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Cook, Serve, Delicious! 2!!
Publisher/developer: Vertigo Gaming
(Troy Media) Want to experience the thrill and exhaustion of working in the restaurant industry by playing a challenging game that requires intense, constant focus?
Cook, Serve, Delicious! 2!! is the answer. Its light-hearted presentation and rewarding, satisfying gameplay softens the edge of a really tough but wonderful game.
You own a restaurant in a huge skyscraper, alongside many other restaurants. You must take your restaurant from a scuzzy, cockroach breeding ground to a five-star, world-class establishment.
You can either play a day in your restaurant or work a day in one of the others. As you play, you can unlock more restaurants to try out, each with their own menus.
As soon as you start, you’re hit with upbeat, goofy music that tells you you’re in for some fast-paced, silly fun. CSD 2 doesn’t disappoint. I sat through the whole opening song with a grin.
The writing is great, too. Each new restaurant and menu item has an information blurb you should read. I had a few laugh-out-loud moments.
This game requires some intense focus. But that focus yields great fun and satisfaction. A sequel to Cook, Serve, Delicious!, CSD 2 expands on the core of the original in meaningful ways that up the challenge and force you to plan and prepare.
Here are the basics: A day starts and customers slowly start to file in. In the top left corner of the screen, the customer’s order appears. You press the corresponding number key to take the order. At the start of the game, you can only have four customers in at a time, so depending on when they come in you press key 1, 2, 3 or 4 to serve them. Press the number and the order appears.
In your restaurant, you choose which items will be on the menu before the day starts. If you’re playing in one of the other restaurants, the menu is predetermined.
The customer’s order appears in front of you and each ingredient is allocated a letter. For example, to add ketchup, press K, to add relish, press R. But what happens if multiple ingredients share the same first letter? In many recipes, adding onions actually requires you to press N and chocolate sauce is O instead of C. In this way, the game reminds me of a keyboarding class’s edutainment game – although this would be a very advanced class.
The time a customer will wait for you to fill the order is limited, so you’re quickly reading the ingredients and inputting the proper key. Over time, you’ll memorize the keystrokes each menu item requires. It’s an intense exercise in memory and keyboard agility.
In the original CSD, you only ever played in your restaurant, where you always chose the menu and it didn’t take long to memorize the keys required for each item. With the introduction of other restaurants with preset menus, you’re constantly forced to get familiar with new keystrokes. You’re frequently developing and then discarding memory. And there are more than 180 menu items.
You can do a couple things to calm your frenzy, both of which are new additions to CSD 2. You can use Hold Items to prepare large quantities of something at once, so the cook time is reduced when a customer orders it. For example, a hot dog has two steps: start to cook the wiener and wait while it grills, and then add bun and condiments. However, a hot dog is a Hold Item, which means you can cook eight wieners at once, so when one is ordered, all you have to do is add the dressings.
You can also make Side Dishes to keep customers patient. They will only wait so long and their order will slowly fade away, so using Side Dishes is integral.
These new additions forced me to think about how I was playing. Hold Items and Side Dishes are not optional, they’re necessary.
You can only prepare so many Hold Items at once and they only keep for so long. There are two rush hours a day, lunch and dinner, when it gets really wild. So I prepared some items just before the rushes to ensure I had enough to last. It worked and I earned a shiny silver medal for that stage and a bunch of rewards.
The rewards come in the form of new playable restaurants, each with their own dishes and unique background to read, new menu items you can add to your own restaurant, and aesthetic pieces you can use to create your desired eatery using the game’s design tool. You get a lot of these pieces, especially if you do particularly well in a level. You get so many options for chairs, art and light fixtures that I felt like I could design a space entirely my own. I frequently went back to the design tool to tweak or totally overhaul my look.
Unfortunately, the design tool lacked intuitiveness. Within the design menu, you can choose create or edit. Choosing create takes you down a sequence of menus that ultimately let you pick the window or plant. If you decide you don’t like the last few things you placed, you have to back out of the create menu and go into the edit menu. If it’s a piece of art you don’t like, you have to go into the art edit menu and use the mouse wheel to cycle through all the art on your wall until you land on the one you want to remove. To select replacement art, you back out of the edit menu, into the create menu.
For someone who really liked the option to design my own joint, this clunky tool deterred me. The developer is regularly updating CSD 2 and the design tool has been improved, but it’s not quite there.
CSD 2 is missing a feature I enjoyed in the original CSD. In the original, as a new day began, you could read your emails. They could be gameplay related, like a character sending you a reward or issuing a challenge, a bit of flavour text from someone else in this world, or even just spam. But it was always something silly or fun and I enjoyed reading them. It made it seem like a world existed outside your kitchen. By excluding these emails, CSD 2 feels like it’s being played in a vacuum. It’s strangely isolating, which I realize is an odd thing to say about a primarily single-player game. But these regular breaks between days and the constant of a wider world and characters helped ease the stress of the intense focus each ‘work’ day required.
I mention that CSD 2 is primarily single-player. But you can play with a friend. I mostly played by myself but I also sat down with my girlfriend to try it out. We had played the original CSD together even though it’s a single-player game, so it was exciting to discover that CSD 2 has a multi-player option. One of us played with the keyboard and the other played with mouse. It was a lot of hectic fun. It took a bit for both of us to understand and keep up with what was happening on the screen. But once we got in a rhythm, we enjoyed it.
Cook, Serve, Delicious! 2!! was exhausting but a blast. The restaurant design tool could be smoother but this is a wonderfully crafted, challenging game. It makes you plan and experiment in unexpected ways. A lot of care went into this project and it shows.
Cook, Serve, Delicious! 2!! is worth checking out. As a bonus, I bet you improve your typing skills.
Troy Media columnist Sam Stewart has a diploma in theatre studies and a degree film studies, and works in the tech industry.
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