Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Cafe Rouge: Chapter One

Author: Farway Studios
Availability: Free, Online/Browser
Format: Visual Novel, Cooking Game
Genre: Supernatural
Rating: Teen
My Scores: (Writing: 3, Art: 4, Gameplay: 1)

Found at:  http://www.newgrounds.com/ OR http://www.bestonlinerpggames.com/


In Cafe Rouge, you are Isis Black, an ordinary teenager with a rare condition that makes you pass out at the merest scent of blood.  You've been granted a job interview at a restaurant called the Rouge Cafe, but there's something not normal about this place.


The Writing:

This opening chapter was short, but set the stage well enough.  The writing overall was okay, though I felt it wasn't as strong as the art.  Also, I was a little confused by a segment in which Isis aims a kick below her (male) friend's belt, "accidentally" hits the only possible target that would be below the belt, and apologizes despite being really "only half sorry".  It's apparently not a case of playing a sociopathic character, since the boy himself also laughs it off.  Now, I don't know how much something like that would actually hurt, so it's possible that this is the more realistic reaction.  Still..."accidentally"?

The Art:

The art is beautiful, especially considering the limitations of most flash games.  The music is well chosen: during the introductory movie, it perfectly captures the sense of a French cafe full of spooky secrets and possible romance, and the background music during the game proper is soothing to listen to.  There are a couple of annoying sound-effects; mainly the sound when you run the cursor over the menu buttons, and that sharp, high-pitched screeching sound that plays when the game starts.  There's also an irritating alarm-clock, but, well, alarm-clocks are *supposed* to be irritating.  Aside from this, the game has lovely backgrounds, well-done characters, and generally creates a good audio-visual experience.

The Gameplay:

I waffled over whether it was right to give such a low score here, but ultimately, I gave it a 1 for committing the same sin as Fatal Hearts: If you fail the mini-games, you can't proceed.  What makes it a little worse is the fact that although the tea-making game is broken down into several levels, failing at the end takes you all the way back to square one.  I realize that the mini-games are meant to be part of the game-play, much like how they were in Outsmart, but I point out that in Outsmart, is was still possible to finish the game even if you couldn't do the mini-games; you might not have gotten the best ending, but you could still crawl to the finish line.  Then there's Festival Days, which also uses a cooking mini-game to put you in the shoes of a girl who, like Isis, is supposed to have some kitchen skills; but again, although there are benefits to succeeding, the games are not mandatory (and also, not *timed*).

My open plea to authors of these games is: Please give us the option to skip the puzzle.  Maybe there can be a standard ending that we'll get if we do everything right *but* the puzzles, so that we have incentive to try for the gold.  Or maybe, after the second or third try (and I really wouldn't go farther than three, personally), just give us the option to skip it and pretend our character won anyway.  This might seem like cheating, but for some of us, seeing the rest of the story is more important than how well we can drag a mouse along an invisible line in under ten seconds.  Some players are easily frustrated, and will completely lose interest in the story if they have to try the same challenge over and over and over again with no sign of being rescued from their doomed predicament.  I know.  I'm one of them.

Lastly, I find it interesting how the game tries to let you "walk" to the character's destinations, but I don't think it's pulled off very well, here.  It's not always terribly clear what the arrows are supposed to lead you toward, and there's a snag in one of the exits where going forward takes you to the school, and backing up from the school takes you home instead of back to where you were.  Of course, there's no penalty for getting completely lost, and it's a short enough map that you probably won't stay lost for long, anyway.  It's a neat little bit of immersion, but I felt that there should be more things to explore if we're going to be allowed to wander.


To sum it up, Cafe Rouge is a nice enough game if you have the patience and/or skill for timed mini-games.  The art and music are lovely, with only a couple of brief sound effects that are annoying to the ear and soon passed.  The writing is okay, and the story is pretty interesting.  Overall, it's worth checking out.

As usual, this is all just my opinion; feel free to serve up your own in the comments. :)


  1. I nearly had a case of whiplash when I first played the minigames; being on a laptop, I was not exactly prepared for the first one and I was nearly thrown off guard.

    The map navigation, on the other hand, comes back to be a problem in one of the later chapters (Five, I think) where you navigate it correctly or you die. It gets extremely annoying very quickly.

  2. I kicked myself in the crotch by accident once but never did that to another person. Also, no man is gonna laugh something like that off. Mainly because he'd be too busy crying like a baby to laugh P: