My husband is a big fan of video games. He loves playing video games, he loves making video games and, luckily for me, he loves writing about video games! So when I was at BlogOn last weekend I met the lovely people from Rising Star Games. I was given the chance to get my hands on a copy of a new game, Little Dragons Cafe, I knew just where to turn for my review. It’s really a game aimed at children though so Barry roped in a couple of little helpers to see what they thought too…
Little Dragons Cafe for PS4
We were given a download code to get a copy of Little Dragons Cafe from the Playstation Store where it is currently available for £39.99. The has also been released in digital form for Nintendo Switch, and will be available to buy for both consoles on disc from 28th September 2018. You can get Little Dragons Cafe from Amazon here.
Now we’ve got the details out of the way I’ll hand you over to Barry to find out what he (and Toby and Gabe) thought of the game…
Little Dragons Cafe, the new game from Harvest Moon developer Yasuhiro Wada, is a bright and breezy casual crafting game for younger audiences.
You play as one of two twins who have been left to run their mother’s cafe while she’s poorly. But this is no mundane catering business simulator. A mysterious wizar… old man soon appears and gives the twins a gift: an egg, from which emerges a cute and cuddly little red dragon. The old man explains that the twins not only have to keep the family business afloat through the hard times, they must also feed and raise the dragon, as this is the only way to cure mummy.
Through an opening tutorial section, which doubles as the first chapter of the story, you’re introduced to the core gameplay loop. You leave the cafe and explore the idyllic surroundings, exploring the garden and the nearby bay. Helped by your faithful dragon pet, you forage for produce and try to find new recipes. It’s a wonderfully realised experience. Just nosing around the crayon-coloured environment is a pleasure, like being immersed in one of the friendlier Studio Ghibli movies. And although the controls lack the precision of a dedicated 3D platform game they are simple and forgiving – you can’t fall off the cliffs or drown in the sea – ideal for younger players. Toby (5), and even Gabe (3), were happy to wander, and said they loved the music and, of course, the dragon.
Once you’ve harvested what you need, you return to the cafe and begin cooking. This is accomplished through a simple rhythm-action mini-game. Ingredients scroll across the screen, and you have to hit the appropriate button at the right time to successfully add them to the pot. The rhythms are quite fast for kids who aren’t used to using a controller, and this is one point where my own little ones are perhaps a bit too young to enjoy the game fully.
Once you complete a recipe you can add it to the cafe’s menu and serve it to customers, fulfilling orders and advancing the story as new characters and events are introduced. You can also feed your dragon. He will gradually lose stamina over time so to keep him going you must pet him and feed him regularly. This introduces a mild survival element to the gameplay, but it’s nothing like as stressful as other games in the genre. And the feeding eventually provides the inevitable dragon manure, which you can add to your vegetable patch. Cute!
It’s in the cafe itself where my main criticisms lie. The user interface for managing the cafe – choosing a recipe, selecting ingredients, adding it to the cafe’s menu – seems a little cluttered and unclear. The tutorial skips over a lot of this material in favour of introducing the story and exploration elements, which is great for grabbing attention early, but isn’t so helpful here. It’s nothing like as complex as a grown-up’s “tycoon” game, and yet it still managed to confuse me at first. Thankfully there are no great penalties for clicking the wrong thing, but just be aware that this might take a little learning.
Likewise for younger children, there’s a lot of reading involved. The story is presented as text, through speech bubbles, with no voice acting. And although the language is appropriate for younger readers, the sheer volume of text may not be. It’s an unusual discrepancy and makes me wonder for what age this game is really intended: by the time kids have the patience for all the text, the actual content of the text, indeed the whole game, could have become too young for them. Either way, be prepared to do a lot of the voices aloud if you’re intending to play this with your little ones. It’s also worth noting that although this is a kids’ game some of the language is a bit more grown up than you might expect. This wasn’t really a problem for us as we could edit as we read out loud but may be more of an issue if your children can read for themselves.
Having said all that, Toby and Gabe had a lot of fun just running around the world and gathering the ingredients, and we enjoyed the cafe section together. There’s lots to explore, with areas that are initially blocked off but which open up as the story progresses, and new recipes to try in your quest to raise your dragon and bring your mummy back to health. We’re nowhere near seeing all the game has to offer, so we’ll be sure to return to its vibrant and inviting world.
You can see a bit more of the game in the trailer below. Have your children played Little Dragons Cafe yet? I’d love to know what they thought of it.
**We were given a copy of Little Dragons Cafe in exchange for this review. All opinions are our own.