They say a spiky-haired, giant-sword-wielding hero marches on his or her stomach, so running a restaurant in an RPG should be fairly easy and profitable. But spunky Siela finds out it's anything but when she learns the family business is tanking and her sister is considering selling it to a slimy corporate shill. In Adventure Bar Story for iOS and Android, Siela is determined to save her family's restaurant, even if it means running the place herself... which includes everything from managing the establishment and designing menus, to tracking down ingredients in the wild and doing battle with monsters along the way. Part simulation, part traditional turn-based RPG, and all goofy adventure, it's a breezy, casual title that may not be deep enough for die-hard story fans, but could be extremely hard to put down for the unwary casual fan who wants to dice goblins by day and serve risottos by night.
To make your restaurant successful, you'll need to take part in two distinctly different modes of play. Once each day, Siela and her party can venture into the world map's dungeons and gather ingredients they find laying around, and take part in traditional turn-based combat to defeat monsters and earn more things to cook with. Unlike most other RPGs, however, you'll only gain experience points to level up by eating, so you won't want to neglect the kitchen! By returning to the bar, Siela can cook from recipies she's already learned in the kitchen if she has the required items, or try to make something from scratch. Once you've created a dish, you can add it to the menu by talking to Siela's sister, and open the restaurant for the evening. You can only sell what you've cooked, however, so be sure to make multiples if you think a dish is going to be a bestseller. You can take the profits to buy adventuring equipment, new dishes, cooking tools, and a lot more from the store in town, or sell excess stock.
In the beginning, you won't have much to sell, but as time goes by and your success and strength grows, you'll be able to travel to farther destinations with more exotic ingredients. If the food you make is especially delicious, you might even find it draws some unusual characters to your bar that can help you out. If you want a leg up, you can purchase jewels via in-app purchases as Siela's storekeeper friend Fred
nags helpfully reminds you that will allow you to buy special import items or unlock a recipe without having to guess at the ingredients, but this is entirely optional.
With its blend of charm, light humour, vibrant graphics, and addictive gameplay, Adventure Bar Story is the perfect springboard into the RPG genre for the new generation of casual mobile gamers. As indie juggernaut Recettear has proven, there's just something immediately quirky and fun about running the sort of establishment you'd frequent as a player character in another title, and Adventure Bar Story is no exception. The controls are simple despite some clunky menu navigation, the gameplay is fast moving and "one more day/recipe" addictive, and it combines into a sort of perfect storm that might make it hard to resist for casual gamers. The downside? Well, if you're really into RPGs for their story, you're going to find the somewhat awkwardly translated and simplistic narrative here a disappointment, and the gameplay might not be deep enough for some players to keep it from feeling repetitive. If you're looking for a quirky and easily accessible RPG with a liberal dash of restaurant management, however, Adventure Bar Story is a huge adventure you should definitely make a reservation with.
NOTE: This game was played and reviewed on an iPad (1st gen). Game was available in the North American market at the time of publication, but may not be available in other territories. Please see individual app market pages for purchasing info.