Cook, Serve, Delicious [$4.99 (HD)] heats up the hardcore restaurant simulation genre to a scorching level of challenge and innovation. What may be too hot (and too bitter, frankly) to taste, this PC to iPad port is terrific to the touch, even if it trades some of its thrill for easier controls.
You start out by purchasing foods and cooking appliances to create a daily menu. You will need to scrutinize the boosters and detractors statistics for each menu item to plan for high scoring. Some items are "staple" foods, and never experience "menu rot." Others require frequent rotation to keep customers happy.
Each item has several more boosters and detractors to observe, and they all can affect your joint's "buzz." Building buzz is vital to maintaining and increasing customer flow, which will lead to increased profits.
While that strategy sounds like a game by itself, you make most of your money by making meals and can even earn a tip from a satisfied customer. The UI above for food prep may look a bit busy, but it's all very intuitive. As customers or chores enter your view, you tap on the upper-left numbered images to begin your preparation. The customer's order specifications appear on the bottom, and you tap the items on the right to add them.
Sometimes you must tap in a certain order, or you swipe to fillet your fish or to slice your vegetables. Cooked food lapses in the upper-left numbered area, requiring an extra tap before it burns to serve it. I'd say that the lack of cooking appliance interaction is the only thing missing in this hardcore sim, but I can't imagine having to do anything extra when the orders ramp up.
As it is, these interactions for food aren't too hard by themselves. However, you can't start your prep over if you make a mistake. Developer Vertigo Gaming inadvertently teaches you to principle of "waste not, want not" at the expense of your customer's taste buds and a perfect combo.
The more involved swipe-controlled tasks are the chores. You set rat traps, wash dishes, and take out the garbage throughout the day. Fortunately, you can invest in conveniences such as garbage service and a dishwasher when the chores become too tedious or break your task combo (which exists for betting challenges and perfect day cash bonuses).
You need these conveniences to handle the dreaded lunch and dinner rush hours. Floods of customers will cause a panic at first, but eventually you learn how to prioritize chores and meals, depending on their preparation or execution time.
Before you start a new day, you can read through your email alerts of food upgrades, mini-challenges, safety inspections, hints of a story arc involving mysterious tickets, and warnings of crime on the rise. I must say that dealing with robberies in a restaurant simulation is pretty hardcore.
The graphics and sound suit this hardcore sim well. Meal items and the user interface are bright and clear. The ice cream, in particular, makes me crave it every time I serve it. The art seems more sophisticated than the average sim game, but I can't really place the style.
The sound effects pop loudly, fitting of the furious preparation pace. Customers utter funny, nonsensical gibberish in distinct tones to signify if they are satisfied. The music overall is upbeat, but no part of the game is as electrifying as the title song. I wish there were outtakes to see the man and woman saying "Cook, Serve, Delicious!" in all the funky ways they do.
The restaurant is open from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m., and simulated time equals about 6 minutes in the real world. You'll need to play 20 rounds just to move from a one- to two-star rating. That's two hours of content right there, and tons of events happen along the way to becoming a five-star joint. This adds up to over 10 hours of gameplay, easily. A Touch Arcade forum user has put in over 20 hours into the game and says there's still more to do! Best of all, the entire game is IAP-free.
I fell for Cook, Serve, Delicious as a PC game first. The only flaw I attribute to the iPad port is a slight lack of thrill from the over-simplification of the controls. The sadistic PC version required using the keyboard primarily to type the ingredients. This method made me feel like I was "learning the menu" by having to memorize the key shortcuts to add the ingredients quickly. You just don't need that kind of dedication for the iPad version, and the rush hours are slightly underwhelming because of it.
That said, I would never want to play this with the iOS virtual keyboard. More so, all the keystrokes sometimes felt like too much, and I achieved much higher combos thanks to the iPad's friendly controls.
Cook, Serve, Delicious is available for iPad 2 and up only and has a 40% off early bird special through January 2. The developer blogs that he is focused on new content updates for the iPad version first, and then he will look at getting the game on phones. Those wanting a serious sim challenge in an unlikely arena, look no further than Vertigo Gaming's culinary tablet masterpiece.
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