Cook, Serve, Delicious! 2!! (A Review!!!) – A

Due to some of the negative buzz on Steam regarding Cook, Serve, Delicious! 2!!, I actually wasn’t sure if I wanted to pick it up right away, despite the fact I had been excitedly (read: obsessively) tracking and awaiting its release since I fell in love with the first one. It wasn’t that reviews were all bad; in fact, even the negative reviews were pretty forgiving. The problem for me was the one issue being mentioned again and again in many of the reviews: Namely, that the game was completely lacking any feeling of progression.

For any who don’t remember/didn’t play it, the first Cook, Serve, Delicious!, developed by David Galindo, featured a campaign mode with a loose story and fixed objectives to complete if you wanted to progress. Your restaurant gained stars and popularity based on meeting those objectives, and its appearance improved over time as a result (I was never a fan of how it looked though—like those bird statue things, they drove me nuts). Meeting these objectives and raising your restaurant’s star-level also resulted in more food unlocked and, of course, more money to expand your menu.

This was all complemented by an email system that made you feel more connected to the world inside the game; random people would send you messages to initiate bets on your performance, gush about how excellent your food was, and complain about other workers in your building (also to creep on you, whatever). The game provided just the right amount of guidance without making you feel totally restricted. You still chose which foods to purchase, upgrade and serve, and the emailed bets provided an extra challenge.

All of those features, with the exception of gaining stars and purchasing foods as you earn money, are missing from Cook, Serve, Delicious! 2!!, and this has been a disappointment to many players. Since I couldn’t see the appeal in mashing keys and serving endless amounts of corn dogs without any real purpose, I was pretty bummed by the choice not to include them in the game. It wasn’t until seeing Galindo’s response to those reviews—and seeing all the patches he was planning—that I felt confident enough to purchase the game and try it out myself.

I’ve played 24 hours according to Steam, and although I’ve had my moments of being completely aggravated with it (like ruining a perfect day DURING THE LAST HOUR AND ON THE LAST FUCKING ORDER FOR EXAMPLE), I’ve had a ridiculous amount of fun with it. I can still see the merits of some of those negative reviews, but in my humble-but-totally-right-opinion, it’s definitely not not worth playing because of them. Read on to see what I consider both good and bad about the game.

The Good:

The Music

You don’t really expect much in the way of music in a game like this, but Cook, Serve, Delicious! 2!! delivers on it anyway. Wow, do I love the soundtrack this time around. It’s fluid: relaxing when it should be, absolutely fun and fast-paced otherwise. The implementation of it is effective, too. I’ve learned to tense up when the music starts to fade out and the restaurant goes quiet, because I know it will be followed by an intense, dramatic theme to push me through a major rush. One of my favorite pieces is the piano that plays in Designer mode; it brings some of Jerry Martin’s compositions from the original Sims to mind.

 

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Designer Mode

Like I mentioned before, you didn’t have much influence over how things looked in the first game. Now, you get to change whatever the hell you want. No more goddamn bird statue things! (Unless you want them, of course. Maybe you can unlock them—I haven’t gotten everything unlocked, myself.) You level up as you work, and instead of just unlocking new foods as you go, you also unlock tons of new design options and objects. I don’t know about you, but I feel way more invested in a place that I’ve designed according to my own specifications (and with the objects I earned from playing).

This also opens up different approaches to game play for the player. Want to feature a theme and stick to it? Serve nothing but hot dogs and plaster pictures of actual dogs all over the walls? Want no windows, all the windows, or a nautical-themed vintage sports bar that serves cereal and beer? The sky’s the limit. (Seriously, people are already posting some pretty awesome restaurant designs on Twitter.)

 

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Holding Stations

The first game featured foods you had to do a little bit of prep with before setting it to cook, or foods that needed to be cooked first before adding finishing touches later, but there was no way to prep multiple foods at once for customers. Each order was handled separately—so no cooking up a bunch of patties and throwing them in a food warmer. Now, you can cook, grill or fry multiple foods at once and save ‘em for later (to a point).

I was actually a bit skeptical of this feature at first, because I felt like it would take some of the challenge out of the game. How adorably naive of me. Juggling your foods that require holding stations, with foods that can’t be prepared until they’re ordered, with foods that can be prepared in a holding station but doesn’t necessarily have to be makes for a wonderfully frantic shitshow. Add what gradually becomes an absolute necessity for some holding stations to be devoted to sides, and you’re really sweating during your rushes.

