Claire’s Cruisin’ Cafe: High Seas Cuisine
Claire’s Cruisin’ Cafe: High Seas Cuisine is the second installment in the cooking-themed time management series developed by Yustas Games Studio and published by Alawar.
In regards to the mechanics, it reuses the game engine from the previous one, and it’s basically the same game, yet featuring new levels and a different setting. You’ll still need to pick up the orders from your customers, prepare and deliver the food to them and in the end collect the money they pay for your services – even the additional quests in each level are exactly the same. The characters introduced in the first game are now present too, and the story takes shape as a brand new chapter in their lives. If you’re worried that you’ll miss the context if you don’t play the first game, then rest assured – you can check the characters description from the main menu if needed, and they are also reintroduced ( their relationships are also explained) in the first levels of the game. In other words, the two games can be played independently of each other, with a warning that playing Claire’s Cruisin’ Cafe: High Seas Cuisine before the other one will spoil the story of the first game.
While the gameplay is exactly the same between the two titles, unfortunately some poor design decisions make Claire’s Cruisin’ Cafe: High Seas Cuisine a much more frustrating game than the previous one. Among other things, Claire’s Cruisin’ Cafe suffered from a lack of clarity in regards to the dishes prepared: sometimes the details of the food were very difficult to distinguish (for example between pizzas with shrimp and pizzas with mushrooms there wasn’t a big visual difference). I was hoping this issue would be fixed now, or at least addressed by making the art more distinctive, but on the contrary Claire’s Cruisin’ Cafe: High Seas Cuisine is utterly frustrating in that regard. The details are even smaller than in the previous games and there are so many more types of food in which you literally have to stick your nose into the screen to see if the 2 pixels representing noodles below a huge pile of veggies are white or brown. Or to see if the minuscule sushi roll contains cheese, cucumber and red meat or only 1 or 2 of these ingredients. Things like the white whipped cream topping coming from a red container also made no sense – but at least one can easily learn these while playing, while having to distinguish the infinitely small details from almost every dish is extremely annoying.
The dishes now require more steps to prepare and overall more time. There are a lot of dishes that require timers, or to be stopped at the right moment. This, together with a poorly planned pathing of the characters also irritated me considerably. There are a lot of customers, and almost everything they want requires to be cooked under a timer, plus the refills of the main ingredients have to be done very often (after 3 servings) and unfortunately are not a single click job. Overall, the levels felt almost fully chaotic, and I often found myself overwhelmed by the requests. I’ve played a fair share of similar time management games, but I think that in terms of frustration degrees, Claire’s Cruisin’ Cafe: High Seas Cuisine tops them all, and that even considering that I played it on easiest difficulty. In my opinion, the game design is simply lackluster and not polished enough.
On a positive note, the store upgrades that didn’t seem to have an effect in the first game now have descriptions and indeed ease the gameplay, as they should – by upgrading the counters / stoves / tables, your heroes move faster, the food takes less time to cook and the customers leave a bigger tip – these all are clearly noticeable.
Do I recommend Claire’s Cruisin’ Cafe: High Seas Cuisine? Both yes and no.
Yes – if you are a big fan of the genre like me, and are willing enough to forgive the game’s poorly designed artwork and pathing. Or perhaps for a partially enjoyable, partially frustrating yet easy 7-10h achievement hunt (the achievements will unlock naturally if you complete all the levels with maximum score, plus some extra levels in the end for a final cleanup).
No – because there are much better games out there of this kind (albeit at higher prices) which would provide a considerably finer experience (basically any GameHouse game would qualify).
Feel free to also check my review of the first game in the series, Claire’s Cruisin’ Cafe.