Pizza Chef 2
Pizza Chef 2 does what few time management and match-3 puzzle games care to do: try something different. Instead of fusing the former with the latter or the latter with the former, Pizza Chef 2 has made both genres equally reliant upon the other, meaning you can't take the matching out of the time management and vice versa. What you get is a strong casual game of simple strategy, quick thinking, and spatial reasoning combined in a very rare balance.
The story is forgettable and largely identical to every other restaurant-themed time management game out there, so all you need to know is your job is to make your pizza shop rock by serving food efficiently. The game screen is divided into two areas: the puzzle grid on the right, and tables on the left. The grid is where most of your time will be spent, swapping ingredients to make matches. When a match is made, tiles under those pieces are activated. Active tiles represent areas of your stove that are turned on. So, as you probably guessed, customers come in, sit at the tables, and order food. All you have to do is take that food and fit it on active squares in the grid.
Once food is cooked it automatically serves itself to the customers, so you don't have to worry about delivering it to the wrong table. You'll be busy enough trying to match more tiles to keep sections of your oven burning bright. Cooked food uses the heat in a block, so you're always on the lookout for quick matches and combos so you can focus on your customers. Special tiles such as bombs or sparkling ingredients will light up large areas of the grid, so keep an eye out for them!
Between stages you get to visit the shop and purchase new recipes or upgrade your equipment. Recipes come in the form of croissants, kebabs, sandwich platters and other dishes that are different shapes to fit on your grill. The more money a dish sells for, the more difficult it is to fit on the puzzle board. Gadgets play a neat role in Pizza Chef 2, allowing you to do things like appease angry customers or keep your oven burning hot without swapping tiles.
Analysis: It may look cheesy on the surface (I'm sure there's a joke about pizza and cheese in there), but Pizza Chef 2 plays as smoothly as a delicious hunk of brie (there it is!). The puzzle/time management mechanics are expertly balanced to complement each other, not give the feeling that one was smashed on the other so the game can be called a "hybrid".
Beyond the time management meets match-3 gameplay, Pizza Chef 2 drops a few pure puzzle games your way every few levels. Expect a few different styles of mini-games, including simple hidden object scenes and a "fit all the pieces on the grid at once" puzzle. Good diversions from the main game, and you can always skip puzzles you don't want to complete.
The basic gameplay dynamics switch between matching and fitting, so you'll alternate between finding tiles to swap to trying to fit food on the grill. It's an interesting set-up, to be sure, and something about using each mechanic in a time-pressed environment is extremely satisfying.
Pizza Chef 2 may be different from most time management or match-3 games out there, but its concept isn't entirely unique. Experienced casual players will note more than a few similarities between this series and Burger Rush. Regardless of the copied mechanics, both games play well and are interesting in their own rights.