Ciao Bella is best described as a 13-part turn-based dating sim. Take a Japanese date sim, take out the “graphic” elements, swap out the Japanese family for a n Italian one, then add some mini-games and make the main character female, and you have Ciao Bella.

Gameplay is a mix of strategy, simulation, time management, object hunting, memory games, and uh, a racing game. Your character lives like a Sim if you have ever played the Sims before: she will get hungry, get tired, and need family interaction. She will alway need “harmony” in her life. There are a set number of game locations she can visit in Little Italy such as the mall, the boutique, her family’s restaurant, etc, where she can work and fill up these meters.

At the end of each week, our Elena will have a date with Elio. If you are prepared for this date – say, bought a dress for the social night out or bought a pair of in-line skates when he invited you to the skatepark – and your meters are well-balanced, you will have a good date, and the game rolls onto the next mission. Money that you make during one mission can be used in the next, and I suggest you save up whenever you can. Especially for the costly second mission!

Missions are also never set in stone; even though your goal is to have a date with Elio by the end of the week, events often happen that you need to take care of first in order to keep your meters high. These are optional, but they make the game much more challenging.

Ciao Bella also has many mini-games. Sometimes you will need to hunt down flyers posted around each of the town locations, or you’ll need to race to the airport. There is also a memory game and an optional tennis game. They never get too difficult – but the tennis game I find to be nigh impossible. The mini-games aren’t overly involved, but they do add to the overall feel of the game.

Unlike other casual games, Ciao Bella relies on a well-crafted, scandal-ridden story that pulls the whole thing together and actually read very well. However, the game relies on the story so much that after you’ve played it once, there really isn’t much replay value left. Graphics and sound are appropriate, and different locations have different music, which makes for a nice change from the slew of casual games I’ve played lately that has the same music throughout the game. The graphics are very stylistic and well-done, but for a flash game it feels a little pixelated although I’ve set it on the highest quality setting. Some of the animations seems overly simple, but Elena’s expressions (especially when she’s angry) is perfect. Definitely worth a download and trial, and I really enjoyed playing it. Zero educational value, but that’s what word games are for, right?

Ciao Bella hints and walkthrough