Cook and waitress Emily is back for another culinary adventure in Delicious: Emily’s Holiday Season. After deciding to stay in the peaceful and cozy town of Snuggford, Emily and her long-time friend Francois find themselves having to care for five different restaurants. This latest installment of the popular Delicious series again proves to be one of the most creative and unique time management game available.

What really makes this title stand out is the rich and compelling storytelling, which includes a range of characters the likes of which you will rarely find in any other casual game. Besides Francois and Emily you will also meet most of the characters from the previous title Delicious – Emily’s Taste of Fame again, as well as Emily’s family and some new faces.

The story is loaded with unexpected twists and witty dialogue, and the player can even decide the fate of Emily, but I do not want to spoil anything. Just let me tell you that by the end you will have a very hard time choosing how to go on because you care that much for the characters, particularly Emily.

The basic gameplay has not changed dramatically, which is not a bad thing in a well-established series whose mechanics are already as balanced as possible. You control Emily, as well as other characters, throughout five different locations , such as the Snuggford Hotel, the Winter Fair, or Mo’s Farm, and you are also able to choose between three different grades of difficulty, so that everyone should feel comfortable no matter how experienced he or she is with time management games in general. Unfortunately, Emily’s Diary Mode is still absent, so you have to go without any sort of endless mode.

As Emily you are in charge of preparing all sorts of food, serving it to your guests, and cleaning tables. Customers will partly sit at those tables, and partly come directly to your counter, and you will learn what they want through images of the food in thought-bubbles above their heads. Some of them will be more patient than others, and the amount of tip you receive strongly depends on how satisfied they are with your service. Of course you are also able to buy decorations which have positive effects on either Emily or the customers.

This is basically the description of any average game of this genre, but Delicious: Emily’s Holiday Season, as the previous installment, manages to surpass all expectations by an apparent passion for details by the developer. It is not easy to describe what exactly makes this game so incredibly good, because this quality is not due to one special feature, but to a lot of small lovely features that work together perfectly. Besides the regular time management routine there are a lot of additional tasks to fulfill, not to speak of the story elements which embrace each level, and some quirky Easter eggs to explore along the way.

Nearly every level begins and ends with a sequence telling you the story of Emily, her friends, and her family. Often enough this story also is of importance during the level, for example when Emily burns her finger at the beginning of the level, and someone else has to replace her for that day. On another day her workmate expects some packages to arrive, and Emily has to accept them from the postman. If you fulfill those bonus tasks you will get additional money, which can sometimes be crucial to reach the expert goal.

Theese tasks differ greatly, and along with the other features and the true variety of locations you are going to visit, really hit home the fact that the developers are trying to entertain the player as much as possible by investing a lot of care in characters, sceneries, story, and features.

When it comes to graphics and atmosphere, the game is flawless. The animations and facial expressions of the characters during the levels and sequences are very believable and cute; sometimes you might even think you are watching a soap opera with its mandatory intrigues, varying love interests, and surprises.

What we really loved is how pervasively the developers have implemented the game’s theme. After playing it you surely won’t be able to wait for the holidays any longer, because the food, Santa, Francois as an Elf, falling snow, Christmas trees, ice-skating, or a cow disguised as a reindeer make you feel as if Christmas is just right around the corner.

The only thing which might be a tad disappointing about Delicious: Emily’s Holiday Season is that it is not as innovative as the previous game of the series. But on the other hand, why change a wonderful game just for the sake of change? The game is simply heaven for anyone who has a thing for time management games, and we definitely cannot wait for the next part of this fun series. Get in the mood for the holidays and enjoy the remaining time with this entertaining game.