Cooking games are my jam, especially cooperative ones. I’m not talking about Overcooked, either. I’ve found some of the best cooperative cooking games in obscure titles like VR The Diner Duo. So when a local developer told us his favorite cooking game to play with his wife was Cook, Serve, Delicious! 2!! I knew I had to check out the series. The perfect opportunity arose when I got the chance to review Cook, Serve, Delicious! 3?!.
Cook Serve Delicious! 3?! is a food truck cooking simulator. Wait, that’s not entirely right—it’s more like a management game that requires precision and speed. First of all, it has a ridiculous premise: It’s a war torn future, but the restaurant business is boppin’. In fact, Cook, Serve, Delicious! 3?! starts with the destruction of your incredibly successful restaurant. You’re found in the rubble in an intro that is incredibly reminiscent to X-Com 2’s, and given a chance to start anew with a food truck business. I feel like I’ve missed out on some epic backstory here, but the series isn’t really about its narrative—it’s more about feeding hordes of hungry customers from your food truck.
In Cook, Serve, Delicious! 3?! You drive from one location to another, serving customers with a variety of different foods. And that’s the main gameplay loop. But cooking and serving food is easier said than done, and as anyone who has worked in the restaurant industry knows, there are throngs of angry, hungry people who want their food delivered exactly how they ordered it, special orders included, as quickly as possible. Cook, Serve, Delicious! 3?! does a great job of emulating that frantic feel you get from working food service—for good or for bad. It goes without saying, then, that it’s a difficult game.
In Cook, Serve, Delicious 3?! you have control over your menu, so you can set up a group of foods that you’re able to get out quickly. It’s almost like if you were practicing certain dishes at home to make sure they’d be viable for your food truck. Each stop along your way to food truck domination requires a certain amount of menu points. The more difficult the food is to prepare, the more points it is worth—and the more time it’ll take for you to get out accurately. If you have no culinary skills, don’t worry—cooking in Cook, Serve, Delicious! 3?! is as easy as pressing a few buttons. Okay, maybe not so easy.
Most of the gameplay in Cook, Serve, Delicious 3?! is pressing buttons in the proper sequences, and following instructions. It’s essentially a string of quick-time events, but without the threat of instant failure if you press the wrong button. Putting together a recipe incorrectly will make you end up with angry customers. It’s easy to say, put sausage on a pizza that was supposed to be just cheese, and once you make the mistake there’s no going back without throwing it out and starting over.
Playing with friends is always more fun, and Cook, Serve, Delicious! 3!? allows for playing with a co-op partner. Playing with a partner requires coordination. Since the game is played completely by pressing buttons, there’s no way to physically get in the way of your partner, but it’s still possible to gum up the works. Once a player starts a task, they own it until it’s complete. If a less experienced partner takes a complicated task, it can slow things down. It doesn’t help that the UI can be a little hard to get used to.
So much of Cook, Serve, Delicious! 3?! is wonderful, but I really can’t stand its UI. I’ve gotten used to it, and can crank out some pretty complicated meals—but it was an uphill battle. I feel like too much of the screen is taken up by the pictures of food, and not enough of the screen space is used to give feedback.
On screen elements don’t really connect with each other visually, either. One moment you’ll be using the top menu, and then you have to use a side menu without little to no visual indication. Also, I wish the feedback was a little different—there were so many times I had a meal completed, only to forget to hit the button to start it cooking. Once you learn it, the UI functions just fine—but it was hard to get there.
Once you get into the rhythm of Cook, Serve, Delicious! 3?!, it’s almost relaxing slapping out dishes and working on special orders–almost. There are upgrades to make it a little easier-, giving you access to extra food holding stations, or even protection from attacks. Other food trucks can attack you, giving you a debuff—like disabling a food holding station–that makes getting food out to waiting customers harder.
Cook, Serve, Delicious! 3?! has served as my introduction to the series, and it makes me wonder what else I’ve missed. Once I got past the UI, I fell in love with its take on food service. It does a great job recreating the energy you can find trying to please throngs of hungry people in the real world—especially if you have a partner to work with.
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