Say you’re walking down a street lined with diners and cafÃ©s, and you decide to grab a bite to eat. Now, you could go to one of the sanitary restaurants operated by humans, or you could risk your life and enter a filthy shack run by decaying corpses that serve putrid, rotten slop. Which sounds better?
That’s the choice your customers face in Zombie CafÃ©. But as the owner of the the titular establishment, it’s your job to keep them coming in, despite the mess, despite the nauseating food, despite the fact that any of the undead servers could tear open a customer’s throat at any time. So how do you make your establishment appealing, thereby raising your star rating and attracting ever more customers?
First, you’ll have to supervise and manage everything that happens in your restaurant, including hiring help, cooking food, serving food, redecorating and upgrading the interior, managing the moods of your employees, and attending to your customers’ needs in a timely fashion. As a bonus, you can even bring your employees on a field trip to a nearby restaurant to kill and eat everyone in it. (This is done in a silly cartoonish way, mind you, so you don’t have to worry about gore).
Fine dining at its most undead.
Having so many options and responsibilities sounds like it would be a lot of fun. However, a large portion of the work is done automatically. You set someone to cook a particular dish, and they stand at the stove cooking until enough real-life time has passed for it to be done. Customers wander in and take the closest available seat without direction. Your employees serve them and clean up after them with no help from you. When things are running smoothly like this, your main input will be tapping the screen so the screen doesn’t turn off.
You do have to control some things, however. You have to tell the cook what meals to make and ensure that your staff is properly rested. When a dish is ready, you have to tell someone to move it to the serving counter, or else it will spoil. If you want to redecorate, expand your restaurant, or add a place setting, you can do that using the fun little in-game store. But because the things you absolutely have to do are infrequent, you’ll often find yourself watching the game run on autopilot.
Another problem is that since the game takes place in real time, it’s always on and, if you have push notifications turned on, it will alert you when your food is ready, day or night, whether you want to play or not. Also, there’s a shortage of character skins in the game, so it’s not uncommon to see two or three of the exact same person enter the restaurant, one after another.
This wouldn’t be a freemium game if you couldn’t buy your way to success. The in-game currency that you can use to speed up cooking or to energize your employees is called ‘toxin.’ You start with several of vials of this sludge, but you can buy more in bundles that range from five to a hundred dollars. Word to the wise: make sure your kids don’t know your iTunes password.
Zombie CafÃ© is fun to tinker with for a little while, but it never manages to wire itself into the addictive part of the brain. Still, it looks great and it’s an interesting take on a Diner Dash-style sim. But unless you want to open your wallet to buy extra toxins, or slavishly attend to the game’s real-time schedule, plan on a lot of waiting around.