Restaurant Story makes most of social gaming formula

Spoiler alert! If you want to try an online social networking game, Restaurant Story may be the one to try. It may seem extraordinarily dull at first but it can quickly become addictive. Just be sure to make a reservation at the nearest social gaming twelve step program before you play.

In spite of my effusive spoiler, I’m sure there will be readers who download Restaurant Story and think to themselves, “this is really dumb.” To be honest, however, I dated women who thought the B-52s were dumb, and the Talking Heads were dumb.

I married Carol because she thought the Talking Heads were cool. I didn’t think to ask her about the B-52s, or we might be married to two other people today.

She won’t admit she thinks the B-52s are dumb, she just tunes out when I play “Rock Lobster” or “Love Shack.” I even went out and bought the DVD of the Avengers with Honor Blackman to show her what a cool reference the B-52s were making to pop TV culture, only to discover the episode was really named “Lobster Quadrille” and wouldn’t have a song named after it until Franz Ferdinand came along.

It didn’t improve her confidence in my taste. She doesn’t particularly like Franz Ferdinand either. And she still thinks Restaurant Story is lame. But she also thinks Adventure Bay is lame and I will review it tomorrow as the best new social networking game of 2010.

To be honest, I thought Restaurant Story was lame too when I first downloaded it. And when I tried Tiny Chef, it’s competitor, I didn’t change my mind. But, as I explained Tuesday, I try to play a game until at least level 10 or 12 to make sure I give it a fair shake, and by that time I was hooked.

You may find the game lame even if you play twelve levels, but there is something so irresistibly cute about tiny animated people walking in and out of a restaurant, miming eating behavior (they never actually touch a fork, or food for that matter) and then leaving with startling Stepford Wifelike behavior that I, at least, couldn’t help but continue past Level 12.

There’s something irresistibly cute about animated child-people who eat without ever touching their food. The animation is heavily influenced by Japanese animation style.

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Basically you start your tiny restaurant with two burners. a couple of tables and a very basic menu consisting of items like waffles, mac and cheese and grilled cheese sandwiches. By level 42 you can double the size of your restaurant, add nine more ovens, burners or grills and expand your menu to exotic deserts and seasonal items.

You can also decorate your restaurant with dozens of tile combinations and wall patterns, tables and ambient decorations that include fountains, aquariums, pool tables and pianos.

You begin with a tiny dive and expand the restaurant to a dance hall or posh restaurant.

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At this point Restaurant Story may not sound any different than any other social network game. To be honest, the model is pretty much the same. But more than just about any social networking game I’ve played, Restaurant Story really allows players room to create the environment that best suits their personalities—from swanky establishment with lounge music and and a wine list to a mom and pop diner with pool tables and a juke box.

Restaurant Story allows people to create an almost infinite variety of diners and restaurants.

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TeamLava, who usually lifts their game concepts from successful models, actually inspired its own rip-offs, Tiny Chef and Tiny Christmas Chef (actually its Tiny Xmas Chef, but I don’t want to get Bill O’Reilly on their backs). That’s moving to the front of the pack.

Restaurant Story follows the Farmville social networking model in more ways than one. You can add friends to your restaurant network, and send them gifts in the form of food for their customers, and tip them as well.

Send gifts to as many friends as you can make. You won’t be able to send as many different kinds of gifts as you can in Farmville, but this is a minor complaint.

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You can also send messages from player to player with a very Facebook like wall. This makes it easy for players to pass their user id on to other players so they can be added as friends.

Unfortunately, if you let your dishes cook to long they spoil in the most gross way imaginable, which should sit well with teen and pre-tern boys. When other players visit they only see green moldy dishes, but when you finally remember the dishes are covered with flies.

Don’t forget to serve your dishes on time or they will spoil in the most gross ways imaginable.

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One of the things I like most about the game is that it’s incredibly stable. Unlike other social network games it doesn’t crash and I can almost always connect to the server.

What’s the downside? You probably guessed it. The really cool stuff for your restaurants can only be purchased with game cash (in this case diamonds), which can only be purchased with real cash through your Apple account. This includes stuff like the bubbling fountain, the best tables, the pool tables and juke boxes.

Team Lava adds yet another wrinkle with surprise raffle packages. The packages are themed, and include seasonal decorations and water based decorations like indoor waterfalls. Some of the items are first rate. Some aren’t. Unfortunately, you won’t know what you’re getting until you open it. You may have to go through four surprise packages to get what you want. On top of that, you have to buy each surprise gift with (do I really need to say it?) diamonds.

You may have to go through four or five packages to get the piano or indoor waterfall, at a cost of 25 diamonds—which can only be purchased with real dollars—each.

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My biggest complaint about Restaurant Story is that you can only play on one device. Unlike Zynga and ngmoco:), Team Lava’s servers don’t seem to be able to handle login from more than one device. As a consequence, you won’t be able to play on your iPad and iPhone. Even worse, should you lose your iPad you will have to contact Team Lava’s support staff and ask them to transfer your id to the new device.

Unfortunately, I’ve leaned to live with hidden charges in iPad apps. I don’t like them, but I do understand that in-app purchases support future development. And I don’t really go anywhere without my iPad so playing on one device is little more than an inconvenience.

I really like Restaurant Story. Not enough to keep playing it forever, but enough to play into the high levels. I can’t promise you will get the same pleasure, but if you like social networking games I can’t help but feel you’ll want to at least give it a try.

Jenny Manytoes rates Restaurant Story

Jenny Manytoes would make biscuits all over Restaurant Story. It’s cute, it’s endearing and it doesn’t crash. It’s also colorful, bright and loud (and I don’t mean the sound effects). The perfect combination for iPad gaming.

The Jenny Manytoes Rating System

Jenny Manytoes, our polydactyl cat
  • When Jenny makes biscuits on a product she thinks she’s in heaven.
  • When Jenny purrs over a product she’s very happy.
  • When Jenny naps next to a product it’s okay with her.
  • When Jenny bunches her tail she can live with a product, but she has higher expectations.
  • When Jenny leaves it in the litter box….I don’t think I need to explain this one.

Contact me at Email iPad Envy, or
Email The Hidden Grimoire.


About Phillip T Stephens

Phillip T. Stephens disappeared into the Bermuda Triangle twenty years before he was born, creating a time travel paradox so confusing it remains unspoken between physicists and sci-fi writers to this day. Follow @stephens_pt
This entry was posted in 5 Stars - Biscuits, Entertainment, Games, Social Networking Games. Bookmark the permalink.

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