by Sergio Brinkhuis
reviewed on PC
Pizza Tycoon was great. Superb even. Why? I don’t think anyone really knows that for sure. It was hellishly difficult to master but there was something intangible that held players enthralled. The game has been emulated several times under a variety of names, but none of these games lived up to the one that started it all. Pizza Connection 3 is the latest to try. I wish I could say it was the first to succeed. It’s just not all that much fun, and a bit broken to boot.
Before I go into the nitty gritty, let me give you a quick rundown of Pizza Connection 3’s gameplay. You’re in charge of a soon to be pizza food chain in one of the world’s major metropoles and your task is to grow it into the city’s biggest pizza franchise. There are pizza recipes to create, restaurants to decorate, staff to hire and mouths to feed. Many, many mouths. Depending on your choices, you’re either alone on the map, or playing against a number of competitors. And while these guys look friendly enough, they’re not above playing a little dirty.
All Around Me Are Familiar Faces
Your customers are good for a quick laugh early on. When I opened my doors for the first time, a whole bunch of dobbies walked into my dining area. They weren’t of course, dobbies, they were bald-headed geriatrics with big ears. The customers that followed were equally fun to watch for a bit, though they all start looking the same after a couple of hours. If you want to know whether they enjoyed their visit, you can click on them as they leave. You better remember their critiques though - the game’s daily overviews are hard to reach and high in number. Worse, they’re not very accurate. Pizza’s that have not been on the menu for days, or even have never been on it at all, will still show up in the top sales list. The chart that predicts which visitor types are likely to show up for dinner, and in what quantity, is often woefully misguided. When your restaurant sits right next to a university, the likelihood that 0 students will show up is, well… 0.
Where the original Pizza Tycoon had 8 different personality stats to work with, you now only have two. I didn’t think I would mind that watering down much, but almost everything in Pizza Connection 3 is a watered down version of Pizza Tycoon’s, and this started to bother me. There’s no experience for your staff, no restaurant manager who can’t get along with his personnel, no unhappy employees when you refuse to give them a raise. Your employees are just... there, and doing their jobs like good little robots.
Your competitors love to sabotage your premise, sometimes a bit too much. On the second day my first restaurant in a free game was open, I counted twelve successful sabotage attempts. Yet where Pizza Tycoon would stick you with an empty restaurant after a stink bomb had gone off, Pizza Connection’s criminal elements just come over to do a bit of damage to your furniture. Costly damage, but having a dude in striped pajamas stand in the middle of your restaurant for a while and not being able to kick him out until he’s done damaging your stuff is… underwhelming. There are other types of sabotage, but there’s no real noticeable difference in how your customers respond to them.
The in-game restaurant editor that lets you design the interiors of your restaurants is a bit basic. There is a reasonable variety of furniture but there are no floor or wall coverings for instance. It has some silly bugs too. For a fee, you can change the layout of your restaurant. Layouts have either 3, or 4 rooms. The fourth room, however, cannot actually be assigned. You can assign one kitchen, one dining room and one storage. That’s it. So you have an entire space that is unusable. The editor also has a quirky tendency to approve chair layouts that turn out to be invalid. Chairs that are perfectly fine in the editor, show up wobbling once you close the editor and cannot be used by your visitors. There’s no apparent reason, and if you don’t spot them in time, you’re either closing your restaurant during service, or get stuck with an empty seat for the remainder of it. A day-two patch introduced a grid in the editor that shows how much space furniture needs but that did nothing to stop the wobbling chairs.
Then Fall, Little Caesars
I wish Pizza Connection 3 would have matched the excitement I had for it since it was first announced, but it doesn’t even come close. I can live with the bugs, but it doesn’t capture what made the original Pizza Tycoon so fantastic, it’s just not... personal enough. You almost clinically go through the motions of running your restaurants, occasionally tweaking a recipe or a decoration or two. Your staff is made up of mindless drones, and the underworld is barely present at all. It’s almost as if development of the game stopped when it became technically functional, and then they forgot to put the actual game in.
Functional, despite some bugs
Lacks fun, silly bugs