Saturday, September 8

Review: Little Dragons Cafe [Nintendo Switch eShop]


There’s always something a bit extra fun when it comes to finding play experiences that defy easy explanation and that are then executed well. Little Dragons Cafe is one such game, feeling like a pretty even mix of RPG-style storytelling and character development, exploration and discovery that reminds me a bit of another great indie title named Yonder, and then a hodge podge of daily tasks that are reminiscent of something like Stardew Valley. The combination makes for it pretty easy to enjoy and relax with, though it’s also a bit more guided and on rails that the aforementioned titles, which people may be split down the middle on.


Playing essentially as a pair of twins (you’ll be able to choose which one you control actively but the other still assists in a variety of ways), you inherit your mother’s cafe when she very suddenly becomes ill. An old wizard who soon arrives on the scene explains that she’s half dragon and that she’ll need some help in order to survive, and that in order to do that you’ll need to help raise a baby dragon while keeping the cafe up and running. It’s a bit of a steep task but thankfully you’re quickly aided by 3 very different strangers who happen to come by. There’s Billy the lazy moocher, the fiery and hot-headed but well-meaning Ipanema, and the eccentric wannabe chef Luccola. With their help, and by paying attention to a variety of needs, you may just be able to save your mother while helping a bunch of patrons along the way as well.


Where the game thrives is mostly in the exploration of the island around you, with the wonder of it slowly revealed to you as you progress. There are plenty of hidden goodies and recipes about as well as some native animals you’ll need to take care to deal with. In addition you’ll be able to fish, cultivate some crops, and search for pieces of new recipes for your cafe to help make it more popular and attract new people. As you accumulate new recipes you’ll get to try to prepare them in a quick rhythm game of sorts, which will then establish the rating of your dish relative yo how well you did. However, rather than being driven by the joy of small mini game-like tasks like in Stardew Valley instead the focus of the game ultimately becomes much more about the people who are helping you out or in need of help as they come to visit your cafe. There’s a light and simple charm to most of the interactions and that makes it hard not to get sucked in a bit, enjoying the ride the game takes you on.


Overall, Little Dragons Cafe is a delicious mix of several flavors blended nicely into a well-seasoned dish. While not everyone may appreciate the watering down of some of the daily tasks that are more engaging in other titles I think the quality of the game’s RPG character development and dialogue makes up for it nicely. The fate of not just your mother but of all the people you come into contact with becomes a concern, and if you enjoy both interacting with interesting characters and exploration Little Dragons Cafe lets you have your cake and eat it too.


Score: 8.5

Pros:
  • An odd mix of characters with a variety of personalities
  • The exploration and discovery is always fun
  • The story is engaging and sucks you in to care about the characters in it

Cons:
  • The daily tasks aren’t as engaging as in other similar titles
  • Player agency is pretty limited, you’re mostly set on a fixed path as a whole
  • Performance can be a bit janky at times