Little Dragon’s Cafe: review

It’s not always easy to spot an autobiographical tale. This one’s pretty blatant, though. A pair of young twins forced to run their mother’s cafe after she suddenly falls into an inexplicable coma? A coma that can, according to an old man who teleports into their house, be cured by raising a baby dragon? An all-too-common tale, albeit one that hasn’t been told in videogame form before.

Playing as the twin of your choice, you’ll seek to raise your mum from the bed through a mixture of rhythm minigames, light business management, and even lighter RPG shenanigans. This is a game from the mind of Yasuhiro Wada, who is perhaps best known for the Harvest Moon series; and it shows.

Despite your mother being in a coma she could potentially never awaken from, your days are calm, pleasant, and relatively stress-free. There’s a story, of course, largely advanced through the smooth running of your cafe. A cafe needs ingredients, recipes, and staff; none of which are acquired in the traditional ways. This isn’t a world with LinkedIn and a widespread industrialised infrastructure.

A game where you can have your very own dragon. I mean, come on!

Finding ideas for what to cook, and gathering the things you need to cook them, largely involves venturing outside into the big bad world. Well actually, the world’s fairly small and really not very dangerous, but you get the idea. The environment’s doled out in chunks as you progress, learning the game’s systems and watching your dragon grow. Collect fruit and vegetables from the ground and trees, slaughter animals (in a most cute manner) for meat, harvest fish from the sea… that kind of thing. Each spot only provides a few ingredients, but replenishes daily, so you’ll fall into a daily routine.

Recipes – or, more accurately, fragments of recipes – are also found lying around outside. They’re not hidden as such but, like new ingredients, are often in the corners of your current explorable map, or behind some sort of obstacle that remains impassable until your dragon compadre has grown into a new, scripted ability.

As for the cafe itself, meals are prepared via a simple rhythm minigame, your success in which – alongside the quality of the ingredients you choose – dictates the quality of the final dish. You only have to do this for brand new recipes, though. While the cafe’s open, customers will slowly come in and out, and you can if you wish entirely rely on your employees to take care of menial tasks such as taking and serving orders and clearing tables. They’ll occasionally slack off, though, requiring a nudge from the boss (you) to get going again sooner rather than later.

It’s not a game for those who demand variety in the experience, and certainly not for those who don’t like a consistently slow pace. The story’s full of gentle-humoured charm though and, while the inclusion of a dragon is arguably underused, overall it’s a world that’s oddly addictive and, at times, genuinely amusing. A slice of life, if you will.  

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Written by Luke K

Luke plays lots of videogames, now and again stopping to write about them. He's the editor in chief at Critical Gamer, which fools him into thinking his life has some kind of value. Chances are, if you pick up a copy of the latest Official PlayStation Magazine or GamesMaster, you'll find something he's written in there. Luke doesn't have a short temper. If you suggest otherwise, he will punch you in the face.

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