Adventure Bar Story from Japanese developer RideOn Japan is an unusual twist on the role-playing game genre for iPhone. Players in Adventure Bar Story take on the role of a young girl who does not want her family-run bar and home to fall into the clutches of a slimy businessman. The game combines elements from popular games including Harvest Moon, Animal Crossing, indie hit Recettear: An Item Shop’s Tale and traditional Japanese role-playing games. The game is a port of a formerly Japan-only PlayStation Portable title, and this iOS outing marks its first appearance in English.
The game unfolds in several distinct sections which players can explore at will following a brief tutorial. When in town, protagonist Siela can wander around, talk to characters and discover more about the game’s story. She may also visit shops to stock up on various items which she will need in order to help save her bar. There are three control schemes on offer: a virtual directional pad, a “tap to move” system where Siela attempts to find the most straightforward route to wherever the player tapped, and a “follow my finger” setup where Siela continuously moves towards wherever the player holds their finger. All control schemes feature a large virtual “confirm” button in one corner of the screen, and a “Menu” button in the other. These controls move from one side of the screen to the other depending on where the Siela sprite is, ensuring the interface never obscures the action.
When back at her bar, Siela may use any ingredients and tools she has at her disposal to cook a variety of dishes. She starts the game with a selection of simple recipes in her repertoire, and may attempt to discover new ones by experimenting with mixing ingredients together. “Hint recipes” also unlock over the course of the game, where the name of a final dish is given along with one or two of its ingredients, but it is up to the player to discover the remaining requirements themselves.
Players willing to make use of the game’s hard currency system may spend a “jewel” on unlocking the hint recipes without having to experiment. Five jewels are provided to the player at the start of the game, with additional packages available via in-app purchase. As well as unlocking hint recipes, jewels may also be used to purchase premium items from one of the shops in the game’s town. The developer does, however, take great pains to point out that the game may be beaten without the use of jewels whatsoever — rather, they simply cut down on the amount of grinding necessary for progression.
Once Siela has cooked her items, she can ask her sister to open the store using any combination of the dishes she has prepared. A summary is then shown of how many of each dish customers bought, and bonuses are offered for providing dishes which work well with one another. Customers also grow bored if Siela serves up too many of the same dishes regularly, so players are forced to explore the different recipes available.
The third part of the game comes as Siela leaves town with one or two additional party members to search for ingredients. Proceeding through a variety of maze-like areas, Siela can pick up various items which have been left lying around on the floor to take back with her. These items restock every in-game day, meaning a daily dungeon delve can prove an efficient means of gathering materials to produce a wide variety of different meals.
Occasionally while exploring, Siela and her companions will encounter monsters, at which point a turn-based battle begins. By using weapons, skills and items, Siela and company will vanquish a wide variety of monsters, who will drop further ingredients when defeated. In a twist on the usual role-playing game formula, however, Siela and her team do not gain experience from fighting — rather, they must eat dishes prepared by Siela, each of which is worth a particular amount of experience and some of which provide special bonuses. There’s a limit to how much the characters can consume over the course of an in-game day, however — when their “satiety” stat reaches 99, they are unable to eat any more that day, and consequently unable to grow any stronger. As such, players must find a balance between cooking enough meals to keep the bar profitable while keeping some set aside to ensure their heroic team remains competitive against the monsters it encounters.
Adventure Bar Story shows that deep, slower-paced, long games have a place on iOS, and is already enjoying good sales thanks in part to its $0.99 launch price. The game is currently ranked at No. 19 in top paid apps and No. 11 in top paid games after just a single day on sale.