You're a new chef who has just inherited an old, closed down restaurant on the condition that you make it a profitable business. Will you specialize in French, Italian or American cuisine? Will the restaurant be located in Paris, Rome or Los Angeles? What about decoration, menu items, and pricing structure? These are only a few of the decisions that must be made to operate a successful restaurant, it isn't nearly as easy as one would expect.

These and many others options must be carefully considered in Enlight Software's new 3D business simulation spin-off, Restaurant Empire. Yet another title inspired by Trevor Chan that puts everything on the table (literally) to give the player complete control over a realistic life-like situation. And, from a company that practically owns the business simulation genre and has had many successful hits in the past, this is one game with high expectations.

First off, the game features two single player modes: the story mode and sandbox game. The title does not contain a multiplayer mode, but fortunately enough the single player modes are more than enough to keep players busy. When starting a new game in the story mode, you will be slowly guided through much of the process of setting up and opening a new restaurant via the tutorial window. You are Armand LeBoeuf, a fresh graduate from chef school who inherits his uncle's old restaurant on the premise that you will make it into a profitable business again. This is actually the first of many different goals that players will have to meet in this mode in order to continue. As the story unfolds, players will progress from on goal to the next, all while building a prosperous restaurant and increasing your reputation as a chef. The latter of the two is where cooking competitions are mixed into the regular gameplay. You will be able to enter these (for a small fee, of course) and attempt to win to gain cash, new recipes and build a name for yourself. This is an excellent way to break up the regular gameplay without detracting from the overall story whatsoever.

The sandbox mode for Restaurant Empire is simply a way to quickly get into the game, without worrying following the storyline as it progresses. First, you will have to create a new chef, choosing from several different appearances and choosing your specialty: French, Italian or American cuisine. Next, you must choose a company name and the cities you will be operating in: Paris, Rome or (not even comparable to the other two) Los Angeles.

Both gameplay modes feature endless customization, enabling the player to decide which recipes to offer on the menu, the entire layout of his restaurants, the staff that will be hired (or fired - definitely a must after an outrageous number of complaints), hours of operation, prices, salaries, etc. In fact, this list goes on and on. Here is where I will place my first complaint: the tutorial, despite its ease of understanding, does not nearly cover all the basics required to play the game effectively. Restaurant Empire has a fairly steep learning curve, with endless screens available in the interface, it is very difficult to find some options, or even to get a good feel for everything you will be responsible for. However, thankfully the game is highly addictive and will most likely hold your interest long enough to allow you to overcome this obstacle before becoming too frustrated to play.

The graphics in Restaurant Empire are adequate, but not spectacular. Unfortunately though, even without great graphics the game does experience some slowdowns, which is my final major complaint. Although there is quite a bit of character animation occurring, textures are somewhat dull and animation is fairly basic and repetitive. There is really no reason for the game to slowdown on a regular basis as it does, something that needs to be addressed. Though the colors in-game seem kind of dull, the menus make up for it in their vibrance. Simply put, the graphics of this game work, they get the job done and do not seriously detract from the gameplay. A little more character diversity and animation would have been beneficial, but the game still stands well as-is.

On the other hand, the sound department accomplishes much more for this game. The voice acting is quite poor, but the sound effects more than make up for this. All of the expected sounds are present: endless chatter from customers, sounds of dishes clattering, among others. Basically, Restaurant Empire sounds like a restaurant. This is fairly basic premise, but cannot be overlooked. Also, the soundtrack is quite nice. Subtle and light, it fits well into the background and provides a necessary ambient noise.

Overall, Restaurant Empire fares well. It is a highly addictive business simulation that keeps players on their feet as they try to satisfy customers' complaints, discover new recipes, and build a successful business empire. The story mode lasts quite some time while you perfect your skills as a chef and complete the required objectives while the sandbox mode provides endless possibilities for many extra hours of play. This game features many, many options and endless customization, and is very immersive as players manage their restaurants. Unfortunately, there are long load times and a few shortcomings with the graphics. Also there is no multiplayer mode available, however this is definitely not missed. Restaurant Empire is yet another successful title from Enlight that opens up many new possibilities and can potentially consumes hours upon hours of our lives.