Such is the case with Zynga’s Cafe World and Playfish’s Restaurant City. Restaurant City was released around 6 months before Cafe World, but both titles have achieved rave success on the site. For the uninitiated, both games can be described as doing the exact same thing: “You can decorate your restaurant and cook food for virtual customers,” but when looking past the surface similarities (we admit there are quite a few), you’ll find two different gameplay experiences waiting within.
To move the obvious comparisons out of the way, it is true that in both games you create a virtual restaurant and can serve food to AI-controlled patrons. You’ll also be able to decorate your buildings, hire friends to work for you, expand your building, send gifts to friends and visit their establishments to earn coins. However, the striking differences between the games (of which there are also quite a few) begin almost instantly out of the starting gate.
Cooking is obviously the name of the game, and it is perhaps the two titles’ biggest difference. Cafe World is more of an active process, while Restaurant City can, at its most basic, be set and forgotten. In the former, you choose from a list of readily available recipes and can cook them in a four step process (we’re ignoring the Super Stoves for a moment) – you gather the ingredients and then wait a set amount of time for the dish to cook. In the meantime, you can accept free servings of dishes from your friends, which, along with your own cooked dishes, must be manually served (you hire your Facebook friends as waiters), meaning that if you fail to login to the game with some decent regularity, your cafe stagnates, its popularity level plummets and you miss out on thousands of coins in profit.
In Restaurant City however, the focus isn’t so much on cooking the dish itself as it is on collecting ingredients to learn the recipes, and then letting the AI take care of everything else. You start with a few very basic dishes and can “learn” new recipes by collecting the required ingredients. Instead of sending servings of dishes to your friends, you send them ingredients. Instead of manually cooking dishes, your AI chefs and waiters (also comprised of your Facebook friends) will fulfill customers’ orders without any interaction from you.
While your Cafe World progress will remain active only so long as there is a dish ready to be served, your Restaurant City progress is dependent on the timers associated with each employee you’ve hired. You purchase food for them, refilling their timer, up to the maximum time of four hours, during which time you can leave the game to run. A similar plight can affect your restaurant here, if you fail to login and reset your employees’ timers – you’ll lose out on potential profit, but your restaurant will close, meaning that its popularity rate will stay the same until you log back in.
Aside from cooking dishes, one of the biggest draws to both titles is the ability to decorate your restaurant. To that end, the games are almost identical. You purchase items either using your accumulated coins or the titles’ premium currencies (Cafe Cash or Playfish Cash), and can decorate until your heart’s content, or until your building runs out of room.
Currently, the big difference between the two games in this respect is that you are able to decorate outdoor spaces in Restaurant City while not being able to in Cafe World. This is set to change with the addition of outdoor patio spaces in Cafe World, although a specific date for the launch of this new feature remains to be seen.
Another, slightly less noteworthy difference is Restaurant City’s ability to send in-store items directly to your friends as a purchased gift. Again, though, this difference seems to be far from permanent, as a gift box in Cafe World says that such a feature is “Coming Soon.”
Aside from the aforementioned, the rest of the differences in Cafe World and Restaurant City seem to rest more on the technical side of the spectrum than anything too revolutionary. Here’s a list of some of the more noteworthy ones:
- In Restaurant City, you can purchase wallpaper an entire wall at a time, while Cafe World forces you to spend more money, one square at a time. Likewise, you can save multiple restaurant layouts in Restaurant City, and switch between them when you feel the need for a new theme, while Cafe World has but the standard layout.
- Each dish in Restaurant City is sold for 2 coins, while Cafe World dishes can be sold for varying amounts of coins, adding more strategy to the recipe selection process. In Restaurant City, it boils more down to personal preference than aiming for profits.
- Cafe World contains boost items that give you a bulk amount of coins for each customer currently eating in your cafe, while Restaurant city has nothing of the sort.
- Your guests in Restaurant City require bathroom facilities and can leave garbage on your floor (leading to you hiring a janitor to maintain them and clean up the trash while you’re gone), while in Cafe World they do not.
- You can purchase cafe expansions in Cafe World for coins, receiving an instant, large boost in the size of your building in one click, while in Restaurant City, your restaurant’s growth is out of your control, as it takes place as you level up.
- Cafe World’s lottery ticket system helps you win coins, free servings of dishes, decorative items, Cafe Cash, experience points and more, while in Restaurant City, you’ll rely on the randomly appearing Food King to offer you free items, including recipes or ingredients.
- A Spice Rack system in Cafe World helps you cook dishes faster, receive more servings and the like (which translates to more experience points in the game), while in Restaurant City, you can spend more ingredients to level up your recipes, making them worth more experience points when served.
All told, the above encompasses but a sliver of the features available in both games. We could go on forever discussing the minute intricacies between each game and what makes them great, but we’ve taken enough of your time for now. Which game is better? We’ll leave that for you to decide, using the handy-dandy poll below. After you’ve made your choice, or even if you can’t, if you’d like to share your thoughts on the games and why you love (or hate) them, feel free to share those opinions with us in the comment section below – we’d love to hear what you think of these two cooking giants!