What am I, a ninja? When the powers that be assigned this review, they must have thought so. And, hey, whipping up two sundaes and a salad in the ten seconds it took to bake a pizza and fry a steak is something a ninja can do, right? That, and a short-order cook. But short-order cooks rarely enter the realms of five-star restaurants, which is exactly where you are trying to go in Gamedino's time-management cooking simulation game, Family Restaurant.
Based on a popular flash game, Family Restaurant is the very familiar "assembly line" type of puzzle experience. Create the ordered dish as closely to the desired specification and as fast as possible: grab ingredients from the side and arrange them over the dish as required. It might include some baking or frying. It will involve much shouting and gnashing of teeth. Not only do you have a time limit for each dish, but orders flood in and can quickly stack up. Since not every order takes the same amount of time to make, you are soon swooping through your different dishes, doing a bit here and there... a habit you quickly learn when juggling the ever-growing menu of your establishment. The aim is to beat the day's earning target: better meals mean tips, but failures cost you money.
Why are you subjugating yourself to this relentless vocation? Family Restaurant has a story mode, which explains that you are doing all of this for stars; the prime being five star, with a final level after that for a total of thirty five levels. It harkens a little to the insanity that is a Michelin Star; a coveted restaurant thumbs-up that means you get to charge more for all the rich gluttons you attract. Michelin Stars have to be earned every single time, so if you slip up you forfeit your star. Family Restaurant is not quite as mean, so failure doesn't send you back a step (cutely traced by a trial of eggs), but maybe that's why this game won't leave you in the leagues of Gordon Ramsay. For one, this is a family business, you know. We keep it clean.
Well, the restaurant keeps it clean, but I hardly did. Screw up just a little and orders quickly get out of hand, eventually resulting in an eruption of flaying hands and words that even Gordon would have cocked an eyebrow at. But instead of being a sane individual and finding something lower octane to do, you jump right back into it. After all, who is going to let a salad get in the way of another star? Speaking of which, why can we go up in stars, but we don't hire some more help around here? And tell that waiter to pace things a little. I'm not a robot octopus!
Analysis: There is something abut these pattern recognition and repetition games that seems to excite the synapses. It's not a given thing with assembly games; many of us have run into this type of task as a mini-game inside some adventure romp and often they were more annoying than exciting (though even the mundane ones manage to be endearing). But Family Restaurant cracks it well enough. It would be nice to actually see what an order is, instead of needing to click on one, because by the time you approach the second star (you start off as a single star establishment) things get notably harder. Once you transcend past the third star this game will make you work for your points and near the end you simply don't make mistakes. The crown on all of this is Endless Mode;already available from the start, but a true crucible if you want to test your assembly skills. A single mistake costs you the game and there are three difficulty settings to test your mettle on
In light of this, the art and theme of the game almost does Family Restaurant a disservice. It looks great, no doubt, but the cutesy graphics are deceptively hiding a game that makes some serious dexterity demands. Like I said: ninjas or short-order cooks. Most likely short-order ninjas. The learning curve isn't steep, but you will scoop together a Dame Blanche without even peeking long before you hit the four and five star circuit.
If the idea of assembling food on a plate at high speed and surgical precision doesn't have you salivating, skip this local eatery. Anyone else who likes a good challenge in this genre will find Family Restaurant a rare treat.