Foods like hamburger patties and wieners can be thrown on the grill and saved in anticipation of a big batch of hungry customers, but they can also be cooked to order. Corn dogs and waffles, on the other hand, have to be done in a holding station before they can be served. Holding station foods are accessed separately from the usual numbered keys listed on the left of the screen (you can see ‘em at the top in the screenshot above). Foods in your holding stations will have a countdown on them—you have to keep an eye on their freshness as well as the amount you have left of it. Since sides help influence customers’ patience, it’s good to have at least one holding station devoted to a side during a rush—perhaps more as you progress (and depending on what foods you’re serving). Managing these adds more strategy to your approach each day, and keeps you on your toes even during the lulls between customers.

 

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Chef for Hire

“Why though?” was my first response to hearing about Chef for Hire. Since it involved going to other establishments and cooking the same food that was ultimately available to serve in my own restaurant, I didn’t see the need to spend my time in those places when I could be working my way up in my own. I’m also sort of a weirdo and hate the idea of preparing a food somewhere before I’ve rightfully “unlocked” it on my own. While it’s true that cooking for other restaurants in this mode doesn’t feel unique to cooking in your own restaurant (apart from the design, obviously), it adds goals for the player to achieve that are great for those missing the bet challenges and clear objectives from the first game.

Each restaurant features a certain number of “shifts” to work (levels, essentially) that allow you to earn medals according to how well you did. Perform a perfect day, for example, and you’ll get a gold. I’m the type that loves collectibles and going after completion, so this is right up my alley. It’s also a feature that has (partly!) made up for that much-needed feeling of moving forward through the game and having clear objectives. Since you unlock stuff in Designer and earn money doing it too, it’s definitely a part of the game you’ll want to check out whether you’re totally into it or not.

 

The Bad:

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The UI

For all the good I have to say about the game, there is, of course, some bad. The controls definitely feel very clunky. I find myself having to switch between using the keyboard and the mouse when I don’t particularly want to. This isn’t a massive complaint since it doesn’t pertain to the actual moments you’re cooking and serving (thank God), but it does make navigating through the menus kind of annoying sometimes.

The UI issues are the worst in Designer, which is a shame, since that’s one of the best new features in the game. It actually took some work to figure out the controls when using it, and having to navigate back and forth between pages to edit, delete, and place things can be a pain in the ass.

 

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Lack of Variety in Food Prep

This was tied to the complaints from other players that I addressed in the beginning of my review, and thus far, this seems to be a valid one. I just don’t feel like there’s as much variation in what the food requires to be made as there was last time. It isn’t that each and every food is prepared in the exact same way—there is still a difference in what keys you’ll strike and how you’ll use them for different foods. Instead, my issue is with the lack of upgrades available to each food. From what I can tell, once you’ve unlocked the food through leveling up or buying it—that’s it. You don’t unlock new toppings or new ways of preparing it. There is so much more in the way of total foods in the game this time that this isn’t a huge complaint for me, but it is slightly disappointing.

 

Other Missing Features

There are a few additional features that existed in the original that either won’t be present in the sequel or simply haven’t been added yet.* As someone who played and loved the first game, it’s the way that “buzz” is currently handled that I dislike most. Positive and negative buzz could be generated by a variety of factors in the first game, including foods chosen for the day’s menu, the time of day, the weather, and your own performance. The amount of buzz you generated had an impact on how you approached the game.  It provided another layer of depth in terms of strategy, and made you think about the menu you created each day. While buzz is present in the game now, you can’t really view it, and there is no way to check how certain foods might add or subtract from the buzz being generated. Sequels are supposed to be different, and they obviously don’t need to include every single feature that was in their predecessors—especially if they expand on other pieces of it and add more depth in other ways—but this was one feature I think should have been expanded on rather than minimized.

*As stated before, the developer unveiled new updates he’s working on which will include a new “classic” mode. This mode will have a “buzz” system similar to the original game. Since the game could continue to have more features with further patches, this part of the review (and others) could change going forward.

 

Final Thoughts

There is no getting around it: yes, it does suck that there is no real feeling of progression as it existed in the first game. My feelings on that haven’t changed, although I’m still hopeful that future updates to the game will fill in some of those gaps and provide more of that experience. However, even without those missing features, it is still an absolute blast to play and is, in many ways, an improvement over the first. The ultimate measure of a game is how fun it is, and I’m happy to say that Cook, Serve, Delicious! 2!! is an addictive diversion, and one I’m definitely going to spend just as many hours with as the first—if not more.

RECOMMENDED

  • New features and game modes
  • Great music
  • Fast-paced, addictive gameplay
  • Clunky UI
  • Lack of clear progression/story mode
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