For many, entry-level food service preparation is not a life-long dream. Yet those lusting after powering five-star, Michelin-grade dining experiences need to start from somewhere, even if that’s just a one-man operation making salads and corn dogs in the middle of a city.
Cook, Serve, Delicious! is a fun restaurant simulator that takes you through the process of running a small operating on a floor of an inner-city skyscraper and developing it into a full-on five-star experience. Through Steam, the game is available as a result of the community-based Greenlight program and today we’re going to check whether it’s worth your time.
Starting from Scratch
When you first begin a game of Cook, Serve, Delicious, you won’t have access to much. You begin with a measly budget of $7500 and must use this to put together your opening menu and buy any basic equipment. Not everything’s available to you — more complex and “speciality” products require a certain star level — which offers a welcome chance to set goals for yourself if you want to make that delectable one-star cafe that only serves only chicken and coffee later on.
Foods can be upgraded post-purchase, increasing the sale price and adding to the number of variants you can offer your customers. However, more choices means more complexity, resulting in a steady increase of challenge as the game progresses.
When you’re running a restaurant by yourself, food isn’t the only concern. Throughout the day, a number of work tickets will appear requiring you to take time out to clean dishes, flush the toilet and perform other menial tasks. There’s eventually chances to augment the upkeep of your restaurant with equipment like dishwashers, but it’s important to dedicate the appropriate time to maintenance early on to avoid any negative repercussions.
A Kitchen Like No Other
When the day has started and your restaurant is open, customers will steadily flow in and order one of the items on your current menu. These orders can, and will, stack on the left of your screen and will slowly count down until the customer angrily leaves when they’re not attended to. It’s painful to watch an order of fries slowly fade away when you’re hectically trying to put together three of the most complex pizza orders you’ve ever received.
Actually preparing the food is the main mechanic of the game and it’s fun, frustrating and hectic all at once. Most menu items have a combination of some basic preparation stages — such as holding the fries in a fryer until they’re cooked, or releasing the cork on a bottle of wine — and a variety of optional ingredients — for example, the toppings on a pizza or contents of a soup — which each have a specific key binding. To perform a stage of preparation or add an ingredient to the mix, you simply need to press the relevant key. This controls system is the best for this type of game and, albeit after a steep learning curve, lets you efficiently process orders without much thought. You can also customise key bindings to your own preferences, which is a plus.
Once you’ve got the hang on which keys to hit, processing orders is a straightforward process and really rather fun. However, hit one wrong key and you’ve messed up the entire order, which is frustrating when you’re on a streak of perfect orders. An option to discard the food and start again would be welcome here, even if it was balanced by a financial hit for doing so.
Preparing food is the main attraction of the game, but it doesn’t feel like a grind in the way games like Papers, Please do. Every order is different, so the game doesn’t bore you with a streak of ten customers all ordering a certain style of pizza or a tankard of beer. Certain menus will also create negative buzz if they’re left on the menu for too long and the constant need to be swapping around the products you offer makes every couple of days different enough to not let gameplay get stale.
Cook, Serve, Delicious! has a charming style that foregoes the pixel-themed or hyperrealistic aesthetics many similar games opt for. The game is really beautiful and the level of detail put into every aspect of the visual design is pleasing. While developers Vertigo Gaming could have still made a game with nothing more than text descriptions, hitting the B key and seeing your product made up with a layer of bacon creates a welcome degree of immersion.
Personally, Cook, Serve, Delicious! is one of those games I play while listening to music or watching a video since it’s far from dialogue-heavy. However, if you do opt to play with the sound on, Cook, Serve, Delicious has a fairly nice soundtrack, although the hours you put into the game when it becomes an addiction will probably lead to getting bored of it pretty quickly.
Cook, Serve, Delicious! is super fun, super addictive and super beautiful. It’s got a “one more day” addictiveness that’s difficult to pass up on and the randomness of orders ensures every day is different. There’s a few areas that I’d welcome improvement or development in but that doesn’t detract from the fact that Cook, Serve, Delicious! is a fantastic game and an absolute steal at $9.99.