Pizza Manager
| Pizza Manager

You could say the clue's in the title, but - you know - being a game and everything you could also expect Pizza Manager to be a bit less about managing and a bit more fun. Instead, 20 minutes of play is enough to give the average brain the sort of headache it'd get from a day of solving fractions.

To be fair, if you're the sort who thrives on the challenge of juggling tasks and completing levels with a difficulty level set unrelentingly high, Pizza Manager is going to be just your thing.

The game is a management one, crossed with a sprinkling of RPG, in which you play a pizza restaurant manager who - after twenty easy years in business - has just come back from a holiday to discover some young tycoon type has opened up a swanky new pizza place right next door.

Your goal is to win back your fickle customers, who have flocked to his frozen pizzas like students to a toga party.

Your pizzas, of course, are all hand made from scratch. And after a few days on the job it's hard to understand why you too haven't just switched to the ready-made bung-in-the-oven ones.

In order to make a pizza you have to hand roll the dough, spread on tomato sauce, pick the right main ingredient, add a list of other ingredients which scroll past you on the screen, pop it in the oven for just the right amount of time, then serve it to the right customer.

This is simple enough when you only have one customer and one pizza to worry about. Chuck in multiple orders, a pizza that's ruined if you mess up any one of the above, and customers who have all the patience of Gordon Ramsay and you soon realise that being a pizza manager is anything but easy.

The difficulty of Pizza Manager isn't made any easier by its control system. The numbered buttons from '0' to '9' are all responsible for different functions, and getting confused and pressing the wrong has irreversible consequences - such as taking a pizza out of the oven too early or serving one up to the wrong customer.

If it happens, a fraught minute of hard work is rendered completely pointless. Worse than pointless in fact, since messing up more than a couple of orders results in the Game Over screen.

In between the slavish kitchen sessions, you get some downtime to visit the supermarket for fresh ingredients, the appliance store to upgrade fridges and ovens and an advertising shop you can pay to have them drum up more business for you.

This is all a decent prod to do well every day at work, but - at the start of the game at least - the prospect of having to save $3000 for a new oven when you're averaging $90 a day in takings isn't an appealing one. Every $14 pizza sold feels like a breakthrough, and this is why the whole game feels so much like a day job. A really tough day job.

Heaven help anyone sitting next to you on public transport as you desperately try to keep up with the orders while muttering under your breath, "right, one pepperoni pizza and one chicken one, that's the pepperoni in the oven, I'll just pop out and take another order... no! It's burnt. Okay, let's do the chicken one... brilliant, that's a good result. Aargh! The customer's left..!"

All that said, Pizza Manager is still a perfectly functional game with a good storyline and lots of incentives to keep you playing. If you want a management game that'll last you into the foreseeable future, it'll fit the bill. But if the thought of extreme multi-tasking brings you out in a sweat, this isn't for you.

Pizza Manager

It's a management game with lots of extras that'll last for ages, but Pizza Manager is relentless in its difficulty and just feels like proper hard work most of the time