Restaurant Empire 2
This is quite an involved business management simulation which challenges you to run a successful catering empire. Your challenge is to guide French chef Armand LeBoeuf and his new wife Delia to success with their restaurant and café businesses. There is a back story and an attempt to inject some character and dialogue but this title is really all about setting menus, laying out eating establishments in an effective way, hiring the right staff and getting your pricing correct.
Gameplay (4 out of 5)
Restaurant Empire 2 plays exactly the same as the first game so if you have played it you’ll pick this up instantly. It is essentially a tycoon style game with a challenging campaign in which you have to meet monthly targets for your new businesses. Money and skills are initially limited and finding the right balance to attract customers and turn a profit is tough.
You can purchase various functional and decorative items for the interior of your restaurant or café. The trick is to create a layout which minimizes collisions between patrons and keeps the traffic flowing while also creating somewhere it is pleasant to spend time. You can also do up the exterior of your establishment to a limited degree which helps to attract new customers. The detailed interior and limited exterior options are reminiscent of Casino Empire.
You also have to set up a menu and your skills as a chef will be limited at first. Since you aren’t very good at making things you should decrease your prices accordingly or your customers will get upset. As the game progresses you can purchase secrets, new recipes and train up to improve your menu.
Staffing is another vital part of your business. You’ll need to hire all kinds of staff including kitchen porters to wash dishes and servers to carry the food out to customers. The better they are at their job the more they expect to get paid. Sadly the AI is very poor with limited path finding skills and some kind of pathological rudeness problem.
There are occasional diversions in the form of mini-games which help Armand with his TV chef appearances. These feel somewhat awkward and provide an unwelcome distraction from the business of running your restaurants.
Graphics (3 out of 5)
Visually this game is based on the same engine as the original 2003 release Restaurant Empire. It looks a little dated now. The style is aping The Sims but the polish is lacking and textures and animations are not as strong. The choice of décor seems quite large at first but soon feels limited, as is inevitably the case with games like this. The level of customization for your restaurant is quite satisfying and you can implement a genuine style and make separate establishments in your empire really quite different. The menus and interfaces are busy but icons are fairly clear and they are quite easy to navigate and use.
Sound (2 out of 5)
The original game was full of voiceover work but they seem to have ditched it for this release and all dialogue appears in text boxes. The sound effects and environmental sounds are sparse and fairly basic. There is nothing worthy of note in the sound department.
The low spec needed to run the game is a fair indication of the level of the visuals. This will work on anything over a 1Ghz processor with at least 256MB of RAM, 2GB of hard drive space and a 128MB 3D graphics card which is compatible with DirectX 9. The game runs smoothly and is quick to load and relatively bug free.
Overall (4 out of 5)
If you are a big fan of business management sims and you have played games like The Movies and Zoo Tycoon then you might want to give this a go. For me the subject matter is not very engaging but if you are into chef shows or would love to have your own restaurant in real life then you might get a kick out of this.
Restaurant Empire 2 is an in depth game which presents a genuine challenge and allows you to get your hooks into most aspects of running a restaurant or café. There are a few glitches, especially with the AI, and the back story feels unnecessary but even though it lacks sparkle this is a solid game. There is a lot of content here to keep you engaged for several hours. If the scoring system allowed it I’d give the game a 3.5 but since it doesn’t I’ll be generous and go with a 4.