Put on your apron once more and help Victoria earn back the respect of her family

The Gourmania series hasn’t been without its faults through its previous two iterations, but Alawar is hoping that the third time’s the charm with Gourmania 3: Zoo Zoom. This installment follows Victoria, the heir to a fortune who is shunned by her father (and cut off from her money) until she can learn the value of a hard day’s work. With her family crest to guide her, she sets off to master the restaurant business in this continuation of the time management / hidden object series.

Unfortunately, the game’s story goes from semi-believable to downright silly as you’re introduced to a chef who has also let your father down and is determined to earn back his respect. Your father, for all of his apparent hatred of your lazy attitude, has given you complete control over all of his restaurants, which range in theme from Mediterranean to Mexican, and include some specialty shops like a Coffee Shop or Ice Cream Parlor. For someone that’s upset with your lifestyle, you really don’t have to do that much “work” to get going.

 Zoo Zoom

The majority of gameplay will see you working day to day in each restaurant (your location changes at random), with each restaurant containing a single scene that varies in its amount of clutter. Food items and themed accessories are scattered as though a tornado has had its way with your pantry, and you’ll need to search the shelves, window sills, counters and even floors for items like cheese blocks, olives, peppers, etc. to fulfill orders placed along the top of the screen.

In this installment perhaps more than ever, you’ll need to focus on working on one customer’s order at a time. If you choose to play the game while being timed (you have the option of an unlimited time clock), the customers that you choose to ignore will become upset, and your profits will suffer because of it. You’ll need to ignore them though, as working on a single order at once earns you speed and service bonuses. Each dollar counts in Gourmania 3, as your day’s goal earnings are incredibly high, and mostly impossible to reach without taking advantage of every bonus you can.

Other bonuses include coins scattered in each scene that must be clicked on to claim, presents that instantly finish an order if given to a customer, lollipops that raise each order’s cost, and even percentage tags that can double the cost of a single dish if given to a customer. With all of these bonus items, that’s even more time wasted searching for them to up your score, while customers lose even more patience. Of course, simply choosing to play the game without a time limit eliminates this stress, but also eliminates any challenge you may have been wanting from the experience.

Perhaps the biggest problem with the gameplay here though is the fact that many objects have similar names or odd appearances. For instance, the word “Pepper” may appear, and your restaurant may have Black Pepper (the spice), Bell Peppers, Chili Peppers and more available. You’ll have to use trial and error the first time you see these words to figure out which item is appropriate (in this case, you’d click on the Bell Pepper). Furthermore, a red apple in one level may be a green apple in the next; grapes may be green or red, tomatoes may come on a vine or as a single fruit and so on. Don’t get comfortable with an item’s appearance, as it will likely change as you enter the next level.

 Zoo Zoom

After each shift in a restaurant, you’re sent to work on Victoria’s side project – a small zoo that will house each animal represented on your family’s crest. You’ll need to use your funds to purchase habitats, decorations, and even the individual animals for your zoo, which then sees you taking part in short and very light puzzles as you’ll need to repair everything you’ve purchased. I still would have appreciated seeing a complete removal of these cleaning and repair tasks from the entire experience, but I’ll take a toned-down version for now.

All told, Gourmania 3: Zoo Zoom fixes some of the issues found in the previous game, as there isn’t as vast a focus on cleaning and repairing as before, although it’s still there (and still unnecessary). The environments are highly varied, which is appreciated, but some are so cluttered that it makes things downright confusing. There are still a lot of issues plaguing this kitchen adventure, so you’ll need to use your past experience with the series’ other installments before deciding to give this third one a chance.