Cook, Serve, Delicious! is one of my all-time favorite games. I wasn’t interested in it when it first came out because it’s a hardcore cooking sims game. I like time management games, and I like cooking games, but it didn’t seem like it’d be up my alley. Then, I saw a review of it by Northernlion, and he and his friends played it on the NLSS. It caught my eye, and I bought it on sale. I was immediately hooked, and I played the shit out of it. It’s a fast-paced typing/memorization game, and there is a bit of a management component to it, and it’s totally addictive. It’s the only game I’ve 100%ed (before the developer, David Galindo, @chubigans on the Twitter Machine, added new free DLC to the game), and I’m still inordinately proud of that achievement.
Galindo announced the sequel sometime last year or the year before. I was hyped as fuck and played the original in anticipation of the release. Then, time went on, and the release kept getting delayed. I was sad, then I’d get happy when the next release date was announced, even if it was ‘summer of 2017’. When an actual date was announced (August something, can’t remember), I might have literally squealed out loud. However, it got pushed back one more time, and I was afraid it would never be released.
When it was announced that it would be released on September 13th, I was cautiously optimistic. I mean, I wanted it to be true with all my heart, but I had been disappointed so many times before, I didn’t want to get too excited about it just in case it was going to be delayed one more time. However, I was adrift because I had played the fuck out of all the Dark Souls games, and I didn’t want to play Salt and Sanctuary any longer, so what was I supposed to do for my new game?
Yesterday, I had Ian keep me updated on tweets by chubigans because it was my social media day off. Galindo was frantic trying to get the game finished (and had threats of internet outages plaguing him as he was doing so), and I kept refreshing the Steam store page to see if it has been released, but nothing. Galindo said it would be released between four and five CST (hey, homeboy!), but it wasn’t. I was getting desperate when it finally released, and I bought it before it had been on Steam for even a minute. I waited impatiently for it to install, which it did fairly quickly.
Once it was in my machine, I suddenly became reluctant to play it. What if it didn’t live up to the first game and the hype? What if I hated it? What if I was completely disappointed by it? This was my second most highly-anticipated sequel of this year (after Dark Souls III. OK, that was last year, but the last DLC was this year), and I wanted it to be my everything. I wasted fifteen minutes pointedly avoiding the game, but then I finally womanned up and started it up.
The first thing I noticed is the dev’s note. He said there were a few things that he wasn’t able to include in the game for release, but he would patch them in as soon as possible. I am much more lenient on an indie developer who is a one-man operation, especially when he’s already created one of my favorite games ever. A few minor issues at the start–I couldn’t use the mouse in the menu. I couldn’t use Enter to register acceptance; I had to use the Space Bar. I can’t rebind the keys right now, which I would like to do. However, by the time it’s possible, I’ll probably already be used to the current layout.
I went through the tutorial because there are several new features. I will quickly list several of them and tell you how I feel about them. First of all, there are Holding Stations. I was freaked out by them and didn’t like them when I tried them out, but now I realize how invaluable they are to me. They are at the top of the screen, and I can prep foods before the day begins in the stations. Some of them are entrees, some are sides, and some are optional. The sides give extra patience to the customers and are automatically added to each order. Once I got used to the Holding Stations, I find them to be fantastic. I can prep a bunch of food, and then I can automatically serve them (mostly. Some still need to be doctored) rapidly. With my first restaurant, I think I reached six Holding Stations. I’m starting over, but I’ll get to that in a bit.
Another new addition is that there are Chef for Hires that you unlock. There’s no tutorial for it, so I jumped into it without knowing what the fuck I was doing. Each restaurant has a different theme and comes with preset menus. You go through a day serving the preset menu, and you can earn a bronze, silver, or gold star depending on how many bad orders you serve. This is similar to extra activities from the original game especially the Catering Events, but it’s much harder from the get-go. For whatever reason, I jumped into one of the Chef for Hire restaurants first, and I got my ass promptly handed to me.
There really needs to be a better tutorial. Ian suggested having one tutorial day, and I think that’s an excellent idea. The graphics are much improved, and the food looks fantastic. I’ve been joking that you shouldn’t play it when you’re hungry, but it’s actually true. I like that he has the origins of the food in the descriptions, and there are two Taiwanese dishes that I’ve found so far. I bought one of them, Pig’s Blood Cake, because it’s easy to make and to support my people. by the way, I’ve actually had this, and it’s…not great. It’s not terrible, but I wouldn’t buy it again.
