Adventure Bar Story is an upcoming game for the iPhone from ZigZaGame Inc. that combines elements from the management simulation genre of games with classic RPG features resulting in some very unique gameplay. This game first became popular on the PSP in Japan for its interesting combination of gameplay elements, but this is the first that the title will be available localized in English for the west. Adventure Bar Story allows the player to fight and cook their way to being the top restaurant in town.
The basic storyline is unfurled in the first few minutes of Adventure Bar Story gameplay. As the youngest daughter, you must save the family restaurant and bar from being bought out by a high caliber competitor. It’s a typical David versus Goliath story, but, instead of the main character having to save the whole world in common RPG fashion, they’re just trying to save a restaurant. The story comes up only rarely in gameplay once you’ve been introduced to the plot. There are large sections where there are no updates or changes to the story and, when something finally does happen, it’s often just the gameplay progressing and not the story. For a game with the word story in the title, the storyline was just the bare bones.
In order to save the family restaurant in Adventure Bar Story, players will have to learn the simple mechanics of the cooking system, figure out some not-so-simple recipes and fight for free ingredients along the way. The cooking system is actually quite easy to learn and can be fun to play around with. Once you have purchased or found the proper ingredients and tools, cooking is just a matter of using recipes to combine ingredients or experimenting with ingredients to learn new recipes. Experimenting can become a tedious and expensive process if you have too many or too few ingredients. Too many ingredients makes it a pain to have to sort through and guess which ingredients might go together, but too few ingredients can make experimenting an expensive venture.
Each dish of food in Adventure Bar Story has stats attached to it that determine the amount of money it can be sold for, the amount of experience it will provide when eaten, and how full a character will get from eating that dish. Some recipes have bonus effects on characters to help them in battle. Recipes can be learned from reading a book (check bookcases), from talking to a NPC or from just experimenting. Once a recipe has been added to the restaurant menu, the player can see how well that dish is selling and whether or not customers are happy with it. Eating the food that you cook is the only way that characters in your party can level up, but they can only eat a certain amount of food each in-game day. So, the player will have to balance earning money by selling dishes to feeding party members and leveling up.
The combat and RPG elements of Adventure Bar Story come in when the player goes hunting for ingredients. While some ingredients can be purchased in town, that is an expensive process. So, instead players can exit the town and enter one dungeon a day to collect free ingredients. Dungeons are just other areas of the map that have visible ingredients strewn about. However, while collecting ingredients, there is a randomized system in place that will occasionally pull your party members into combat. The combat gameplay is classic RPG style with turn-based attacks, equipment, skills, health, mana and a variety of enemies. The only thing that’s missing from the battle scene is the experience boost at the end of each combat. Instead of experience, characters get battle points that will eventually teach them new skills. There’s no way to level up from these battles, just from eating food. Just as in any good RPG, the player must be sure that their party is well equipped, stocked and (a little more uncommonly) leveled up before leaving town to adventure.
Adventure Bar Story is a truly innovative gameplay model combining two fun and much loved styles of play, but the lack story progression and only having the general goals of leveling up characters and learning new recipes makes the game stagnate. Having some smaller goals tied to the story would give the game more focus and the plot and characters some much needed depth. I applaud the effort to be creative and combine successful gameplay types, but I was disappointed with how quickly I grew tired of attempting to create new recipes and running through the same dungeons. Give Adventure Bar Story a shot if you’re looking for a different style of game.