I told my kids that their Christmas present was the OSMO Pizza kit about 6 months before December 2018. This was because (a) I knew that I wanted to get it after being so impressed with the original OSMO pack and (b) I wanted to work on their ability to wait for things. Developing patience is surely something all parents need to do in a world of instant downloads. We loved the OSMO genius kit and as the girls are so into food and cooking, this was an instant buy as soon as it was released.
It’s a great game, combining screen time with physical movement, cooking with time management, maths with customer service. It also introduces concepts of budgeting. In all, it’s hard to point to another product that provides the same mixture of education and fun.
The pack comes with 3 physical items:
- The Pizza base (think tomato and cheese without toppings) which is usable on both sides by flipping to give change to customers
- Ingredients: salami, olives, capsicum, pineapple and mushrooms
- The bank: both notes and coins
The graphic design is fun and ‘cartoonish’. The setting is a pizza shop with two halves. On the left, you have the cooking station and on the right, the bench for eating where customers pay up on finishing. Customers are colourful animals who enter the shop and express their order through thought bubbles. Behind them is a plain wall, a window and a few bits and pieces. As the game evolves, you are given the chance to upgrade parts of the shop.
The rest of the design is nicely crafted whether it is the end of round budgeting screen or the shop upgrade options. It is all simple enough for kids, but also has a few finer points for older ones pick up.
The major part of the game, cooking is simple to get the hang of. Customers approach the counter and a thought bubble appears. This typically includes either a smiling face next to one ingredient and a sad face next to another, or a specific pizza. It can also be a word comprehension question like ‘I like fungus’ (my kids were like, ‘what is fungus?’). Kids then scramble to get the ingredients out of the tray and assemble the pizza. Once complete, you need to slide the pizza base to the right which puts it in the oven. At this point, the customer confirms whether you got it right with a smiley face.
While this process works 90% of the time, on occasion the sensor picks up the wrong combination so if you put down 4 x pepperoni the screen might show pepperoni and an olive. Another frustration comes up when it doesn’t recognise you sliding the pizza into the oven. This happened often enough for us to have to step in and help the kids who aren’t as understanding of technical faults.
The key to the game is keeping customers happy. Once our kids had figured out the basics of getting a pizza ready, they quickly realised that what they serve up directly impacts how the customers react. It’s fairly straight forward – if they say they want fish, you give them lots of fish and nothing else. They smile and voila, you get a good rating. Satisfaction is also a factor of timing, with a clock counting down from the moment they enter the shop.
OSMO has mixed it up by including different types of orders:
- A single ingredient type (ie. give me pineapple)
- A specific pizza (the actual pizza is displayed so you have to copy it)
- Likes and dislikes (ie. like olives, dislike fish which leaves it up to you to make)
- Ratios (like 1/2 pepperoni, like 3/4 fish)
- Word instructions (see fungus comment above)
They’ve also added a VIP element so that if you fill up a certain counter, you trigger a VIP visit (like a local movie star). Keeping this person happy earns you extra bucks at the end of the round, and it has the effect of making you concentrate a bit more to make sure you satisfy them. Finally, there is a buzz indicator in between rounds so the better you do the more people are talking about your restaurant, leading to more and more visitors. It’s another example of the layering OSMO have added to give the game extra depth.
Nina also told me she had worked out a trick around the maths.
Paying the Bill
After putting the pizza in the oven and getting customer feedback, the pizza is served on the right side of the shop and they sit down to eat. Once they are ready, a black circle appears which is the same design as the underside of the physical pizza base. Flip the base, and you are ready to provide change.
On the screen, it displays the amount paid and the amount owed. At the early levels it is often the same sum (ie. $3 paid, $3 owed) so there is nothing to do. Over time it introduces more variations such as $5 paid and $3 owed. For my 5 year old (Nina), it is just at the right level as she is learning basic addition and subtraction. It took her a while to do it, but I was surprised when on playing it with her for the second time she started to do it without help.
She also told me she had worked out a trick around the maths. If you don’t provide change within a particular time, a clue pops up on part of the screen essentially giving you the answer. I was happy Nina had found her own workaround but also smiled to myself with the thought that OSMO had it included it to keep kids motivated.
End of Each Day
After all of your customers have left the shop, they tally up the days earnings. Income, ingredients, deliveries and tips plus your final net profit. This goes into your bank account and leads to the upgrade shop phase. This is like any other time management-style game in which you can buy a new oven, a pot plant or a new menu for the wall. At the time of writing we had played almost 50 rounds (they call them days) and I found the upgrade options limited – perhaps they expand over time – but there would lots of creative and fun ideas like upgrading the table settings, restaurant sign, paying for advertising, or even opening a second shop!
The end of round also includes larger goals such as ‘cook 100 pizza’s or ‘earn $50’.
OSMO has done a fantastic job of integrating learning into this product. I expected the mathematics side to it in terms of basic arithmetic and this is done really well. What I didn’t expect was the variables included:
- Visual communication: watching customers reactions is key to knowing how you are performing so it’s simple training about getting a smile out of someone.
- Patterns: when a customer asks for a specific pizza this includes ingredients spread out in a pattern. To get the best result you need to copy this pattern, in terms of the ingredients, the number of each item and location.
- Maths: as I said, the maths side is really good and it’s just embedded into the game so you don’t really find it a chore. They actually allow you to adjust the difficulty by using dollars, notes and cents which is a genius idea (we stuck to notes for obvious reasons). I was also impressed when maths came into the cooking side of the game, when a customer wanted specific ingredients in fractions.
- Budgeting: we played with older cousins (aged 9 and 11) and they worked out straight away how much they needed to buy the chosen upgraded – in this case an oven. They then set out to earn that amount by working quickly through the rounds and earning as much as they could. They clearly wanted to earn tips to get their faster, which ties the whole game together: read the customer, make the best pizza quickly, earn the most money.
To wrap things up, OSMO includes a Junior Play button (consistent with their other games) which simplifies some of the elements discussed above. This allows you to turn off the maths, the word challenges or the timer. In my case, this makes the game so much more flexible for my younger daughter (almost 4) so thanks OSMO for thinking this through so thoroughly.
Simple game play with clever depth built in
Really strong educational elements, particularly for parents looking for ways to teach maths
Harnesses all the strengths of OSMO, mixing screen time with thinking and physical movement
Occasionally erratic sensitivity when the system picked up the wrong ingredient or didn't pick up the slide to oven action