First of all, it must be said that Little Dragon’s Café is an absolutely gorgeous looking game. It looks like something straight out of the pages of a children’s storybook, with colorful character designs and beautiful, picturesque environments to explore. As well as being utterly delightful to look at, it’s also charming to play. It’s exactly what you’d expect from Yasuhiro Wada, the creator of Harvest Moon. This is a relaxing game all about friendship, adventuring, and of course dragons.
The game introduces things to you in a way which feels really natural and organic. You’ll need to select which of the two twin siblings you’d like to play as and then you’ll be straight into helping your mother in the family’s café. She’ll ask you to gather ingredients, help to serve customers, and cook a simple meal.
It becomes clear quite quickly that all is not well in the café. One morning your mother doesn’t wake up and seems to have slipped into some sort of magical coma. A mysterious old man then appears before the twins and gives them a dragon egg with the advice that if they raise it well then it’s sure to give them the help that they need.
After the egg hatches, the twins are greeted by an incredibly adorable baby dragon that they will need to raise while looking after the family business. The idea of running everything is a daunting one, but thankfully you’ll acquire a bunch of quirky misfits to help you run it.
First to join is Billy, a lazy git who ran away from home to pursue his musical ambitions. Next is Ipanema, a lady with a passion for the service industry but has a bit of a temper. Finally, to help you with the cooking, is the flamboyant chef Luccola with a heart that’s almost as big as he is. It won’t take you long to fall in love with this ragtag bunch. Watching them all get to know each other will produce plenty of amusing as well as heart-warming moments. You can trust them to take care of the day-to-day running of the café while you get to explore outside.
In almost every chapter of the game you’ll get to meet a new character who will need your help. Most of them are running away from something in their lives. As you spend time listening to their troubles they will eventually be ready to go back out into the world and face things. It’s really sweet to watch each new person come to grips with whatever it is that’s troubling them, and it’s also great to see the staff of the Little Dragon’s Café grow and develop at the same time.
Everyday is an Adventure
The majority of your time in the game will be spent exploring the outside world. The café is located on a small luscious outcrop with bushes and trees that you can gather fruits and vegetables from. To begin with you won’t be able to venture too far from the café but you’ll gradually be given more and more access to the neighboring island. Exploring is an absolute blast, wherever you go there are new things to find. As well as bushes and trees to gather fruit and vegetables from, you can also do a spot of fishing as well as catch strange meaty creatures.
Your baby dragon is not just an eye catching plush toy, he will actually venture out with you and help you gather ingredients. It’s ridiculously cute when you’re busy fishing and he wanders off to grab fruit for you. The adorable dragon will then proudly lay out his findings in a little semi-circle around you, and you will end up with a very strong desire to give him a hug.
Since the dragon is tiny, he can struggle to keep up with you when you’re wandering around. This can be a little frustrating when you need his help with something, but it won’t be an issue for long. Your little bundle of reptilian joy will slowly grow bigger and become even more helpful to you. He’ll be able to do things like remove obstacles, go fishing, pull up grass, as well as chase down animals and turn them into little chunks of meaty goodness. Eventually he’ll even become big enough for you to ride on his back. The feeling of riding on a dragon is just as much fun as you might expect. Your little scaly friend will be indispensable for exploring.
All this exploring is needed to find ingredients but it’s not just food that you’ll find while out and about. You’ll also find fragments of recipes which can be pieced together to give you brand new dishes. Once you have a complete recipe, assuming you have the right ingredients, then you can give cooking a go.
Cooking is a rhythm based mini-game, where you’ll need to press the right buttons in time with the music. This starts out fairly simple, but as you gain access to better quality ingredients, the difficulty increases. Hitting every note perfectly will improve the quality of the dish. Good food makes customers happy, which increases the café’s reputation, and thereby increases the number of customers you get.
Initially you’ll only have a few customers and so it’ll be fairly easy for your staff to keep everything under control. As the café starts to get more popular, things become a bit trickier for them to manage. The staff can easily become distracted or start slacking off which leads to unhappy customers.
You can choose to give them a helping hand and can take customer orders, serve food as well as cleaning up the tables. It’s strangely relaxing to help out in the café, and it’s surprising just how proud you feel when you get a room full of people tucking into delicious looking food that you’ve helped create.
You can add up to ten different dishes to your menu and swap them around whenever you like. The game encourages you to diversify your menu as different types of dishes will be popular with different customers. It can sometimes seem a bit odd which meals will do well, for example I had a simple pudding which remained a bestseller even after I gained access to much better recipes.
Another really cool feature is that any food you make in the café can be fed to your dragon. This recovers his stamina so that he can keep travelling with you, but it can also change the color of his scales. I spent most of my adventure with him being a lovely shade of purple, my very own pet Spyro!
Spending your days exploring, helping out in the café, and updating your menu is an incredibly relaxing way to spend your time. Sure, the game is not completely perfect, and it can feel a little fiddly to jump up on ledges. The game also struggles graphically with a bit of pop-up. But these are really minor niggles that are easy to forgive because of how completely charming the rest of the game is.
Little Dragon’s Café is a unique and utterly delightful adventure. There is no better way to unwind then adventuring with a dragon, while helping people solve their life problems, and indulging in a little bit of cooking.
Little Dragon’s Café review code provided by publisher. Version 1.00 reviewed on a standard PlayStation 4. For more information on scoring, please read our Review Policy here.