Indie Quickie: Cook, Serve, Delicious!

It takes a lot longer to fully review a game than it does to get a good sense of what a game is. Even with a full-time staff of writers it would be impossible to fully review the thousands of games that are released every year. Indie Quickie is our way to offer snap impressions of the countless indie titles small teams and one-man game studios are releasing literally every single day, and to help guide players to worthwhile games they may not have heard about before.

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What is it? Throw business simulation, time management, and mini-games into a pot, stir in a restaurant theme, and you get Cook, Serve, Delicious!

Who made it and where can you get it? The head chefs at Vertigo Gaming cooked up this tasty morsel of indie gaming fun. You can find it on the menus of all your favorite digital download restaurants, including Steam, Humble Store, Desura and GamersGate for PC/Mac/Linux, as well as iPad and Android app stores.

How much did we play? Operated my restaurant over the span of 11 days (each food service counts as a day), which clocked in at around two hours of real-world play time. Of those 11 days, I managed to complete three with perfect services. I am just barely over halfway through the objective list to earn my first star, on the road to building a 5-star fine dining spot.

Any technical concerns or hardware requirements you should know about? This dish tastes complete and perfectly seasoned. I have found no reason to complain to the waiter or chef as of yet.

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Why should you play it?

    • WarioWare Meets Master Chef: Running a restaurant is tough work. Cook, Serve, Delicious makes the job fun and accessible by combining the time management elements of games like Diner Dash with microgame-style play mechanics. As patrons enter the restaurant and place orders, you are tasked with choosing the tickets from a numbered list on the left side of the screen and preparing the ordered dish as described, and as rapidly as possible to avoid missed tickets and angry customers storming out the door with unfed stomachs. Dishes like corndogs require nothing more than a quick squirt of ketchup and/or mustard before serving up for consumption, but others become more involved tasks, demanding careful selection of ingredients as well as quick fingers for pulling off simple key typing sequences and mouse click actions to cut vegetables, dunk French fries into the fryer until a wisp of smoke indicates proper doneness, or run the beer tap so the frothy liquid just breaks the lip of the glass without overflowing. When the lunch and dinner hour rushes hit, customers keep the orders rolling in nonstop and the pacing turns the experience into what you might expect from the gaming lovechild of WarioWare and Cooking Mama, only there aren’t any gimmicky gesture mechanics to worry about. Dishes like soups and salads can be especially tricky since they each have multiple ingredient combinations, making it all the more important to master each dish’s recipe and memorize the key bindings so you can crank out the food and keep the combo meter rising. Basically, you’re playing the role of expediter, head chef, line cook, waiter and bartender, all at the same time. Oh, and you’re also the janitor, as little chore mini-games will occasionally spring up during service, prompting you to throw out the garbage, clean the dishes, or set mouse traps to keep the rodent population down.

    • Restaurant Manager Wanted: As the new owner and operator of the reopened Cook, Serve, Delicious restaurant, it is your job to take the once renowned establishment from lowly, rat-infested café to five-star gastronomic eatery. Part of that involves the chaotic cooking and serving of food as described above. However, more goes into a successful restaurant than good eats. There is a whole restaurant simulation element to this game that elevates it above and beyond a casual mini-game romp. Creating buzz to draw customers to the restaurant is crucial to piling up cash. Then, once the cash starts rolling in, you have to carefully budget how it is spent to incrementally improve the restaurant. Every day your restaurant is given a buzz rating which determines the volume of customers that will drop by for a bite, and it is up to you to manage every aspect of the business to generate higher buzz. There are many ways to do this: buy new kitchen equipment to unlock new recipes; upgrade existing dishes to feature better ingredients; keep the menu fresh by switching up food selection at least every two or three days; perform perfect services to inspire food bloggers to write positive reviews; so on and so forth. Each dish has a set of modifiers called Boosters and Detractors which need to be considered in order to optimize buzz. Junk foods, for example, are easy to prepare, but are also quicker to “menu rot,” won’t draw tips from customers, and will lower buzz if too many are on the menu at once. When the forecast calls for rainy weather, dishes like soup and ice cream, on the other hand, have greater appeal and will increase the buzz rating for the day. It is equally important to balance the menu with dishes that are quick and easy to prepare with more sophisticated dishes that require longer prep times, that way the kitchen doesn’t get bogged down and struggle to bang out tickets when business ramps up.

    • Extra Crispy, Extra Steamy: Cook, Serve, Delicious’ original release dates back more than a year, but only just recently has the game been released on Steam (thanks to the Greenlight program). In addition to the “Extra Crispy” expansion pack content released earlier in the year, the new Steam edition hits the plate with a number of delectable side dishes, including integration with Steam Leaderboards to offer special challenges for bonus cash and bragging rights, as well as another new feature called CookBets, which allow income to be wagered on daily bets challenging you to achieve a target number on the combo multiplier while using a specific menu loadout. If you complete the objective, you win extra cash. Lose, and the money’s gone. Throw in Achievements, Trading Cards, and Cloud integration, and I’d say Steam comes out ahead as the definitive version.

Parting Thoughts: Cook, Serve, Delicious might appear to be just another throwaway casual game best suited for cheap app play on a tablet, but there is a whole lot more depth and challenge to the gameplay than the colorful, charming aesthetics let on. Managing business operations is surprisingly nuanced, and from what I can tell progressing through the entire game should eat up a ton of time. Service can become pure key-typing chaos as the orders stack up, but the quick-hitting pace is what will ultimately keep you coming back for seconds, thirds, fourths, and beyond. If you are into cooking and time management games, Cook, Serve, Delicious should go down a treat.

About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles. Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!