Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Snowy: Lunch Rush Review

Snowy: Lunch Rush, developed by Aliasworlds Entertainment and published by Alawar Entertainment.
The Good: Much more strategy than other games of this genre, above average graphics, story mode eases you into the game
The Not So Good: Once you unlock all the different components, it’s essentially the same thing over and over, can’t skip past easy levels
What say you? A fast-paced serving game with variety and strategy: 6/8

I’ve always said that if you’re job has been made into a computer game, then you must have a pretty fun job. Apparently, this means that waiting tables is a laugh and a half! There are several games on the market that feature you clicking or moving around, serving customers various foods and/or beverages, and experiencing what it would be like if you were a waiter and could move by clicking a mouse from an isometric perspective. Snowy: Lunch Rush is one of those games, where you control entrepreneur bear Snowy as he opens a new restaurant. This is another game using the Snowy character used in a line of games by Aliasworlds, including Snowy: Fish Frenzy, Snowy: Treasure Hunter, Snowy: Space Trip, Snowy: Certified Public Accountant, and Snowy: David Spade’s Personal Assistant. How will Snowy do in his new line of work? Will people accept being served by a bear? Isn’t that some sort of health risk? These questions and more may possibly be answered.

Snowy: Lunch Rush is played from a fixed perspective, but features some pretty good 3-D graphics. The game runs smooth and features some detailed components, including the customers of the restaurant, the restaurant itself, and an out-of-breath Snowy scampering around delivering food. The game creates of believable cartoon world in which Snowy works hard (and plays hard). The game also does a good job in the audio department, giving audio clues indicating the disposition of the customers and action that is occurring in the game that you might be ignoring. This is a big improvement over Betty’s Beer Bar, where there is no sound indication of potential problems. Both the sound and graphics of Snowy: Lunch Rush are well done, certainly above the average seen in contemporary arcade and puzzle-like games.

Simply, Snowy: Lunch Rush is a game where you must serve your customers in a restaurant setting. Of course, it’s gets much more involved than that, as Snowy: Lunch Rush adds some additional features that similar games lack. Firstly, the game is mainly played through the story mode, as Snowy slowly works his way up from crap shack to swanky establishment over the course of 60 levels. The game does a good job of introducing new elements to the player, usually adding one thing new to do each level. The problem is, once you get the full compliment of the restaurant (around level 20 of 60), the game essentially plays the same: the excitement of “I wonder what the game will add next” is lost, and the only variation is found in the number of customers and table arrangements. It also takes quite a while to get from beginning levels of difficulty to expert levels: I quickly mastered the game, but still had to go through all the intermediate levels to get to more challenging material. The ability to skip ahead to the more difficult scenarios would be appreciated. Once you advance past a certain level, you unlock the ability to play open-ended games where you just keep on serving. I would like to see games like Snowy: Lunch Rush to have much more flexibility for their players in selecting an appropriate level of difficulty, instead of having the game do it for them.

The gameplay of Snowy: Lunch Rush is pretty fun, and consists of clicking on various objects around the map to perform various tasks. When a customer enters the restaurant, you must drag-and-drop seat them, take their order from the table to the kitchen, take their food from the kitchen to the table, take their money, and clean the table for a new use. This sounds like it would get repetitive and boring (like it did in Betty’s Beer Bar), but Snowy: Lunch Rush has a list of additions to vary the experience. Each customer has a patience rating, and if you do not provide him or her with quick service (seating them, serving them, taking their order, etc.), they get mad and leave. There are also four classes of customer: as they get younger and more male (woman, man, girl, boy), they get more impatient and eat faster. Each of your customers is also color-coded: if you seat them in a chair previously occupied by someone of the same color, you get a bonus. This creates a level of strategy: do you wait to sit someone to get an additional bonus and risk them storming off? You also get bonuses (which are necessary in completing the higher level) for doing the same action multiple times. For example, if you take four orders in a row without doing anything else, you accumulate a 4x bonus: sweet! This will result in you waiting around for every customer to get to the same point in their dining experience; of course, since women eat slower in men (a scientific fact), you’ll be waiting around for them to finish in order to get the bonus, risking people waiting for table leaving with their precious cash. Playing the game in this fashion results in times of intense action followed by periods of waiting around for people to finish whatever they are doing. It can get boring at times, but you can spend doing optional activities. You can improve the mood of people standing in line by playing music instruments, and you can improve the mood of people already seated by serving them coffee. Also, people will occasionally want a delicious pastry at random times, so you’ll need to deliver the goods when they want them. Also, you’ll have drive-thru customers to worry about: they are very impatient (they couldn’t even get out of their car!) but are quicker to serve than seated customers. You’ll also occasionally get phone calls from VIP customers who must be seated at specific tables (that are clearly labeled once they arrive) and are extremely irritated (but have deep pockets).

Snowy: Lunch Rush plays very similar to games such as Diner Dash and Betty’s Beer Bar, but Snowy: Lunch Rush has much more variety than either of those games and is consequently better. The essential gameplay is the same (taking orders and delivering food), but all of the extras (action bonuses, boosting the mood through musical or caffeine intervention, drive-thru customers, tasty cakes, VIPs) elevate this title above the rest. The above average graphics and sound doesn’t hurt the cause, either. The pace of the game is also well done: Snowy moves fast enough where his speed doesn’t hinder the flow of the game, unlike Betty’s Beer Bar. Most important of all, Snowy: Lunch Rush is fun to play and challenging enough to be enjoyable. The game does a good job ramping up the difficulty in the beginning, but I wish Snowy: Lunch Rush was more flexible for advanced players who’ve mastered the intermediate levels. Nevertheless, Snowy: Lunch Rush is a rewarding and pleasing serving game that features lots of innovations and addictive gameplay.