Gourmania cooks up a strong time management and hidden object recipe

Posted: September 25, 2009 in Time Management

Hidden item games have a strong following in the iTunes store, and the same can be said for the time management genre as well. It’s not surprising since both types of games are well suited for the iPhone/iPod Touch platform. What would you get if you combined the two genres, and more importantly, would it be fun? You get Gourmania, which does a reasonably good job offering a challenging, yet different twist on time management. Not only must you quickly create and serve orders to customers, you have to first find the ingredients hidden away in a cluttered kitchen. While the game offers some rather peculiar recipes, the gameplay should satisfy your time management and hidden item cravings.

Aside from the cooking theme presented in the visuals, Gourmania doesn’t have much of a storyline. Basically, you’re a trainee who is working his way up the restaurant business to one day become Master Chef. Your task is to keep customers satisfied and generate enough profit so they you can finally move on to bigger and better food establishments. The game has 60 levels and 8 different restaurant locations with a low-rent fast-food joint being your first stint. Every 3 levels, a bonus game breaks up the monotony where you match food items to matching food items to their corresponding outlines that roll by on scrolling bars. It’s a rather harmless mini-game where you earn new recipes.

The graphics look good, and the music rather understated. At each restaurant, a cut scene with dialogue from the waiter serves as your introduction. The game is not heavy into animation, and that’s perfectly fine for this type of game.

The mechanics of Gourmania is simple: find and tap to collect ingredients hidden or literally right in front of your face to prepared dishes before they get angry and leave. Order tickets arrive and are placed at the top of the screen. Besides the order and the list of ingredients needed, a satisfaction gauge is used to indicate the level of satisfaction or in some cases growing dissatisfaction for each customer. The more satisfied a customer, the more they will pay…if only that were true in real life. A separate gauge shows your progress and the time left as you collect individual items.

In many cases, once you’ve collected all the required items for an order ticket, an action icon appears on the ticket that you tap to activate. This is the cooking part of the game if you will. These can include skillets, blenders, and chopping board, and this can add a few seconds to the actual completion of the order. Once an order is served, a money action icon appears which you tap to collect and finally complete the order.

The money earned also can be used to upgrade appliances which you’ll want to do since they increase your cooking performance. Since you can collect items non-sequentially and for any of the order tickets at any time,, bonus points are awarded when completing an order in a single bound. Also, if you have all your appliances working at the sime, they will temporarily speed up. The underlying objective is the happier the customers, the more customers you’ll have, and the bigger your earning potential.

The gameplay itself is pretty fun, and in some cases stressful since you’re not only cooking which is the easy part. On the other hand, finding hidden items within a time limit in a disorganized kitchen is both challenging and frustrating. Gourmania has responsive pinch zoom and a drag to pan screen functions, and these come in handy. Even so, many of the items look the same or tend to be hidden behind other items so you’ll need to have a sharp eye. Bottles and packages with writing on them such as ketchup, mayonnaise or tea can be especially tough to make out. Some tems don’t look the same which adds yet another element of challenge. For example, tomatoes and cucumbers can appear either as whole items or sliced, and don’t get me started on the sausages. A Hint option is also available, but once you’ve used it, there’s a slight delay before it’s available again.

Once items are selected, they disappear, forcing you to either look for an alternative or wait until the item reappears which takes away valuable time. One thing to note is that certain items only appear in specific places which helps it a little easier. My main frustration with Gourmania is it’s difficult to differentiate some items, and it takes trial and error to see what everything is even with the zoom. The recipes themselves tend to be strange as well from pizzas made with hot dogs and lettuce to concoctions involving caviar and cream cheese.

Gourmania has a few perks hidden in those cluttered kitchens which come in handy. Hourglasses for example provide additional time to complete orders, while batteries increase the speed of appliances.

Overall, Gourmania provides an engaging time management slash hidden object game that should satisfy casual gamers. While the storyline seems to have been an afterthought, the game itself offers the right balance of challenge and casualness that should appeal to a broad audience.

Albie Meter: 4 Stars (fun game that offers a good mix of time management and hidden object gaming; cooking theme should click with many and offers a satisfying experience; objects can be difficult to differentiate especially in a time crunch; zoom and pan functionality included)

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