Pixel Cafe has been a lovely experience. Not only did the review code provide ample time for coverage, but the actual game was worth every moment spent serving coffee and waggles while wearing Pixel’s shoes without the kink.

The title is a clever one. Yes, the game uses pixel art throughout, but the protagonist is named Pixel. It wouldn’t have the same ring if it were called Pamela Cafe. Nevertheless, it is a decent name, and without any downplaying, it also offers value.

Pixel Cafe, from Baltoro Games, isn’t exclusively a visual novel. The storytelling is just part of the gameplay and shares a few heart-to-hearts and story arcs that shape her future. Predominantly, you’ll be serving food and drink to people as efficiently as possible, then investing your wages in your home, self, and workplace.

Pixel Cafe Review - I sure am
I sure am. Source: Screen capture

Pixel Cafe Review: The Art Of Hospitality

Pixel grows up with a close connection to her grandparents. Eventually, they leave the home to her so she can rent it out, but she decides to return and settle. Despite being her hometown, she has to start from scratch, and in this case, takes on roles at the local breakfast bar, pub, or club.

The mechanics for Pixel Cafe are fundamentally the same throughout. Each venue will have its specialities, such as waffles, steak, or multi-coloured cocktails that would make underage drinkers piss their pants. Regardless of what’s on the menu, the objective is to serve the correct orders to the customers as swiftly as possible before your shift ends.

It would be scandalous to say this is a pixel art version of Overcooked. Other games that come to mind are mobile/straight-to-Switch indies that lack the charm. That’s a disservice towards Pixel Cafe. Also, a key factor to note is this isn’t a stress-fest.

Pixel Cafe Review - Mixer
Mixer. Source: Screen capture

Home Is Where The Money Goes

Overlooking the multiple screens and challenges during the bonus stages, there wasn’t a moment of feeling overwhelmed or irritated with the game. Most stages are two or three screens where you swipe left and right (without any catfish), pour drinks, decorate pancakes, or rarify a steak. There are both visual and audible clues to help you do this.

What makes this so repeatable is that through every stage, you are ranked and receive tips. These tips can be invested in your work counters to have more places to put food, have better equipment, or better longevity from the old mustard bottle. Even better, go back to Pixel’s house and splash out on some decor.

Customisation is always a winner for me. Pixel Cafe manages to make Pixel’s home super cosy and welcoming with new furnishings and posters unlocked through milestones, and best of all; they serve a purpose. Investing in the decor raises her happiness. Happiness is a currency to improve her stats, such as serving drinks faster, having fewer penalties, plus much more.

Pixel Cafe Review - Pixel map
Pixel map. Source: Screen capture

All Roads Don’t Lead To The Same Place

These abilities make it manageable, as does her ‘special’ where time slows down, but Pixel can still take orders and catch up at her regular speed. Stages typically last 3-7 minutes or so, and using a special once or twice is a nice reset as there’s a fair amount of levels.

Pixel Cafe can get repetitive, so new items and equipment are introduced without tutorials. Occasionally, I had to restart a level to work it out, but again, there was no stress or irritation. Pixel will work in a venue for a month, with Saturdays off, and a calendar acts as a level select. 

During one of the story parts, some choices didn’t appear to impact the gameplay. However, after ‘finishing’ the game, the credits said to continue playing as I could choose the other path. Rather than replay the game all over again, a new area on the map unfurls with new characters, stories, and, of course, menus.

I have to say that Pixel Cafe has been a delight to play. There’s so much worth in this indie game. I was genuinely surprised by how it opened up. There will be a lot of repetitious gameplay, but I must stress that it doesn’t feel like hard work and is very addictive. The story won’t blow your mind, but it complements the gameplay very well, and for that reason, I recommend that you check this out.