If I haven’t posted as many reviews of books and board games and apps lately, here’s why: I’ve been busy flipping burgers. Oh, and running a hotel. And learning how to “cure” patients. Well, on my iPad at least. I’ve already confessed my addiction to time-management games, and I acknowledge the irony of spending so much time on menial tasks — not only that, but fake menial tasks. But because I’ve gotten sucked into these terrible, mesmerizing apps, I felt it was only fair to share them with you. Here are the three latest ways to make the most efficient use of your time-wasting: Stand O’ Food 3, Jane’s Hotel 2, and Hospital Havoc 2.
I’ll start off with my favorite of the bunch: Stand O’ Food 3. I actually haven’t played the first two incarnations so I can’t comment on those at all, but Stand O’ Food 3 is set in the same universe as Supermarket Mania — it stars Ronnie, who showed up as a recurring character (and sort-of love interest), and all the same customers who shopped at Nikki’s market. Ronnie opens up a line of restaurants, selling burgers, cakes, and lasagna. Each level only serves one type of food, with its own associated sauces. As customers come in, you pick up ingredients off the conveyor belts to assemble the food before the customer gets impatient and leaves.
The trick here is to get everything assembled in the correct order, because you can only grab things from the end of the conveyor belt, and you don’t know for sure who’s coming in next. At the earlier levels, everything is just a two-ingredient dish, but as you progress through the game you’ll end up making seven-layer lasagnas, which can be quite overwhelming. On top of that is the sauces: each type of food goes with some number of different sauces, which are optional but add to your profit. And then there are the snacks: each customer prefers some type of snack or drink, like fries or ice cream or coffee, and you have to serve that while they’re standing in line, or they’ll decide against the snack and just go for the main course only.
Each of the levels consists of a certain number of days, where you’ll gradually add more customers, each with their own preferences. In between days, you’ll get to spend profit you’ve earned on upgrading your equipment, refilling your sauces, and buying extras like a claw that can grab ingredients from the middle of a conveyor belt, or boxes that let you put the ingredients into it in any order. Each level also ends with a day that is more of a speed-based game: some involve malfunctioning equipment, and some are lunch hour rushes, but usually these involve just grabbing things off the conveyor belts as quickly as possible with less focus on individual customer recipes.
It’s a bit hard to explain exactly what it is about Stand O’ Food 3 that appeals to me so much, but I think it’s the variety of different types of foods, and the challenge of grabbing things in the correct order. It’s a little bit like those stacking Tower of Hanoi puzzles: if you grab things in the wrong order, you can use extra plates to reshuffle the ingredients, but doing it quickly can be quite challenging, particularly on later levels. Every so often there’s a little comic-book story about Ronnie (and usually Nikki); these are a bit cheesy but you can skip them if you’re not interested, and they’re not really necessary to enjoy the game anyway.
The app is free to try, with an in-game purchase to unlock the full game, so give it a shot and see if you like it. The full games are a little pricey — $4.99 for the iPhone version and $6.99 for the iPad, but if you like time-management games these are pretty good value for the money, with so many levels to play. One note: I actually played the iPhone version on my iPad at 2x size, and for the most part the graphics scaled up pretty well. (The only part that didn’t was the comic-book cut-scenes.)