Delicious: Emily's Holiday Season is a fantastic time management game from Zylom Game Studio. Much like the often-forgotten Miss Management, this game plays like a TV sitcom, complete with incidental music and cheesy sense of humor! The variety of gameplay is a welcome addition to the genre, and unlike most games that make the same attempt, it doesn't come across as forced innovation.
The peaceful town of Snuggford is covered in a blanket of snow, and Emily has decided to stay here for a while with her family. The hotel is a bit on the dusty side, and as Emily fixes a vase her friend Francois knocked over with a sneeze, she finds herself with a new job. Customers come in, order food, and Emily must fetch it, deliver it, and take their cash. Sometimes the postman will arrive with a package which must be signed for, and the occasional hotel patron will appear to turn in or pick up his or her room key. Everything is handled with a simple click and go interface, and you can queue several tasks for Emily's busy hands to accomplish.
Between the main tasks you'll also have a few extra chores to do, such as dusting off the cobwebs, picking up a random item or two, or catching spiders. These aren't necessary to complete the level, but if you're going for an expert score, you'd better start dusting. After each level you'll get a chance to spend some cash buying upgrades that make Emily's job easier, customers happier, and the hotel more profitable.
Not content to keep things in one location, Emily's Holiday Season takes place across several areas, including Winter Fair and a farm. The change of scenery does a surprising amount of good for the experience, and the soft, cozy visuals never cease to summon that holiday feeling we love so very much.
Analysis: You might be inclined to write off Delicious Emily's Holiday Season as just another time management game. If you do, you're missing out on a wonderful gaming experience. Casual to the core, this game is about mood, setting, storytelling, and variety. It doesn't smack you across the face with a forced collection of different gameplay elements. Instead, you feel like each departure from the norm is a soft, fuzzy gift that you open and gratefully accept. It's a difficult experience to convey, but if a time management game can make me speechless, you know there's something special there.
Here's another genre oddity: storytelling. Not only does Delicious: Emily's Holiday Season buck tradition with its gameplay, but before and after each level you'll be treated to a short scene that furthers the plot. Beyond that, you actually find yourself interested in what's going on, as the characters are likeable, funny, and do some genuinely witty things over the course of the game.
Emily's Holiday Season isn't stressful, it isn't particularly challenging, and the game doesn't go out of its way to impress you with NEW!!! and FANTASTICAL!!! gimmicks at every turn. Instead, you just have a few bowls of cranberries to deliver, a couple of spiders to catch, and a handful of other miscellaneous tasks to complete. The gameplay and setting are so rich you can't help but be drawn in, and the variety in both storytelling and locations keep you in for the long haul. Delicious Emily's Holiday Season is one of the few time management games you owe it to yourself to play.