Game Review: Hungry Hearts Diner

Review of the free restaurant simulation game Hungry Hearts Diner: A Tale of Star-Crossed Lovers by GAGEX.

Review by Astibe.

Hungry Hearts Diner is a lighthearted game set in a small diner in Japan shortly after the end of World War II. The diner is owned and operated by a woman whose husband recently had serious health problems that are preventing him from working or even leaving their home.

While he recuperates, your job as a player is to keep her busy making the various dishes that will attract customers to the shop. Their money will enable the main character to buy more food and improve her restaurant, and their stories about their lives will eventually offer something else as well.

The atmosphere of this game was relaxed. While I did want to make sure that customers always had a variety of food to order, there was no time limit on how long they were willing to wait. The only real limit in playing had to do with how much energy the protagonist had. She could only do so much cooking and serving before she needed to rest for a while.

I really enjoyed the process of keeping her customers happy and gradually making improvements to the family restaurant. It was a tiny place that only had room for two customers in the beginning, so it was exciting to see that change as the main character earned enough money to buy things like additional tables or a fridge.

It was also exciting to get to know the customers and gradually realize what their favorite foods were! Everyone had a dish or two that they’d eagerly order first, and there was a special signal in the game showing their happiness if you happened to have that dish available when they showed up.

The Second Layer to the Story

A busy morning at the diner.

As you might have already guessed, making food is only one part of this game. There are also a few mysteries to uncover about the lives of certain customers and of the main character herself.
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For example, Ol’Tokei was a grouchy neighbour whose clock-repair business was failing. One of the long-term objectives in this game was to figure out why he was always in such a terrible mood and if there was anything your character could do to help.

There were about a half-dozen other characters who had their own dilemmas to solve, and I enjoyed seeing how all of those stories unfolded over time. They made the world they inhabited feel three-dimensional.

The main character must also solve her own family problems in the midst of trying to help others. Not only was her husband not doing well, their estranged adult daughter was having serious health problems during her pregnancy. It was the player’s job to gradually uncover why the relationship between them and their daughter broke down and whether there’s anything the protagonist can do to fix it.

As much as I enjoyed the short-term goals of making sure the diner had food that appealed to every customer, the best part of this game was seeing how all of the characters handled the problems in their lives. Would they find solutions to their problems?

Some of them were dealing with serious issues that had been plaguing them for years. None of their problems were things that could be fixed with a rice ball or a cup of ramen soup, but they were all a little more willing to discuss what was bothering them after their stomachs had been filled with good food.

Final Thoughts

Hungry Hearts Diner is a game I’d wholeheartedly recommend to older kids and adults. There are some mature themes in it that wouldn’t be appropriate for younger viewers, but I appreciated the nuanced approach it took to the complex ways people respond to conflict and loss.

It felt quite emotionally realistic to me. That’s something I wasn’t expecting to find when I first began playing, but it did make me keep coming back for more until I’d solved all of the mysteries!

Hungry Hearts Diner can be played on Android, iOS, and PC devices.