Sep 2, 2013

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Cook, Serve, Delicious! Review

Cook, Serve, Delicious! Review

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I never thought I would dread prepping a burger or pizza until I met the demanding customers in Vertigo Gaming’s latest indie title Cook, Serve, Delicious! Widely acknowledged as a “hardcore” restaurant simulator that places you behind the counter, CSD is fast paced, engaging, and absolutely addictive for foodies or non-foodies alike. Don’t be fooled by the cute cartoonish style because you’ll find your eyeballs popping and button mashing like mad after a few hours.

 Once recognized as a luxurious restaurant in SherriSoda Tower, ‘Cook, Serve, Delicious!’ underwent a period of dust and cobwebs but is reopened for business due to a recent economic boom. Most importantly, you’ve been placed in charge of managing and restoring the five star rating that this busted zero star establishment once had. Lucky you! After a basic introduction, you’ll be given a few thousand dollars to start off with and 20 foods to choose from for spicing up your menu. The amount of different food you can serve will be limited at first, but spaces open up for more variety as you progress through the game. In addition, certain foods require you to purchase their corresponding equipment beforehand (such as grills for burgers, etc.). You will also be able to purchase what I like to call “power-ups” such as table snacks, a tipping jar, and air conditioning to help you with customer patience during your 13 hour work day, beginning at 9 a.m. Sounding pretty simple so far? Well, think again.

Each type of food has different attributes that the player needs to pay close attention to in order to keep the “buzz” high for that day at work. As you might already expect, buzz affects the number of customers that you’ll get per day. Some food will never receive extra tips, while others are considered “Fatty McFats” and will lower your daily buzz. Simply put, a low buzz percentage means less income to upgrade your menu or equipment. Food combinations are key (some prone to rotting after a day or so), and since every item or upgrade has a price tag you’ll have to learn to manage your funds wisely. Nothing like a touch of reality to start you off broke and gritting your teeth when you’re barely pulling in a couple of hundred dollars per day.

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Let us head over to the cooking counter where things really get messy. If you have ever played Typing Terror via Neopets (chances are that’s probably just me), you’ll soon understand that keyboard memorization and speed are key in mastering CSD. Players have the option of using a mouse or keyboard, whichever method suits you best. Your first day can start off rough as you are introduced to combos for the first time but the game also allows you to practice prepping each food prior to purchase. Another plus for keyboard mashers is that most of the ingredients correspond with their first letter. For instance, players would just have to tap B, L, and T if a customer only wanted bacon, lettuce, and tomato on their burger. Of course, not all ingredients work this way in order to make cooking far more challenging. Oh and did I mention that once an ingredient has been selected, you cannot deselect it? Yup, if you accidentally tap on an item the customer did not want, this prevents you from getting continuous perfect streaks. Accidentally tapping on a food before it’s ready to be served will result in bad satisfaction that could potentially lower your buzz. There’s nothing worse than making one wrong move after 50 perfect combinations in a row. Maybe I’ll just join the regulars who come in for Brewskies around the clock. Even though the drink is “frowned upon” within the office building, working at SherriSoda tower must be depressing since I come across many customers ordering beer at 10 a.m.

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Speaking of the clock, two rush hour crowds at 12 p.m. and 6 p.m. will be your worst nightmare. At the side of your screen, you’ll see numbers ranging from 1-4 that represent your customers or chores. Wait…chores? Like any real restaurant, you’ll be forced to put your multi tasking skills to the test as you prioritize between cooking and completing chores to assure that your establishment passes the occasional health inspection (fried rat isn’t exactly on the menu). But as I mentioned earlier, there are “power-ups” that you could purchase in order to help you get these done at a quicker pace so that you can focus on preparing meals. As your restaurant continues to grow in reputation and regain its long lost fame, not only will the buzz grow but the number of customers that you serve increases as well. Money will flow faster, allowing you to unlock new food for your menu and upgrade them to five star standards. Difficulties aside, you’ll soon find yourself serving burgers and salads at the speed of light.

At the end of a hard day’s work, a checklist is shown to keep track of how far you are progressing in the game en route to your next star. Most of the tasks required are pretty simple with one exception: 20 days of service. This will be the outstanding task for most players and requires quite a bit of patience since it stands as a big roadblock in terms of progression. Since we start from square one with limited money, food, and buzz, getting through 20 days of work may come across as a repetitive cycle. Besides the checklist, the main menu also offers other options to explore such as catering opportunities and an e-mail system for both news and comic relief. Compliments (or complaints) on your impressive digital cooking skills are always welcome. If you prove to be a top class chef, you’ll even stand a chance on entering “Iron Cook,” clearly paying homage to America’s popular television series “Iron Chef.”

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You’ll find the music to be reminiscent of elevator tunes or jazzy beats played in lounges, nothing too surprising for a game of this genre since we won’t be paying much attention to the background soundtrack. On the more aesthetic side of things, vivid coloring and the use of shading is very much present to make customers and the environment stand out but the food takes center stage with their large scale. Each item on the menu has 3D elements that are appealing even if you only get a glimpse since you’re trying to churn out orders at lightning speed.

A minor reservation is the lack of achievements the game has to offer. Like Cooking Mama or even Restaurant Story, collectibles and achievements are main drives for perfection or rewards but such features are lacking in CSD. Cooking dishes without making a single mistake, for example, only yields a small monetary reward regardless of getting closer to a promotion. Achieving perfect streaks of a specific dish could have been a nice addition to keep players engrossed such as: “Bartender” – Serve 30 beers perfectly without spillage. But overall, I find this to be an enjoyable game despite my lack of patience. Both graphics and gameplay will keep players glued to their seats for hours on end, especially since it will take awhile to complete 20 days of service and gain a star. With so many options to manage, how could you turn away as you get closer to becoming a revered Iron Cook?

Cook, Serve, Delicious!
Platform: iOS, Mac, Linux, PC (reviewed)
Genre: Restaurant Sim
Release Date: Oct 9, 2012
Developer: Vertigo Gaming
Publisher: Vertigo Gaming
ESRB Rating: 12+
MSRP: $8.95