App Reviewed on: iPhone 3GS
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Weird Japanese games and I have always gotten along well. I've just always been drawn to the odd and offbeat titles that occasionally manage to make their way to the States. The stranger the better. So naturally I was excited to get my hands on Adventure Bar Story. Running a restaurant in the middle of a traditional JRPG? Oh yes. Yes, indeed. Now if I could only figure out why I enjoy thinking about the concept more than I enjoy playing the game.
Adventure Bar Story puts players in the role of the underdog restauranteur. Their eatery/home is in danger of being taken over by some rather ruthless competition, and the only way to fight back is to get popular. And to get popular they'll have to start cooking some great food. Of course the catch is they need the ingredients to make the food, and the best way to get them is out in the field. With monsters. So the gameplay is split between adventuring in the wilds, gathering randomly-scattered veggies and the like (ingredients can be taken from defeated monsters as well), and picking recipes from a list in order to create all manner of exotic (and not-so-exotic) dishes.
There's something to be said for the satisfaction one gets from crafting their first complex menu item. I felt no small amount of pride from making my first pie, which takes some effort and preparation as the crust has to be pre-made and some of the components can be a bit tricky to gather at first. Seeing the stocked items dwindle as people start buying more and more food also feels nice, as does getting all of that money from the day's sales.
I did take issue with the slightly dodgy controls and the awkwardness of the menu interface. Not all categories are displayed at once, so players have to constantly scroll along if they wish to look through a specific one (i.e. look through equipment or organize their recipes). The mixture of using virtual arrow keys and direct taps to navigate through the menus and battle commands is also a little awkward. But all of these gripes are minor, really. My biggest disappointment with Adventure Bar Story is that it just feels... hollow. By all rights I should be falling over myself to recommend it to everyone who would listen, but I'm not. Despite having all the right elements in place, the game feels oddly devoid of a personality. Perhaps it's the dialog or the complete lack of any meaningful visual feedback when creating food, but it just doesn't feel as special as it sounds.
Adventure Bar Story is a decent game. It hurts me to say it but decent is about as good as it gets. There are plenty of small moments of enjoyment, but the overall experience feels weighed down by blandness.