is “Write what you know”, which explains why there are so many bloody boring books about writers. The developers at Kairosoft took this advice to heart when they made their hit Game Dev Story, a delightful management simulation — I realise how awkwardly those words go together — in which you hired game designers and gave them an outline to work from by mashing together genres like “adventure” and “fantasy” (or “dating” and “pirate” if you felt silly). It was compulsive fun, although getting the review scores back was usually disheartening. My cute sports simulation Golf Wolf deserved way better than six out of 10.

Reviewers, hey? Bunch of jerks.

Cafeteria Nipponica is Kairosofts new game and although it’s about running a restaurant in Japan, it plays out in a mechanically similar way to Game Dev Story. You hire staff and give them a menu to work with, refining recipes by adding “eggs” to “toast”, then watch your staff bustle back and forth between customers and kitchen.

Where it differs from Game Dev Story is in the amount of interaction. Your coders and artists would need to be levelled up by hand, but the restaurant staff do it all by themselves. Where games were defined by spending points on “accessibility”, “polish” and a raft of other categories, your menu is a more static thing, only changing when you learn new recipes. Cafeteria Nipponica is surprisingly hands-off, the kind of game where you don’t bother pausing it for interruptions but leave it playing instead, safe in the knowledge that nothing much is going to happen while you’re gone. Other games that cast you as a customer service overlord like Sally’s Salon become frenetic hussles to push customers through the machinery of retail before they become impatient, but Cafeteria Nipponica plays at such a relaxed pace I’m not sure I’m really necessary to the process at all.

My restaurant may in fact be better off now that I’ve stopped playing the game.

When I was playing Game Dev Story my studio made two fantasy RPGs in a row and suffered for it, punished by a little pop-up informing me that we’d lose fans for repeating ourselves. The problem with Cafeteria Nipponica isn’t just that it repeats chunks of Game Dev Story — Kairosoft have made a few games like this now — but that it’s similar enough to invite comparison without being nearly as good.

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Second opinions: Mike Rose, Chris Schilling, Damien McFerran