by Matt Porter
reviewed on PC
All about fun
I spend a lot of time looking for “engaging storylines” and “unique gameplay”, but I fear sometimes I come close to missing the point of what games are all about: Fun. When I loaded up Cook, Serve, Delicious! on Steam for the first time last week, four separate people asked me about it. They were saying like “Isn’t that just a Facebook game?”, and “Are you being forced to review that?”. I felt sorry for the game. For one thing, I endorse giving most games the benefit of the doubt until I have actually played them. Secondly I was well aware of Cook, Serve, Delicious! before asking for a review copy, and was looking forward to playing it. Thirdly, this isn’t an insidious, money-grabbing game like a lot of games in the ‘casual’ genre are these days.
Surprisingly difficult at times
Calling this game ‘casual’ isn’t really doing it justice though. Cook, Serve, Delicious! is remarkably, and surprisingly, difficult at times. You play as the owner of the eponymous restaurant, not only buying equipment and choosing what food is on the menu, but also cooking it and serving it yourself every single day. This is done by simple key presses. For example to pour a beer you simply hold the down button. However, hold it down too long it will overflow and the customer won’t be happy. They won’t tolerate a beer that isn’t filled all the way to the top either. Someone else might want a lasagna, but you’d better make sure you press the keys in the right order to add the tasty layers, because your customers are very picky about their meals.
One at a time, these orders are very manageable, but lunchtime and dinnertime are hectic periods of the day, resulting in rush hours. During these times it won’t matter what’s going on around you, you will be totally focused on the screen. Your house could be burning down around you, but you will be intent on making sure you get the right salt on this guy’s fries, and making sure this lady’s baked potato is cooked to perfection and has the correct toppings. It’s frantic, but you slowly work out a method to the madness. Burgers take time to cook, so you can leave them going while you do something quick like pour someone a coke (with ice, please), and deep fry the sopapillas (no sugar) that the impatient guy off to the right has been waiting for. If someone waits for too long, then they will leave and your combo will be broken.
One man show
Then lunch is over and you thank the culinary gods that you have some time to recover before the dinner rush. As the day progresses, the view outside the window changes, and the music changes with it. This isn’t just cosmetic, but ties into your menu choices. Some foods are perfect for rainy days, so you will want to check the weather forecast before you go to bed. No one wants to smell greasy chicken in the morning, so you will have to take that into account. You can add a menu item to your specials board, meaning more people will buy it, but they will get bored of it if it’s up there for too long. Some things are labelled as staple foods, everyone always wants a nice bit of ice cream, so they can stay on your limited menu as long as you like.
Other foods are messy as they take up plates and cutlery, and others cause a lot of waste. You will have to do the washing up yourself, and take out the trash, and clean the toilets, and set traps for pesky rats. Any of these can crop up at any time, which just adds another layer of complexity to your daily routine. Imagine having to wash up a bunch of plates while you’ve got chicken cooking on the grill. Will you be able to get back in time? Do you let the chicken burn? Or do you let the dirty china pile up and risk failing your health and safety inspection. There are so many elements at work here in such an unassuming game.
Of course at the end of the day, it won’t be winning any prizes for emotional complexity or maturity of subject matter. If you don’t change your menu around enough it does get repetitive, and it does take a lot of time to progress when you first start out. It takes twenty in game days to even reach a one-star restaurant, and you will also need a certain amount of equipment and so on to improve your establishment. You can take on bets which challenge you to get a certain combo with set items on your menu. And there are special catering events which are shorter but you get paid much more per order. It all just boils down to the same mechanics of cooking and serving the food though, and once you have mastered each item, it just becomes a case of hammering out the button presses. It’s also not a game you can play for any extended period of time, it’s a lot better in short stints.
Healthy dose of fun
Cook, Serve, Delicious! isn’t trying to impress you that much, it is just all serving up a healthy dose of fun with a side helping of frenzied action. There is enough going on to keep you engaged, and new upgrades come at a good pace to keep you going forward. The art style is colourful and cartoony, which doesn’t help its image as a casual game, but if you can look past that you will definitely enjoy spending a few hours with it.
At its best, it is fast paced and a whole lot of fun. It has a good deal of charm too.
Once you have seen all the foods, it does get repetitive.