At least we got one -OTY out by now!
To the uninformed, Cook, Serve, Delicious looks like a Flash game. And to be honest, it kinda plays like one. It reminds me of those browser-based restaurant ‘make the order right’ games I played back in middle school. But Cook, Serve, Delicious takes the concept of a time management restaurant sim, and does something better with it; rising above the likes of Diner Dash in unique and fun ways.
For such a hectic game, Cook, Serve, Delicious presents itself in a chill manner. Booting it up feels like someone welcoming you into the first day of a simple, fun job. This doesn’t last very long, however, as customers pour in and bark orders for your food. You have to quickly and correctly make their food to achieve a perfect rank. Mess up an order, and your customer will be displeased, skip them completely and they’ll never return.
You stock your menu by buying different foods and assigning them to menu slots, which you unlock more of as the game progresses. The PC version of the game comes with new foods (and a special shout-out to Ryan Davis in the form of a hamburger named for him). The cheapest foods are the easiest to make, but don’t net you much coin in return. You’ll want to save up for the more expensive foods in order to wow your guests. And if you’re worried about being overwhelmed, you can practice preparing each new food item in a tutorial both before and after you buy it. New objectives are presented to you through email, as well as ‘bet challenges’ where you go double or nothing for extra cash, or date invites once you sign up for an in game dating service. It’s also nice that you can choose which gender you can date as opposed to just getting ‘whatever gender is not the one you picked’.
The gameplay in Cook, Serve, Delicious is all simple keyboard presses: you’ve got to press the correct buttons for the order in a timely manner. You rack up combos based on how many “perfects” you get in a row. The combos make it easier to make money and impresses critics. It works fine as a concept and in practice, but when there’s many orders going at once for rush hour or other reasons, the framerate slows to a crawl. This often kills any sense of speed you had and you can lose your precious combo. I’ve lost a few customers in this way and it’s incredibly frustrating.
Other than that the game plays exactly how it should. There are plenty of foods to switch up the pacing, so if you’re not good at hitting the correct keys, you can warm up on smaller orders. CSD paces itself well if you feel like mastering it, but raising your restaurant’s star level takes a long time. Often, you reach all the requirements but then have to grind through another ten days of service to reach the next star with only a few challenges to push you.
Cook, Serve, Delicious does what it’s supposed to do. It serves up challenging gameplay, with a variety of events. Although its frame rate has a tendency to flounder, and it’s got a bit too much padding, but in the end I was left satisfied. It’s not a five-star meal, but it filled me up like something Grandma used to make.