Pixel Cafe Review

Game: Pixel Cafe
Genre: Puzzle, Simulation, Strategy
System: Nintendo Switch (also on Steam (Windows), Playstation and Xbox)
Developers | Publishers: Baltoro Games
Age Rating: US E | EU 7+
Price: US $12.99 | UK £11.69 | EU € 12,99
Release Date: November 30th, 2023

Review code used, thanks to Baltoro Games.

Time management games have been around for a long time, and I love them. Many of them share a restaurant setting of sorts as a base for their gameplay. Trying to find the most efficient way to serve customers as quickly as possible is fun, as I learned years ago when I played my first Delicious Emily game on mobile. Those games had stellar gameplay and a good storyline to boot.

Pixel Cafe is a recently released management game with a promising background story. Let’s see if I can still hack it!

Pixel Moves to Karstok

In the game, we follow Pixel. Not a pixel used to make a game, but a small-town girl who tries to navigate life in a big city. At odds with her parents, who she feels weren’t there for her when she was growing up, she decides to make a life of her own. Based on her memories of living with her grandparents for a while, she decides to live in the house that she inherited. We are there with Pixel to take part in her coming-of-age story as she forges connections, overcomes difficulties, and struggles to find her worth.

Pixel Cafe. Pixel is in a conversation with her grandmother. She tells Pixel that an ingredient for the bake is really best poured in at room temperature
Pixel gets her love for cooking from her grandma.

Pixel tries to find a job in the city of Karstok and finds it in a bar. Though the work and the pay aren’t optimal, she tries to do her best. Manning three counters with various food and drink, trying to help customers as quickly as possible…it’s a task you can only take on with a fresh brain. This is not a game to play after a long and exhausting day; you need your wits about you.

Meanwhile, the story that spans three generations unfolds as you have to work for the often lousy employers Pixel encounters.

Can You Help the Customers?

The days in a pay-month represent a level. Each level has a goal: serve a specific number of happy customers before time runs out. Some orders are quick and straightforward, while others are intricate, involving multiple items that take time to prepare. You can try to up the efficiency by moving between counters but you have to beware. The coffee you were making might overflow, and the cake you are baking might burn. This means you have to remake them, costing you time. The food or drink that is made wrong will have to be binned, costing you money as well.

One of the counters in the second venue, a food truck. Make pancakes with the right filling. You see two customers waiting with their order.
One of the counters in the second venue is a food truck.

Customers in Pixel Cafe also have a patience meter, and if you don’t serve them in time, they’ll leave. Quick service is key to getting new customers and completing levels in your cafe. After finishing your workday, a screen will display your earnings, the time spent, tips received, the combo bonus, the number of customers served, and the amount of waste generated. If you believe you can improve, you can either retry the shift or proceed to the next day. That is if you’ve succeeded in helping the set amount of customers.

The overview screen after I failed on level 25 at Odeonplaza. I made 2,146 coins and managed to serve 8 custormers. However the goal was 13 customers
The overview screen after I failed on level 25 at Odeonplaza. It’s a nice touch that the pixelated picture of the foodstuff shows a ruined pastry.

Upgrade the Counters and Your House

When Pixel is not at work, she heads home. You can help her relax by redecorating and upgrading the furniture in her house.

Pixel is at home, sitting in her chair. We see an old computer, an old cupboard and all kid of items that can be upgraded.
If Pixel gets this chair, it’ll cost 200 coins, but her happiness goes up +1

Each upgrade, whether it’s the desk, computer, or wardrobe, earns a different number of smiley faces. These smiley faces are then used to enhance Pixel’s skills. You can invest in various upgrades, such as Dish Preparation, Drink Preparation, and Trash Cost (reducing expenses for discarded items), each with five available slots to level up and enhance your capabilities during work.

Pixel in her chair, with the possible Pixel Upgrades on the right side. You can upgrade skills like special duration, special fill, combo interval and more.
Pixel is overthinking the possible Pixel Upgrades.

You can also upgrade the counters you work at. Make it a coffee machine that can make two cups at the same time. Have an extra workspace and an extra oven. All to make serving customers more efficient. For these upgrades and the ones at the house, you need the coins you earn at the cafe. Barely scraping by at each level? You will have less money to spend!

The upgrades that can be done at the counter. You can have more slots, or a coffee machine that can do two cups at the same time.
The upgrades can be done at the counter. All in an effort to make the work more efficient.

Quick Thinking and Quick Hands

You play in 10 different bars, each with a level for each day of the calendar month. And if that’s not enough, there are 50 optional Nightmare levels. Not that I needed those, but I found completing some of the levels challenging enough. Sometimes, it is even too challenging, with three counters to work on. Especially the levels where the things I served needed a lot of handling, like making ten different kinds of cakes. Or the levels where a mini-game was included where you had to turn on the electricity again. 

I felt the controls didn’t serve me as well as they could have. It’s hard to pinpoint it, but I struggled to work quickly. For example, I kept accidentally clicking on the oven when the goods weren’t baked yet, which meant I had to throw them out and start over. It might just be me, but swiping and clicking on a touchscreen works better for this kind of game.

One of the counters where you make cakes, serve coffee and ice scoops. We see three customers in Pixel Cafe ready to order. One's patience is wearing thin.
Really, these cakes were my undoing, or should I say the ovens. I can’t count how often I accidentally clicked on the oven before the cake was done.

That being said, the story is good, the artwork is nice and detailed, and the variety of food and drinks is great. The soundtrack is great and fits the game. There’s a good soundtrack with tracks in the background that enhance the atmosphere from Arkadiusz Reikowski.

Conclusion for Pixel Cafe

Pixel Cafe is a challenging time-management strategy game. The farther I got in, the more difficult the levels were, having to do them repeatedly. I felt the controls on the Switch weren’t always logical, and I just couldn’t manage the right sequence in time to keep the customers happy.

The overworld map, where you have to unlock the next restaurant by finished the one before first.
The overworld map of Pixel Cafe

The storyline is nice, the soundtrack is good, and if you don’t mind the challenge, then this is a very good management game. Not for every moment of the day, though, as you need to feel fresh and energetic to beat the levels! 

Final Verdict: I Like it a LotI like it a lot

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