I tried holding off on doing this review until I was certain that the developer intended to release it in its current form. Now that some days have passed and there is no patch I can publish it with a clear conscience. Little Dragon Cafe is a game that I want to love so much. It’s charming, cute, simple fun. It is also majorly flawed. The game has a bug that tarnishes the entire experience. A bug that seems like it can and should be patched out by the developer. Unfortunately as of writing this review there is no patch.
So what is this bug that breaks the experience?
It’s related to the game’s frame rate, and animation. The game stutters when moving the camera, or moving the character from side to side. Visually this seems like a stylistic attempt to portray the game as a drawing in motion. Kind of like a stop motion movie, but the way in which it is executed is poor. More so than anything it’s disorienting, and annoying. It almost feels like a game in early beta than a stylistic choice. This and some input lag are the only two major issues I had with the game. It is still very playable, but that’ll depend on how much you’re interested in the plot.
In little dragon cafe you are given the choice of playing as either a boy or girl. The pair are twins who happen to live with their mom in a small cafe near a cliff side. One day the twins find her in bed unable to wake. Soon after a wizard appears, and explains that their mom is half dragon, and that her half dragon and human blood have fallen out of sync. It is then up to the twins to save her by raising a baby dragon, and running their cafe.
The whole thing is a bit convoluted, but where this game’s story shines is with the seemingly minor storylines. During each chapter of the plot new NPCs visit the cafe with their own problems. The Player is required to solve these problems by cooking certain recipes, and thus advance the plot. Even though the plot seems to hold feeding the dragon as a major part of the progression it isn’t really. The game is linear so worry not about how much you actually feed it. The focus is really on meeting milestones by raising the status of your cafe, and making certain recipes.
Recipes are acquired by collecting 4 recipe fragments, usually scattered around the map. These fragments can then be refined by the wizard. Recipes then require ingredients for making the food they are associated with. These ingredients are also scattered across the map via fishing, shaking weird plant things, trees, or defeating monsters.
Once an ingredient is acquired once it is possible to gain it again via your farm. The farm grows whatever you need and can be enhanced using manure to provide higher quality ingredients. This system can be exploited easily to avoid returning to previously visited places, but part of the fun of this game is the exploring, so if you avoid that then the game is significantly worst.
When you begin the game you are limited to the area around you cafe. As your dragon grows you gain access to more locations. There are some invisible checkpoints which I didn’t appreciate, but they’re not frequent enough to warrant much more than an afterthought. The majority of the checkpoints are reliant on the dragon. As it grows larger you’ll be able to smash obstacles, and fly. This all happens incrementally, thus giving the adventuring a nice pacing. If you can see it then chances are you’ll be able to reach it when your dragon grows larger.
The dragon has a stamina meter for performing actions, and feeding or petting it refills the meter.
When not adventuring you can help out at the cafe, but for the most part your staff will handle it fine without you. Sometimes they slack off, but that’s nothing a little talking to won’t fix. You can also change the menus based on customer preferences, as well as interact with patrons and staff for ingredients, and recipe fragments.
Visually this is an adorable looking game. Similar to the likes of Harvest Moon and Story of Seasons, it uses a chibi style to great effect. The style is further enhanced via a hand drawn texture over every inch of the game. This style is both cute and beautiful at the same time. The game also benefits from a beautiful score and equally accompanying audio effects. The best of which being the little jingles which play during the cooking mini game. Each is different depending on the recipe, and they all have a fittingly wonderful sound to them.
This game will appeal to fans of Story of Seasons, and Yonder more so that any. Its charming, cute, and if not for its bugs I’d probably consider it one of my favorite games this far this year. Unfortunately I can’t recommend this game in its current state due to its frame rate and visual issues that plague this otherwise charming experience. I know many of you may still get it despite that fact, but I ethically cannot recommend picking it up because I don’t think it performs as well as it should. Stuttering and poor frame rates should not be happening on the switch with games like Xenoblade Chronicles 2 and Ys VIII running smoothly on the platform. If its a stylistic decision by the developer then it should be optional, if not its a bug and should be fixed as soon as possible.
The copy of Little Dragons Cafe used for this review was provided by it’s Publisher, Aksys Games.