Games in which you carry out mundane tasks as quickly and efficiently as possible don’t sound like much fun. In fact, they sound very much like a spirit-crushing office job I once had (minus the ‘quick’ and ‘efficient’ bits).
And yet that’s exactly how you might describe the time management mobile game sub-genre. Examples of this really shouldn’t be fun - and many of them aren’t. But the best of them are maddeningly addictive and suit the mobile platform to perfection.
Here are our favourite examples, featuring a few fresh young pups alongside some golden oldies.
Coffee Craze (GlobalFun)
The first game on our list sees you rushing around serving coffee and pastries to customers in the sort of bustling outlet that lines the high streets of any major town or city in the western world.
Where Coffee Craze excels is in its excellently designed order stacking system, where the only limit to an efficient service is your own ability to think several steps ahead.
While arguably the simplest game on this list, Coffee Craze also possesses a rather unique anime-influenced style. In a genre where one cartoony waitress can look like the next, that’s worthy of serious praise.
Sally’s Salon (RealNetworks)
Developer Mr Goodliving is good at these time management games, as evidenced by the fact it has two games on this list. The first, Sally’s Salon, is the only non food-related game in the top 5.
The principles are much the same as the rest, though - you serve a variety of customers in your shop, giving them exactly what they need (from simple blowdries to outlandish mohawks) as quickly as possible.
Appropriately for a game set in a salon, Sally’s Salon looks great, with big colourful sprites and a charming sense of visual humour. The game provides a surprising level of depth, too, in the shape of an ever evolving salon that becomes better equipped the longer you play.
Chocolate Shop Frenzy (Digital Chocolate)
If there’s one company that can add a sprinkling of individuality to a hotly contested genre it’s Digital Chocolate, and so it proves with Chocolate Shop Frenzy.
Despite being the oldest game on this list, it still looks a treat thanks to DC’s customary expertise in the visual department. It’s in the little gameplay quirks that Chocolate Shop Frenzy continues to shine, though.
Little touches like the need to watch out for criminals grabbing money that has been left on the side too long, or the need to pay attention to your own energy levels with the odd cup of something hot, mean that Chocolate Shop Frenzy remains one of the finest examples of the genre.
Cake Mania: Celebrity Chef (RealNetworks)
Continuing the sweet-toothed theme is Cake Mania: Celebrity Chef, which sees you taking part in a worldwide competition to be crowned as the best baker in the world
Cake Mania is the second Mr Goodliving/RealNetworks effort on this list, and it unsurprisingly bears superficial resemblance to Sally’s Salon. It excels in a couple of key areas, though.
For one thing it looks good enough to eat, but the main strength of the game is its variety. Besides the usual order-stacking gameplay, you have a number of fun mini-games to play in between rounds. The novel TV show setting is just the icing on this particularly delicious cake.
Diner Dash: Flo on the Go (Glu)
If you were to look at all the reviews out there for the games listed above, you’d no doubt come across a common expression: “Diner Dash-style,” or perhaps “like Diner Dash".
Yes, Diner Dash is the game that defined the time management genre in the first place. It’s perhaps appropriate, then, that the latest mobile version takes the number 1 slot on our list.
The core premise remains pretty much unchanged from the earlier titles, with a rather more zoomed-out take on customer juggling than the above titles. Here you’re handling multiple tables in a restaurant, each populated by an assortment of fussy (and not so fussy) diners.
While it doesn’t do anything startlingly different from the other games on this list, Diner Dash: Flo on the Go retains a level of polish and all-round assuredness that keeps the series at the pinnacle of this relatively young genre.