Game Review | Cook, Serve, Delicious!
Game summary: Cook, Serve, Delicious! centres on an old, worn down restaurant in need of repair. The tower building in which the restaurant is included has had its business drop, but has tasked the player with changing that fortune. (Wikipedia)
A disclaimer to start with: I didn't beat the game while playing it for this review, instead triggering my Endgame Rule to cut it off at the three hour mark having already played through it before and those few hours were more than enough to reinforce my memories of what I both like and disliked about Cook, Serve, Delicious! the first time around.
If you're looking at the pictures and thinking they don't look up to much, you're right. And it's not just the main gameplay sections either, but the UI between days when buying food and equipment, or deciding your menu for the next day. This isn't the kind of game that needs amazing visuals, but it still feels like it could've looked a little better than it does.
Then again, the game still looks better than it sounds, with the most basic effects needed to get across what's happening to the player. The music in the background isn't usually too bad, stopping the game from ever becoming completely silent, but sometimes a very high tempo track will start up out of nowhere and make you wonder if you missed the start of a rush hour.
As for said 'rush hour', you get two per day - lunch and dinner - and they are the best parts of each day, keeping you frantically scrambling to keep up with your customers' orders and your chores. As you get further into the game, more order slots open up so more people need to be kept happy at the same time and it's great fun - if a little stressful - trying to balance it all.
You've also got plenty of different food types, with varying levels of complexity to prepare for serving - sometimes you might get something simple like the image at the top, with chicken needing very little work and mostly involves waiting for a 'ding' from the timer. There are a lot of foods that are far more complex though, so balancing your menu to not stress yourself out is also a vital skill.
The main issue I see with Cook, Serve, Delicious! isn't the rather basic presentation, but rather the difficulty level instead, which feels very weirdly balanced. I imagine things might be easier on a mobile device and being able to use a touchscreen, but the desktop version I've played will probably put a lot of people off.
The game has a fairly high barrier to entry which, in fairness, the game does actually acknowledge when starting, but it might still take some time for more casual players to pick up - time which might mean them giving up very quickly. Though once you find a rhythm and menu choices that match your skill, it all begins to click.
On the other hand, more experienced players, or those who do pick up a rhythm of gameplay quickly, may end up being bored by the repetition of working towards your next star. To gain a star, you have a set of tasks to complete, which provide handy incentives to try out more of what the game has to offer and keep you playing.
Unfortunately, Cook, Serve, Delicious! has a problem in common with Two Point Hospital: it can drag things out a little too long. In the latter, it was having to reach a certain cash level, in this game it's having to complete a set number of days. Even in this most recent play-through, I'd finished seven of the eight tasks by the end of day nine, but had to plough through eleven more days to get that first star.
Even worse, upon gaining that star I found that I'd already completed two of the next set of challenges and was well on the way to completing multiple others. I was on course to have everything done again by an even earlier day this time, but would end up being left with even more days to fill doing the same thing over and over with no new objectives to give me a reason to continue.
Fortunately, one of Cook, Serve, Delicious!'s (I think that's grammatically correct!) strong points is that the relatively simple nature of the gameplay loop can prove quite addictive, with that oh-so precious 'one more turn' feel to it that can keep you going. I will say though, that this only really works if you start a session of play with a target to aim for - it can be difficult to motivate yourself to start playing if the only goal is 'complete x more days'.
Cook, Serve, Delicious! is enjoyable enough, but not without some serious flaws that may prevent a lot of people from enjoying it. Basic visuals and audio aside, the difficulty level is skewed oddly and is likely to put off more casual gamers while boring those with faster fingers. Getting this on a mobile device makes more sense than playing this desktop version.