GAME REVIEW: Cook, Serve, Delicious!

Cook, Serve, Delicious! by Vertigo Gaming, is best described as a hardcore restaurant simulation. It puts you in charge of a struggling greasy spoon in the almost derelict SherriSoda Tower, and gives you the task of reinvigorating the ailing business. Where Cook, Serve, Delicious! deviates from many more mundane simulations is that this isn’t a game that consists of casually clicking on staff and telling them what to do or clicking on a bin and emptying it in a Sims-3-like fashion. It uses a more complicated control system to adeptly provide the stresses of trying to serve food to increasingly impatient customers.

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The game can be controlled by mouse or keyboard, or a mixture of both is sometimes called for. Let’s say a customer appears and is waiting at the counter. To the left of the screen, a bank of numbers sits. One of these will have an icon that represents the customer’s order. Our customer has chosen a baked potato. Pressing the number key next to it unleashes the sound of a microwave whirring away, a small timer icon appearing on the side of the food icon. When it bings, you press the number key again, and a picture of the hot spud appears before you. Underneath, the customer has requested both butter and bacon as the filling. You look to the right and see the keys that you need to press for the correct filling, one key for each. Or you can click each box containing the keyboard short-cuts with the left mouse button. The correct fillings added, you press enter to serve. If all went well, the customer will walk off with smiley faces appearing next to the number that had previously held the potato icon, and your income will have increased by a few dollars.

It doesn’t sound hectic does it? It’s when lunch or tea time roll around that the stress begins to build. You might have two orders for spuds, someone else wanting a medium cola with ice, another wants fries. Some foods need pre-cooking, others don’t. You also have to serve/create them in a set time or they will burn or the customer will walk off in a huff. You feel like your fingers are floating over the keys at times, and others, that they are dredging the bottom of a muddy puddle. After cooking varying amounts of meat patties for burgers and layering nine or ten layers into a lasagne, you almost feel like kissing the customer who comes in and asks for a pretzel with no sugar. This is the pattern that most days follow, the calmer quieter times interspersed with the periods of manic activity.

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As well as your food creating and serving responsibilities, you have other chores that need doing. Dishes need washing, which entails the arrow keys and a certain rhythm. As does taking out the trash. There are also rat traps to set, and toilet breaks every hour or so. Your mind soon comes to regard the “To-Do” list of icons in orders of priority, maybe putting two jacket potatoes into the microwave before trying to chuck five bin bags out and wash your hands in the mean time. As you earn money and increase the quality of your establishment, you can purchase things that reduce the amount of time a chore takes, such as a dishwasher, a new toilet or a garbage service.

You will also want to put some of that money towards buying new food recipes and equipment. These will enable you to have a larger range of items on the menu and to make even more money. If you keep the same old things on the menu, you won’t generate any “Buzz” (read as customer attracting power) which means your business will slowly stagnate. Rotating things in and out of the menu will help keep things moving along. Each dish also has its own bonuses and penalties. If it is a rainy day, it is very shrewd business to offer a couple of dishes which feature the “Rainy Companion” bonus. It’s a shame that it also shares the “Fatty McFats” penalty.

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There is a very nice range of food to serve, equipment to buy and upgrades to acquire. Enough to keep you playing for a decent amount of time anyway. When you begin, your establishment is at the bottom of the pile when it comes to its star rating. To achieve the next star, you must meet certain criteria, such as passing a health inspection, making a certain amount in tips and chaining a long combo of perfectly made and served dishes together.

Even the game’s email system is used to inject some more randomness and interest into your day. You will receive hints and tips about new equipment being available, weather reports and even the opportunity to place bets and earn extra money. You even have to suffer spam email turning up. It slots into the simulation very nicely and is a great touch that adds more spice to the storyline of your achievements.

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The game uses a cartoony style of graphics which make it easy to see what is going on whilst still being fairly realistic. The sound scheme is suitably adept at recreating the hisses, crackles and sizzles that you might hear in any kind of kitchen. As mentioned above, it is also nice that you can choose your own control scheme. I found that the dishes I knew how to create were easiest done using the keyboard, but some dishes that were more complicated saw me reaching for my trusty mouse and clicking the items instead. The keyboard is by far the quicker option though, and I doubt you will do very well with a large crowd all wanting things made quickly when using the mouse.

Cook, Serve, Delicious! does a fine job of drawing you into the world of running a restaurant, mainly due to the control scheme and granular way that you create the dishes, but also in part due to the thought and care that has gone into creating a seemingly alive world and fluid situation. It can be picked up for about seven quid on Steam at the moment, and I would judge that as about right. I found that it’s not a game that lends itself to being played for hours on end, for me at least. The hectic meal times and occasional bank balance watching can make it feel a little grindy, so a few short sessions now and then seemed a more sensible way to play.

Version Reviewed : PC, but it is also available on Mac, Linux, Android and iOS.

Rating: 4/5

Reviewer: Casey Douglass

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