The food needs to be categorized somehow. Right now, it’s all on one page with no apparent rhyme or reason. It’s not listed by price, and I don’t think it’s in alphabetical order. The entrees are listed first, then the sides. However, you can’t hover over them to see their name, price, etc. You have to actually click on each individual item to what it is and how much it costs.
One thing I loved about the first game was upgrading the food. You’d have your lasagna, for example, and you could pay more to get more complicated recipes. This doesn’t seem possible so far, but I’m holding out hope it’ll come later in the game. However, there a shit-ton more basic foods in this game than there were in the first game, so I’m afraid it might be more about breadth than depth. It’s difficult because there are some foods that are already so complex in the beginning (such as salad), and some that are extremely easy, such as biscuits and gravy. What I’m hoping is that the food might get more complicated the further I go, even if I don’t unlock upgrades. There are more ingredients for each food than there have been in the past, so there’s room for customers requesting more complicated orders.
One thing I love is that the chores have been simplified and streamlined. You still have to do them, but it’s not overwhelming the way it was in the original. In that game, you had to use the arrow keys to do some of the chores, whereas in this one, it’s just one or two letters (except for washing the dishes, which is still a pain). In addition, fighting off the robber is much more satisfying in this game. In the original, you had to draw what he looked like. It was bullshit, and I pretty much just ignored it every time it happened (which wasn’t often). In this one, you get to fight the robber by using different letters for each move, and it’s way more enjoyable. The inspector is gone and so is the dating component, both of which are good riddance in my opinion.
The email component is missing as was noted by Galindo. I loved that aspect of the original game because it added a story, albeit a wacky and fluffy one. The lack of it makes the campaign somewhat hollow right now because I don’t know what my objective is other than to get as many perfect days and stars as possible. Galindo has reassured the community that the email system will be added soon, which I’m glad to hear.
My biggest problem with the game was that the difficulty ramped up really quickly. By the time I reached one star (out of five), I already had eight Prep Stations (where the customers stand), which is how many I had at the end of the original game. Galindo has tweeted that he’s fixed the Buzz so that the difficulty shouldn’t ramp up so quickly and drastically, but you have to start a new day for it to take effect. With this knowledge, I started a new restaurant today, and it already feels better than my first run did. I think I’ll stick with this restaurant rather than my first one.
I miss being able to upgrade my equipment as well, but I’m glad some of it has been folded into the background mechanics of the game. It’s a tricky line to straddle between making things challenging and making things tedious. I think Galindo has maintained a nice balance, and I’m willing to give up being able to upgrade different aspects of my kitchen for how smooth it makes the gameplay.
Another thing we need to talk about are the menus themselves. In the original game, you could type all the ingredients without changing the pages of the recipes themselves because all the starting letters were different. In the sequel, you have to change the pages because some of the letters are repeated within a recipe. I can appreciate wanting to use ‘c’ for chocolate ice cream and ‘chocolate sauce’ in a sundae, for example, but I’m having a hard time adjusting to having to turn the pages of the recipes. I suspect I’ll get used to it in time, though. I do appreciate that the ingredients are color-coded as are the recipe pages. They correspond, of course, which makes it easy to tell in a glance which page you’re supposed to be on.
I know it sounds like I’m nitpicking all over the place, but I’m loving this game so far. It’s as addictive as the original was, and I find myself saying, “Just one more day. I’ll play one more day, and then I’m done.” This is followed by me trying three or four new Chef for Hire restaurants, then fiddling with my menu and my restaurant. I forgot to mention that you can design your restaurant which is fun, but not easy to use. Oh! I also forgot to say that you get loot crates at the end of the day, which is loads of fun. You get cool shit to decorate your restaurant, but you can also unlock different foods. It’s a fantastic edition to the game, and it’s always a rush to open the crates at the end of the day.
Galindo is still working hard on the game, and I’m willing to hang with it and enjoy the patches/updates as they happen. In the meantime, I’ll be banging the hell out of my keyboard, dreaming of all the perfect days I can accomplish in my swanky new restaurant. I recommend this game. It’s $12.99 on Steam, and it’s only going to get better as time goes on. Excuse me. I hear some biscuits and gravy calling my name.