To pay her college tuition, Kelly finds herself working at the local juice bar making delicious fruit smoothies and milkshakes for customers. As jobs go, it could be worse. As games go, however, Golden Hearts Juice Bar could be better as a great premise is compromised by sloppiness and an annoying glitch.
The premise of Golden Hearts Juice Bar is similar to Big Island Blends, another smoothie-slinging time management game. Both games task you with creating a variety of beverages by combining different fruits and garnishes in a certain type of glass, and then serving them to the waiting customers. The similarities end there, however. Golden Hearts Juice Bar boasts better graphics, and the playing area is laid out like a restaurant rather than a bar, which requires Kelly to act as waitress delivering orders to customers as they sit at tables instead of just handing them over the counter.
During a typical day at the juice bar, customers will arrive and seat themselves at one of the tables. After a few seconds they’ll place an order, indicating what shape of glass and flavour of smoothie they want. You must select the correct glass and raw ingredient, such as strawberry (red), banana (yellow), blueberry (blue) or milk (white) and take them over to the blender to create the smoothie. When it’s finished, you carry it to the customer’s table. The final step is to collect the cash they leave behind. If the minimum cash goal is reached by closing time, you pass the level and get to move on to the next day.
Customers come in with a certain number of hearts that they begin to lose if they’re kept waiting for too long. If they lose them all, they’ll storm off in a huff, so speed and efficiency play a factor. You also have access to the in-house Golden Hearts Juice Bar band, who you can call upon to play tunes to restore hearts to customers. They have three songs in their repertoire: kid-friendly music, romantic music to please couples, and oldies to please the older people.
Additional flavors and glass types become available over time, and you’ll also be able to top up the smoothie with special garnishes like whipped cream, lime and lemon wedges, maraschino cherries, mini-umbrellas, kiwi slices and mint. Customers might also request a slice of cake on the side, or a cup of espresso or cappuccino from the coffee maker. Other upgrades include additional blenders and tables, and you’ll even get an assistant who will deliver the orders for you so that all you have to worry about is making the smoothies and collecting the cash – this helps to offset the fact that there’s no upgrade to make Kelly move faster.
You aren’t responsible for purchasing your own upgrades in Golden Hearts Juice Bar; instead, they simply appear automatically from time to time. The upgrades are nicely spaced out between the game’s 56 levels, but they don’t always make sense.
For example, the first time the game upgraded one of my three blenders, it chose to upgrade the one that was furthest away from the glasses and ingredients and therefore received the least amount of use. Another quirk is that cakes don’t officially enter into the game until a few levels in, but the tray is in plain sight before that – you can even click on the cakes, but nothing happens. It’s confusing to say the least. Garnishes are also treated strangely by the game, in that there are only four spots for garnishes on the counter, but the game offers far more than four garnishes. When a new one is introduced, it simply pushes one of the older ones out of the tray and you never see it again. Why not keep all the garnishes? When it comes to drink customization, the more the merrier I say.
Unfortunately for Golden Hearts Juice Bar, that isn’t the end of its issues. You can queue up moves by clicking in advance, which is great, however the arrows that indicate a queued move aren’t consistent about appearing – Kelly makes the move regardless, but sometimes you have no confirmation that she’s going to. There’s no way to cancel a queued move either, meaning if you accidentally click on the wrong glass or ingredient you can’t tell Kelly to forget about it – she picks it up anyway, and the only way you can get rid of it is by trashing it and losing money (or setting it down on a tray and hoping a customer asks for it).
At least I don’t think there’s any way to cancel a move. The tutorial is rudimentary and leaves a lot of details out. There’s the occasional example of awkward English in sentences such as “Excellent, we move you to our new bar in Business centre of city.” There’s also only one gameplay mode, meaning the game has little replayability (although you can replay old levels to try to get a higher score).
The most serious problem is a glitch that occasionally doesn’t let you deliver certain drinks to certain customers, resulting in the loss of that customer. This happened to me a total of four times over the course of the game, which isn’t enough to call the game unplayable – still, it’s an annoyance that shouldn’t be there.
It’s a shame that Golden Hearts Juice Bar exhibits so many nagging issues, because at its core it’s a decent game that has a lot to offer fans of the time management genre. I enjoyed the wide variety of upgrades and ingredients, the band and its choice of tunes, and the four fun locations, which include a beach hut with volleyball players playing in the background, a high-rise with men wearing suction cups walking up and down the windows, and a Hollywood location with ridiculously stretched pink limos driving by.
My advice: download the free trial and play the game for yourself to judge whether the juice is worth the squeeze.