Cook, Serve, Delicious!

This looks like a tiny, simple game that seems like it should belong more on a phone than a PC but I heard about it on Broken Forum and wasn’t disappointed at all. It also has an interesting story behind it in it that it was headed towards being a failure until a critic drew attention to it, at which point it became a respectable success. In fact, its sequel is slated to be released later this month!

As you might expect, this game puts you in the shoes of the owner of a restaurant which you must manage from a lowly, unknown eatery to a platinum starred world famous hangout for celebrities and VIPs. Unlike what you might expect, this is very much not a Tycoon style game. Instead you need to get your hands dirty by cooking the food yourself, simulated using very simple mini-games. You do get to do stuff like buy equipment for the restaurant and decide on the menu that you’re going to serve, but by far most of the time is spent going through a work day of serving a succession of customers based on what they order.

To give an example, a simple food to start with might be a hotdog. On a keyboard, you’d press a key corresponding to the order number to start working on it. Then you’d look at what the customer is asking for. A plain hot dog could be served straight up by just pressing the enter key. Other you might need to press ‘k’ for ketchup or ‘m’ for mustard or both before serving it. This sounds simple but there are dozens of types of foods in the game and the complex recipes can involve many moving parts. For example, cooking soup involves chopping a lot of different ingredients before putting it to boil. Combine that with the need to do chores like washing dishes and taking out the trash, implemented as similar mini-games, and the non-stop flurry of orders during rush hours, it can be a very stressful experience.

I was tremendously impressed by how the developer worked in multiple systems on top of this basic framework. For example, there’s a little dating game in which a girl visits every now and then asking for a specific dish and you need to serve it perfectly when she arrives. You’re also occasionally visited by a safety inspector, during which times you’ll need to ensure that all chores are done promptly. In addition, there are special events like catering events and contests. Having your restaurants upgraded requires completing these events and I daresay that these are the real gates to your progress as some can be quite challenging. I found the American episode of the Iron Cook events to be really tough because pizza has so many possible ingredients. The worst is when they ask for a pizza with everything on it!

There are still bits I’m not too happy with, not in the sense of it being unrealistic because how realistic do you expect a game to be when you can cook by just pressing a few buttons. But in the sense that they damage immersion. For example, since restaurants don’t require a theme, you can be an Italian place one day and an American diner the next and it doesn’t matter in the least. I also don’t like how buzz works currently. It acts as a measure of your restaurant’s popularity, controlling how many customers come to your restaurant. The more customers you have the more money you make. However this drastically increases your amount of work and hence the risk of mistakes. That’s why on special event days, when an inspector or a VIP is visiting for example, you actually want to reduce your buzz to give yourself an easier time. The online guides to get certain achievements similarly advise methods of dropping your buzz to make it easier to get Perfect Days in which not a single thing goes wrong. When I achieved platinum starred restaurant status, I was shocked that it came with a permanent +40% buzz, which makes the game much harder to play. I don’t know what the right balance for this mechanic is but I don’t think this is it.

Anyway I found this to be a pretty fantastic and creative game. I don’t think it’s in any way a casual game as it has rather substantial mechanics and enough content that you’d probably need over 20 hours of playing time to get to the top of the restaurant food chain. I love the variety of foods, the snarky humor of the emails you receive and even the art. Plus it does actually feel rather good to play a game that isn’t about fighting and killing every once in a while. I’m not quite eager to get the sequel so soon after finishing this one but I can easily see myself being tempted some time down the road.

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