In the past month or so, I’ve learned an awful lot about the book series/movie, The Hunger Games. I’m not an ardent fan yet, but all of the hoopla has made me decide that I’m going to tackle the books and the movie one day soon. But the non-stop Hunger Games buzz has also done a number on my appetite. I can’t be the only one. Listening to people say “hunger” repeatedly, regardless of context, makes me feel like no matter what I’ve just eaten, I could go for seconds immediately. These constant food thoughts also started me thinking about the best uses of food in iOS games.
No conversation about food app games can really begin without mentioning Fruit Ninja ($0.99) first. There are imitators and impostors to the throne, but the precise finger-slicing controls and frantic fun that comes with chopping up food that’s thrown into the air like juggling pins can’t be beaten. Numerous updates to the game have added new backgrounds and modes of play, which have only increased its replay value, but Fruit Ninja is a game that would be just as fun to play on a blank background with its basic ‘fruit slicing ‘til you drop’ game mode.
Frantic food games aren’t limited to fruit on the iPhone, either. Burger Bustle (Full) ($1.99) puts your grill-work and restaurant management skills to the test in a battle to keep a steady steam of hungry, hungry people happy. Players have to get the grill stations working at top speed and then also dole out the food to the customers before they get too cranky. Each level of the game comes with specific tasks to complete under the given time limit. It might not be as twitchy as Fruit Ninja, but Burger Bustle isn’t far off.
Stand O’Food 3 Full ($4.99) might look a lot like Burger Bustle, but it plays a lot closer to a mix of Root Beer Tapper and Burger Time. Like arcade classic Tapper, players have to grab food items from several long counters and deliver them to customers, but like Burger Time, the player first has to assemble the food item from various pieces. Burgers need buns, a patty, lettuce and a tomato, for instance.
But food-based games don’t have to be dizzying to be enjoyable. I’ve been playing Coco Loco ($0.99) for weeks and I can’t get enough of it. This physics-based puzzle game lets you toss marshmallows with various super powers around cleverly constructed levels so that the “marshies” can save their marshmallow friends that have been trapped in chocolate. It sounds absurd, but the game’s best puzzles have a sort of Rube Goldberg aesthetic that makes solving them incredibly rewarding. That, and it’s fun to topple over the giant vats of hot chocolate to flood the level you are trying to complete.
But much like no conversation on food games should be started without Fruit Ninja, it’s also hard to end a story without mentioning the Nintendo DS (and now Nintendo Wii and iPhone app hit) Cooking Mama ($6.99). Although pricier than most games of its ilk, Cooking Mama’s charm, in letting players follow and create digital recipes to make delicious food that they can never actually eat, is surprisingly fun. While the app version loses major points for requiring a second fee of $8 to get the game’s additional bonus recipes, swiping your finger along the iPhone to mix, chop and stir is a blast thanks to some really fun and simple animations.
These games may all lack the stakes of the actual Hunger Games series. But they make up for it with steaks. And sometimes, that’s even better – unless you’re dead set on seeing a death match between teenagers, of course.