Lately I’ve been playing a lot of games over on Facebook. There’s an amazing amount of games available over there. Some of them are pretty good. Some of them are amazingly bad. I’ll start by reviewing one of the first games that I started playing on Facebook, Cafe World.
I’m a big fan of cooking shows. I’ve been watching FoodTV for years, and am a fan of Top Chef on Bravo (though its gone downhill the past couple of seasons.) So its not really surprising that I was attracted to a game that lets you run your own virtual restaurant. Cafe World allows you to decorate your restaurant with pretty many different themes and items (most items are available for cafe coins, which are earned in the game, but some items require cafe cash, which is the game’s form of microtransations to make the developer, Zygna, some money. There’s no need to buy Cafe Cash, though), hire staff, and has a fairly decent number of different food items to serve. Its a game very much under active development, with new decorations and food items being added nearly every week.
Like nearly all Facebook games, the game primarily happens when you’re not playing. You log in one or twice a day to make some decisions/set some things up, and then you’re done. In Cafe World, you can spend pretty much time redecorating your restaurant, but usually it doesn’t take too long to set something up you’re happy with, and once that’s done, the game boils down to keeping your restaurant stocked with food.
The way in which the game handles cooking isn’t terribly realistic: You select a food item to cook from your menu of available recipes. A few clicks does the prep work on the food (peel potatoes, chop carrots, whatever.) The food then cooks for a period of time (anywhere from 5 minutes to 2 days.) During this time, there’s really nothing to do. Redecorate your restaurant again if you want, I guess. More likely play World of Warcraft or something.
Eventually the food is done. Click the stove to serve the food which is placed on a serving counter (anywhere from a couple dozen to a couple thousand servings at a time, depending on the recipe), then back to the beginning: picking another recipe. Both while you play the game and while you’re not, customers will come into your restaurant and order whatever food items you have prepared. Your staff, made up of Facebook friends you’ve picked, will serve it to them and collect the money.
There’s really not much to do in the game aside from logging in every once in a while to make food and maybe occasionally redecorate. I generally select food that takes 8-12 hours to cook, which means I really only need to log in twice a day, morning and night, for maybe about 5 minutes each. Not really a demanding game, that only requires about 10 minutes a day to play. Still, its managed to keep me fairly interested for nearly 2 months now. Aside from my previously mentioned interest in cooking-related things, that’s both because of the regular updates, and also because of the game’s leveling system, which unlocks additional recipes over time.
Another big feature of the game is its social component. Pretty much all Facebook games are based around social aspects in some way. In Cafe World’s case, while there’s no direct interaction, you still gain a lot of advantages by having friends who play the game. Aside from the fact that you need to have at least a few friends to hire as staff, having friends who also play the game means that you get to visit their restaurant and taste their food once per day. Doing so gives you a small amount of both experience and money, and when one of your friends visits your cafe, you get some money in the form of a tip (no experience, though.)
‘Gifting’ is another form of interaction in the game: each day, you can send your friends a number of gifts, either in the form of servings of food, decorations, or side-dish items. You don’t get anything yourself directly from sending gifts, but hopefully doing so will prompt your friends to send a return gift. In addition, a fairly new feature is that when you serve a dish, you occasionally get ‘bonus servings’. The game prompts you to post on your wall, and friends who click on the link get a number of servings of whatever you made.
The game’s biggest problem is that its slow. SLOW. SLOOOOOOOOW. I play a lot of Flash-type games on Facebook (more reviews coming in the future) and I have to say, this one needs some serious optimization. There’s simply nothing all that advanced, graphics-wise, to explain how poorly it runs. If you can get past that, though, its fairly fun, in a non-demanding sort of way. I believe I’ll be playing it for a while longer. At least until I hit level 52 and unlock the chocolate cake recipe…