Pizza Chef, with its combination of match-three and restaurant management gameplay, might seem at first glance a playable if unremarkable time-waster good for a few hours of harmless fun. Dig deeper, however, and you’ll see that something more sinister is going on. Pizza Chef bears more than a passing resemblance to Gamenauts’ Burger Rush but with far less charm and polish and some downright illogical design decisions. In short, Pizza Chef seems like a game rushed out thoughtlessly and on the cheap after swiping another developer’s core concepts. Ouch.
Okay, so Pizza Chef isn’t quite a carbon copy of Burger Rush. Where in Burger Rush you match ingredients in order to fill each burger recipe (such as 8 patties, 5 lettuce and 6 tomato), in Pizza Chef the grid represents a giant stove top where creating matches lights the individual burners on the stove. When enough burners are lit, you can drag the pizza the customer has ordered onto the stove to cook it. Each pizza is a different shape that takes up more or less squares – the bigger the pizza, the more money it’s worth.
While we understand that there’s a difference between taking a good idea and putting your own unique twists on it and all-out copying – if we didn’t, we’d be calling out every hidden object game for copying Where’s Waldo and every time management game for ripping off Diner Dash – the list of similarities between Pizza Chef and Burger Rush is a little too long for comfort.
Screenshots – Burger Rush (left), Pizza Chef (right)
Examining side-by-side screenshots of the two games reveals parallels that include the restaurant layout, the upgrades screen, and the shopping screen (where in both cases items are listed on two rows while the characters stand off to the left, both pushing a shopping cart and wearing identical red scarves). The How to Play section, not pictured, is also similar.
What’s even worse than this blatant “borrowing” is that little thought was apparently given to whether grafting a pizza shop premise over top of the existing framework would actually make sense. For example, customers frequently ask for side dishes along with the pizza that give you a bit of extra cash and raise the customer’s disposition. Fries sort of make sense (at least I can buy a side of fries at my local pizza joint if I want to), but hamburgers? And toast?!
Then there are the bomb power-ups that appear on the grid. Clicking on them blows them up and ignites all the burners nearby. It’s a neat trick, but it begs the question of why there are bombs in a pizza restaurant in the first place. Electrically-charged ingredients that ignite all burners in horizontal and vertical lines when matched round out the unlikely list of power-ups. There are also sundaes that will increase the disposition of the angriest restaurant patron – but those were in Burger Rush too.
You’ll get to serve a variety of customers but they don’t have much personality thanks to lacklustre graphics and downright lazy sound effects. When a customer orders a side-dish, for example, they make an unintelligible munchkin sound, and when angry they all make the same manly “grr” sound – even the old grannies.
There’s also a rudimentary hidden object bonus round where you help people find possessions they’ve left at the restaurant by searching for the items that appear in thought bubbles above customers’ heads. This is actually a fun idea, but the graphics are so primitive, with objects often so skewed or stretched that they’re almost beyond recognition, that it just ends up being ham-fisted.
They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and it’s only natural that when a cool game design concept comes along (like combining match three and restaurant management), other developers will jump on it and add their own unique twists to take it in new directions. Pizza Chef swaps burgers for pizza, introduces the placing of pizzas on a grid lit up by matching ingredients, and adds hidden object bonus rounds. However, the passionless and derivative way these twists are implemented leaves a whole lot to be desired.