ESPN Sports Bar & Grill is a home run
There are a lot of restaurant management games on Facebook, from Cafe World to Restaurant City. But unlike real restuarants, there isn’t a whole lot of variety, aside from a few gameplay tweaks and some different themes. ESPN Sports Bar & Grill follows this trend, for the most part, but thanks to a very well integrated use of the ESPN license and a completely unique theme, it feels different. And it’s a lot of fun.
The goal, as always, is to run a successful restaurant, working your way up from a dingy dive to a fabulous sports bar. Customers will need to be served, food and beverages will need to be restocked, and drunks will need to be booted out the door. ESPN Sports Bar & Grill features a combo system not unlike the one found in Zombie Lane, in which you’re rewarded with bonus points for successfully serving customers in quick succession. The core gameplay is a lot like what you find in other restaurant games. Well, maybe not the part about the drunks.
But where ESPN Sports Bar & Grill manages to differentiate itself is with its theme, and the clever ways it’s used in the game. You can model your bar after your favorite sports team, right down to the decorations. You can play real games on a big screen TV to keep your customers happy. You can purchase classic magazine covers to decorate the walls. You can listen to ESPN radio while you play, and even make predictions about upcoming games to earn some extra money. They’re all small additions, but when you put them together it gives the game a sense of authenticity.
It’s a largely well crafted game, and in most ways it’s a step above the average restaurant game. But there are a few annoyances. It doesn’t take long before the quests require you to have numerous friends to complete. Even more annoying is the way the game seems to take items you’re likely to buy, specifically decorations in your favorite team’s colors, and turn them into premium items. New content, such as additional kinds of food and drink stations, also unlock relatively slowly, and so it feels like it takes quite a while before you can really customize your bar in a satisfying way.
These flaws do little to undermine the overall experience, though. ESPN Sports Bar & Grill both looks and plays great, and offers up enough unique features to keep a sports fan happy. When it comes to gameplay it’s not the most original experience, but the unique and thoroughly well done theme is enough to make the game stand out. If you’re a sports fan who enjoys restaurant games, there’s really no better option.