TeamLava Adds Restaurants to its Story Collection

Restaraunt StoryIt’s common for iPhone social titles is to follow closely in the footsteps of past Facebook concepts. TeamLava is taking this route again with a restaurant sim, the new iPad and iPhone title, Restaurant Story. Marking the third title in their social game series, this free-to-play game attempts to live up to the reputation of its predecessors, City Story and Farm Story.

Like the two before it, Restaurant Story has from a core game play element that is virtually identical to existing Facebook games. Luckily, the overall quality of the game is decent, and the actual social elements go far beyond that of most other mobile games.

The basic game formula is familiar enough. Utilizing the Café World method, players build stoves and cook and prepare dishes based on their level. After a period of time, the meal is prepared and must be placed onto an empty countertop by the user, where it will represent a set number of servings. Should the player fail to use a cooked meal in time, the food will spoil (there are push notifications for this). Once food is dished up, customers will order any one of the available, prepared dishes, enjoy a meal, and be off.

CookbookAs more customers eat, the popularity of the restaurant increases, but should they not find an available seat, they become agitated and leave, which dings the popularity. Of course, these are all mechanics that have been done before, but there are also new features. Cooking, for example, is slightly altered. Players now have three types of cooking appliances: a stove, oven, and grill, and each only cooking certain types of food. Additionally, though it’s a minor add, players must also perform moderate prep work after the dish is done cooking (e.g. salting it).

A more noticeable difference is that TeamLava opted to not go the “hire friends as workers” route. The player’s avatar (if one can even call it that) merely stands at the front door and every element of the running the business is done automatically. In fact, there are zero servers and zero cooks, a choice that may have been made to ease development.

With simple visuals, Restaurant Story can seems very bland looking, and while the decorative element to the game can garner some nice looking virtual spaces, the space is still very static. Other than the blocky customers that walk in and perform one or two animations, nothing really moves.

SocialRestaurant Story makes up for its visual shortcomings with the familiar TeamLava social integration. Unlike most other social games, on all platforms, social interaction is not limited to just real friends. Players are able to visit any player that has the game with a simple tap. Upon visiting them, users can not only leave comments on their space’s wall, but leave up to three “tips” on any empty table they have.

Leaving tips has multiple benefits. For the person being tipped, there is the obvious fiscal benefit, but they will also receive small amounts of bonus experience. As for the player doing the tipping, they will improve their “Star Rating.” Like the previous Story games, this rating increases the chance of the player appearing higher in the community listing, allowing more random players to find and visit one’s restaurant.

Players can also invite their friends as neighbors, or even other random players once a Storm8 ID is made. It’s not terribly different then visiting the random players, but neighbors get twice as many tips, and can gift items such as “secret recipes.”

CookingRestaurant Story also has a number of virtual goods that cost Gems, the virtual currency. Though this, in and of itself, is nothing special, TeamLava does sell a “Magic Box” that contains items and decorations that are unattainable in any other way. There are a number of Halloween-themed goods available at the moment as well.

A final mechanics worth noting is that players can take snapshots of their or others’ restaurants and either save them to their iDevice or post them to Facebook, via Facebook Connect.

Overall, Restaurant Story has the familiar mechanics of a Facebook business sim, but still manages to feel different due to significantly better social mechanics, although these offer nothing new beyond past games in TeamLava’s Story franchise. The concept appears to be working for TeamLava, as these free-to-play apps always appear to be quite popular.