Bearing a striking resemblance to Playfish’s Restaurant City and Zynga’s Cafe World, there’s nothing terribly original about Cafe Life – beyond the fact that, for the time being at least, you’re limited to serving coffees and desserts instead of a full menu of cafe lunches and drinks.
You start the game by choosing either a male or female server, after which a brief tutorial introduces you to the extremely simple game mechanics: click on a stove to begin baking a dessert, add toppings if needed, click again to move the finished confection to the counter, then click on the stove to clean it. Going through the same routine with the coffee maker produces drinks to sell alongside the desserts.
Although Cafe Life deals only in desserts and coffees, there are a lot of variations on offer. The coffee machine produces an impressive variety of drinks, from Espresso and Cappuccino to more exotic Ristretto and Affogato. As for the baked goods, you’ll get to choose from page after page of mouthwatering cakes, cupcakes, tarts and macarons. Recipes take a certain amount of real-time to cook, and at present there seems to be no way to speed up the process by spending coins or some other means… the Lemon Surprise is ready in 15 minutes and there’s nothing you can do about it.
You can hire your Facebook friends as waiters to help you serve in the cafe, and friends will also randomly drop by to eat regardless of whether they’ve added the application or not. For friends who have started their own Cafe Life cafes, you can swap gifts and visit each others’ cafes to “help out.” I put this in quotation marks because when I did click on a quest to help out a customer who had left a purse behind in one of my friends’ cafes, I was simply taken to a screen asking me to post a note about it to my Facebook feed.
As you earn experience points and advance in level you unlock new recipes. You can also customize your cafe with decorations like chairs, news floors and art for the walls, and purchase functional items like more counter space and additional drink machines and ovens.
Cafe Life is a relatively sparse and derivative experience at present, but the game is still in its very early stages, and it will be interesting to see whether catering to those with a love of sweets and coffee will be enough to distinguish the game from some of its cafe/restaurant management competition.