Estimated reading time: 6 minutes
Little Dragons Café was created by the same guy who brought us Harvest Moon – Yasuhiro Wada. If that’s not a good sign, I don’t know what is! Run a cute café AND raise a baby dragon?? I’m in!
This game is definition of cute, right down to the art looking like it was drawn with colored pencils. The music suits the game perfectly and sets the tone for a light-hearted, laid-back and uncomplicated fantasy tale. Unfortunately, the unnaturally long loading screens and slow story progression takes you right out of that mood. This can get fairly annoying, so I highly recommend that you use this time to get a snack because all the talk of delicious food is bound to make you hungry!
You are given the choice to play one half of a set of fraternal twins (boy or girl who can be renamed) who are put in charge of their mother’s café after she falls inexplicably ill. I say inexplicably, because the reason is completely nonsensical and there is no hint of her being part dragon prior to her falling ill or after. A random old man (wizard) shows up in your mother’s bedroom to tell you that your mother is half-dragon and that the only way to save her is to run the café and raise a baby dragon. Your twin sibling has the sense to be skeptical at first, too and questions the absurdity of the wizard’s story. In the end, the great wizard Pappy moves in with you and gives you your very own pet baby dragon.
At first, it appears as though your twin sibling is pretty useless, and he/she is, but don’t don’t worry, your dragon (I named mine Doug) more than makes up for it. At each stage of his growth he can assist you with gathering ingredients and recipe fragments to improve the quality of your menu, and consequently, your café’s overall reputation. As the story progresses, you will also encounter some interesting characters who will help you in the café, whether you want them to or not. Eventually, the wizard Pappy also increases the height of your café allowing for certain customers to rent a room and stay awhile.
This game is part farming sim, café sim, pet sim and rhythm game. You are responsible for gathering ingredients by searching the surrounding area (which grows as you get further along in the story) and then cooking the meals with a rhythm mini-game. I *loathe* fishing in games, so I was super thankful for the easy fishing mechanics in this title. You also don’t seem to have to worry about inventory space – hooray! As soon as more of your island is available for exploring, you will be granted a quick travel back to the café, which saves SO MUCH TIME, especially when your staff starts slacking off.
Pay attention to which ingredients you use for each recipe because eventually you will run out and it isn’t always easy to harvest the exact same thing again. There is no way to accurately predict where a specific ingredient will be – except maybe the eggs. (Hint: it’s not a chicken – it’s an egg bird, obviously!)
The rhythm game took some getting used to – probably because I kept forgetting that the direction the arrow was pointing is vital to knowing which corresponding button to press.
You can assist with taking customers’ orders, serving their food and cleaning up after them. It is definitely faster to do this yourself, even with the NPC’s blocking your path or pushing YOU out of their way. Luccola (the green orc) will always take care of cooking for customers – once you create the dish initially and add it to the menu.
The dishes that you make go in to your inventory and can be fed to your dragon to keep up his stamina or change his color. The color change took a few days before it became apparent, so stick with the same color-producing food for max effect. You can also “cuddle” your dragon to increase stamina, but this doesn’t result in shiny dragon manure, which helps to increase the rarity or amount of ingredients you can collect from plants, gardens and fishing holes.
The only way to save the game manually is to go to sleep, and you can revisit earlier scenes by reviewing the photo album.
There are super cute touches that really make this game standout. I really liked the way the NPC’s names change as their personality is being revealed and that certain foods will change your dragon’s color as well as play different music while you cook them. I also appreciated the gradual introduction to all the gameplay mechanics because I know I wouldn’t have been able to retain all that information in one sitting.
Unfortunately, these qualities don’t significantly outweigh the drawbacks. Although the game is cute and enjoyable, it doesn’t warrant a premium price tag. The long loading screen paired with a very quick in-game day cycle (10 seconds real time = 10 minutes in-game) make it difficult to accomplish much – even when you can stay up all hours. The visuals and controls can be glitchy and jerky resulting in unintentional actions.