by Sergio Brinkhuis
previewed on PC
“Nostalgia - a wistful or excessively sentimental yearning for return to, or of some past period or irrecoverable condition.”
This is the definition as described by the Merriam Webster dictionary. Gamers apply nostalgia lavishly to almost any game they have enjoyed in the past. I certainly thought my yearning for Pizza Connection (or Pizza Tycoon in North America) was irrecoverable until I saw 1 and 2 arrive on Steam earlier this year. Something was definitely up. Not long after, the Pizza Connection 3 announcement dropped into my mail causing a little happy dance from Yours truly.
Unsurprisingly, it was the first Gamescom appointment we made this year.
Yes, I am weird.
We sat down with an excited Daniel Denne, Chief Creative Officer of Gentlymad to have a look at how the game was shaping up. I say excited, but perhaps he was a bit nervous too – I’m fairly certain we were his first appointment and he was as eager to get feedback as we were to see the game. It was clear the game is as close to his heart as it is to mine.
All on the map
What we saw did not disappoint. Pizza Connection 3 is a modern representation of its predecessors, probably a bit closer to 2 than 1. The fully 3D engine allows us to easily rotate and zoom-in the camera in all directions for the very first time. As a change from the previous games, the restaurants now fully live on the overall campaign map. If you want to change the interior or otherwise manage your restaurant, simply zoom in and take whatever action you want to. There is no loading and no switching to a different view, not even when you’re changing the layout, shape and size of rooms.
To spice things up a bit, buildings subtly change style along with their location. France is a bit lighter and whiter than London for example. And if that doesn’t give it away, the landmarks will. It’s hard to miss the honking chunk of metal called the Eiffel Tower in Paris. Even the musical score – done by Kai Rosenkranz of Gothic and Risen fame – adapts to where you are playing.
Can't argue with good taste
As before, your restaurants – and initially your food truck - will need to cater to the varying tastes of the citizens in their catchment area. You have a bit more control over who comes in and what they will eat than before. It’s easier to see what ingredients work for what visitors for instance, and a range of marketing options will help you draw in the crowd you are aiming for. In the demo, our restaurant was sitting next to a school so we went for pizza’s that attracted teens but if you have more overlap between target audiences you can create more pizzas to service them all. We hired a mascot to advertise right in front of the school and this proved very profitable. We upgraded the mascot from a pizza slice to a giant tomato and saw visits increase, only to explode when we upgraded once more to a sign spinner.
Visitors are now simulated in much more detail. Each has a daily routine that includes things like going to work, study and sleep. Different audiences visit your restaurants at different times, so you could draw in those students during the day and the returning workers looking for dinner... if you play your cards right.
Pizza Connection fans can go on Steam right now and download Gentlymad’s new pizza creator, which I am glad to say is the same as the old in everywhere that matters, and upgraded where possible. The only thing missing is the ingredients slicer, but don’t worry, that will be back too, courtesy of fan feedback. And if practice does not make perfect for you, you can pay to have a renowned chef create recipes for you. Handy, indeed.
There are other things to look forward as well. There is research to be done, ingredient contracts to be made, opening and shift times to manage, staff to be hired and storerooms to fill. For the more shady entrepreneurs, we’ve been promised nefarious activities like stink and insect bombs, as well as mafia deals to distribute drugs through our network.
Now I am hungry, for pizza – and – the game.