Time management game? We don't think so! Bistro Boulevard is a casual restaurant simulation from Fugazo, creators of the World Mosaics series as well as Fiction Fixers. In an unusual departure from the norm. Bistro Boulevard is focused on you as the manager of a restaurant. Hire staff, train them to cook ingredients, formulate recipes, and seat customers, all with a few clicks of the mouse. Your staff does all the drudge work, leaving you to focus on the important parts of the business!
Bistro Boulevard's storyline is pretty much what you would expect from a game of this nature. Your goal is to improve the quality of a restaurant so you can open more restaurants and revive a once-thriving center of foodie activity. You start with an American food restaurant, serving customers and meeting a long list of goals using as many business days as you need. That's right, no level-by-level structure here. Instead of plodding about one pre-set stage at a time, Bistro Boulevard is focused on you meeting goals. You can use as few or as many business days as you like to achieve those goals before it's on to the next restaurant. Italian food, anyone?
Gameplay is focused on managing your restaurant, not delivering food to customers. Before you open for business, you'll spend a bit of time in the menu screens buying decorations, new tables, chairs, sprucing up the wallpaper, or managing your staff. Waiters and cooks need to be hired, paid a salary, and trained to do their jobs better, all of which costs cash to do. Too few cooks or servers and your customers will get upset having to wait too long. Too many and you'll waste money on paying people to stand around.
Recipes are a huge part of the game as well, and you get to formulate simple dishes based on customer cravings. Before the round begins, check out the menu to see what people have a hankering for. Cheese, potatoes, and chicken in demand? Try adding chicken pot pie or potatoes au gratin to your menu. Each chef has strengths with certain types of food. Give a chef who is good at cooking meat the meat dishes and the quality will be better, prompting customers to part with more of their cash.
Analysis: There seems like a lot of stuff to manage in Bistro Boulevard, but at its core, this is as casual as a simulation game can be. Your main concerns are food quality and speed of service, both of which are maintained by hiring and training the proper type and number of staff members. It's all about lining things up and hitting the "go" button, in a way, as managing the behind-the-scenes data is what makes or breaks your restaurant business.
Guessing recipes is surprisingly fun, and getting to match them up to customer demands and chef strengths ends up being the best part of the game. During the actual business part of the day, you don't do much but seat customers and watch your people work, analyzing potential weaknesses and formulating a plan to rectify the shortcomings during the next managing session.
Visually, Bistro Boulevard has a very clean look, with loads of fluid animations (but strangely stiff-faced humans) that have a smart cel-shaded look to them. You'll have plenty of time to check out the graphics, of course, as you won't be doing much while food is being served and tables are being cleared.
Bistro Boulevard takes a lot of the most popular qualities of casual simulation games and time management games and combines them in an elegant way. It's a game that knows how to draw you in and keep you interested in playing day after recipe-guessing day!