I enjoy casual board games, whether this is a simple game of Monopoly or even Snakes & Ladders with the kids or games that require more of a thought process such as Risk or Ticket to Ride. They do have their downsides in my mind though. The clearing of the game afterwards and the fact that I tend to start getting bored around the 30-45 minute mark – Just ask Digital Pariah about a game of Risk we had during one particular long night shift for details of this. This is where I feel iOS board games really step up to the plate.
For those that haven’t heard of it or played it before Café International is a game based on strategy. The game takes place on a diamond board made up of 12 tables with a designated country flag on each table with four chairs around these tables. Each player has five “people” cards which make up their hand which you place either one or two at a time around a table – obviously with some restrictions.
Firstly the person card has to have the same nationality of one of the tables that they will be sat at and secondly there has to be a gender balance – no two men or women can sit at a table without a member of the opposite sex. Fans of the original eighties board game will be pleased to know that Application Systems Heidelberg have recreated the original cartoon figures from the cards which have a very stereotypical vision of people from certain countries. The sound effects also take a stereotype approach with British wishing you “Good day” in a plumy tone whilst the Americans tell you “Howdy” in a Southern drawl when you lay them down on the board.
The country flags on the cards can, at times, be hard to make out on the iPhone and a beginner may struggle until they start to instantly recognise the flags. This issue is obviously not apparent on the iPad due to the bigger screen.
Café International has a very fluid nature to its gameplay. Once a table has four people sitting around it, that table and the four people sitting around it are cleared from the board and a new table card with a new country is placed on the board to replace it. The rules of the game are simple and very easy to pick up and while it can be a challenge for beginners to find the right placement initially it certainly can be picked up after two or three full games.
One of the great things about Café International is whether you are a beginner learning the game or a diehard fan wanting to experience a full on strategic challenge you can tailor the game to suit your needs by changing not only the difficulty of the AI opponent but also how many opponents you face. There is no online Game Centre multiplayer at present but Application Systems Heidelberg has promised that this will be implemented shortly.
As with most board games ported to iOS, Café International can be played in singleplayer as well. In this mode you play to complete 12 tables before you fill the discard “bar” which takes a great deal of strategy as, if you put yourself in a difficult position, you have no opponent that can accidentally get you out of it again. If you want more of a challenge there is a timed mode which multiplies your points by the number of seconds left on the clock.
By importing not only Cafe Internationals classic gameplay but also adding single player elements into the mix, Application Systems Heidelberg have released a well polished addition to the digital board game genre which will be an excellent purchase for fans of either strategy board games or for the quick fix of toilet gaming.
MLG Rating: 8/10 Platform: iOS Release Date: 16/08/2012
Disclosure: Midlife Gamer were provided a digital copy of Café International by the promoter for review purposes. The title was reviewed over the course of 4 days on an iPhone. For more information on what our scores mean, plus details of our reviews policy, click here