By Nate Adcock on Sat, 09/01/2012
Solitaire for cafe addicts, with an offbeat 80s feel... That's my impression of Cafe International. Uh, how many restaurants or shops are seating lone international guests specifically by nationality or gender? None that I know of, but that really isn't the point. The point of Cafe International is good old pattern-matching fun with a multi-player twist that everyone can enjoy. It's also a great way to learn and recognize international flags.
Basically, bottle the Solitaire concept into a board game and you have something similar to Cafe International. The original version was released in 1989 by German game maker Amigo Spiele (also picked up by Mattel and others). Turn's out it was Germany's BG of the year when it came out. Can't comment how close the game play matches up, since I never even heard of the original, but evidently Application Systems in Heidelberg have licensed the official game graphics for the iOS version to make it authentic.
Gameplay is centered on an array of tables. Each allows 4 cards to be placed around them, but the initial set can only be of the matching nation that is indicated by the flag (card deck and cards appear in the upper right corner). You also must be aware of the ratio of men and women at the tables, as the game requires you to play matchmaker.
Filling each table will then clear it and allow new tables to appear. If you cannot seat any of your cards, then you must place them at the bar, which penalizes you. The object is to seat all your guests and make the highest points in doing so. There are some point multipliers based on how cleverly you arrange your seating arrangements in regard to the adjacency of guests.
Graphics and sound are professionally done. The in-game music is light piano that would not be out of place in a cafe setting. The characters are so stereotyped to be mildly insulting, but then they are simply a direct port of the cartoonish drawings of the original. The gameplay is crisp and responsive. You can go head-to-head with up to 4 real or computer players, play in Solitaire mode, or in a time-based mode that scores you based partially on how quickly you lay your cards down. The game has an excellent tutorial to start you out...
Not being familiar at all with the original, it's hard for me to judge how well this game truly recreates the fun of the board version, but in my limited time playing it, I thought it could definitely be an engaging card game on it's own. It ran without incident on both iPod touch and iPad, though the iPod touch graphics were so small, I practically needed a magnifying glass (actually I did use one) to see the card flag symbols. I recommend it for it's interesting and somewhat wonky theme, and simple pattern strategy. It will only use 43M of space on your device, but a bit pricey at $4.99. You can grab it here...
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