by Dan Lenois
reviewed on PC
For those with a constant hunger for new business management games, Recipe for Disaster is one emerging game that attempts to bite into a market currently saturated with the likes of Two Point Hospital and City Skylines. Developed by Dapper Penguin Studios, and published by Kasedo Games, Recipe For Disaster attempts to both simulate and satirize the ups and downs of managing your own restaurant, with mixed results.
As with almost any management game, customization is, of course, the most prominent element of consideration, and Recipe for Disaster does a reasonably apt job of this during the initial stages. When the player launches the game for the first time, they'll start by customizing their ideal chef, in terms of both appearance and skillset. The cosmetic customization options are admittedly quite a bit lacking. Each customizable option, such as hair style, hair and skin colours, and clothing options, will present you with only a handful of presets that creates an overall sense of uniformity. Once you hop into the gameplay, you'll quickly notice the direct result is a world of characters that all look almost identical, barring hair colour differences. It's the kind of design choice that gradually inclines one to doze off due to indifference during play, as opposed to sitting forward and being gripped with overwhelming interest.
A restaurant is only as good as the staff that serves it, and as your business needs grow, so too will you need to increase the staff size. Bringing on the right people, for the right roles, will be one of your greatest make-or-break moments in the game. Each person is well-equipped for a specific role, such as cleaning, although they may have lesser secondary skills in one or more other areas, such as serving. Ensuring that everyone is assigned to a station that fits their dominant skill will help keep the morale of that staff member high. Staff members with low morale become more likely to make mistakes, like setting your entire kitchen on fire, so it is usually best to head off morale before it results in a public safety crisis.
The top-down tile-based movement system, by which you can direct your staff to go to different spots in your restaurant to accomplish certain corresponding tasks, is bafflingly both extremely over-sensitive and fairly inaccurate. The number of times I would find myself trying to direct one of my staff to a specific tile, such as to deliver a customer's order to their table, only to have the game select the tile behind or to the side of the one I actually clicked on, far exceeded the number of times that the mouse click correctly registered. Because the game doesn't properly register its own tile system, the player will constantly be put in the position of overcompensating in order to achieve the desired result. It's confounding to consider that this kind of systemic issue was left unaddressed over the course of almost nine months of early access development, and remains so even after a full 1.0 launch.
The number of dishes that are served at your restaurant, by default, are very limited. The intent appears to be to incentivize players to experiment with creating their own dishes. But given that the game gives players little to no instruction in how to do so and offers a static and unintuitive UI in which to do so, this can be problematic. When combined with the fact that customer reviews can't be relied upon for insightful feedback on specific combinations, and the player is never forced to actually use this custom dish creation interface as part of one of the game's many scenario objectives. This begs the question of why it was even included as a mechanic in the first place?
Serving it up
Possibly one of the greatest sins, within the management sim genre, that Recipe for Disaster appears to commit, is the inability to dynamically and drastically alter the size and contents of your restaurant. Even if there's available land visible around your restaurant, there doesn't appear to be any mechanic in place to allow for notable expansion. Nor can one, it seems, divide up the interior of the restaurant to be a bit more eccentric with your design. So if you were eager to create your own Peaky Blinders-inspired European pub, with private booths behind doors, with stained glass windows and hanging signs for added decor, manned by eccentric staff members, sadly that's out of the question. You're free to play the game however you wish, albeit as long as the way you do so exactly matches the singular way the developer had in mind. It's like jumping into a pond, aiming to have a swim, only to find that the water, at its deepest, only comes up to your knee.
Recipe for Disaster presents what, on paper, is a great premise for any management game, but ultimately stays true to its own name, being a disastrous mess of a game concealed by a superficial coat of visually-engaging paint, that makes one want to drown oneself in a pot of overcooked stew.
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Managing staff needs can be fun, scenario levels act as passable tutorials
Horrible tile-based navigation, Gameplay offers little depth, Lack of customization options, UI offers little valuable visual feedback