I was aware of Cook, Serve, Delicious (which shall be known as CSD for the rest of the post) way before I ever bought it. It was supposed to be a hardcore cooking sim, and all the reviews I read emphasized how hard it was. Now, I like my cooking games, but I like them casual. If I’m going to play a hardcore game, I’m going to be shooting things in the face. Amirite, fellas???? Then, I saw Northernlion take a look at it (twice, as it was released on Desura before Steam picked it up), and I was intrigued. Yes, it looked hard, but it also looked fun. It went on sale of Steam because of course it did, and I picked it up. It’s made by one guy, David Galindo, and published by indie devs, Vertigo Gaming.
What is it, exactly? Well, it is a cooking sim – kind of. You own a restaurant in an office building, and at the beginning, it’s a shithole. You can buy a few items, but you have limited resources, so you want to be careful with what you buy. Every item has its pros and cons, such as Unappreciated (negative) which means a customer won’t tip with the item, Menu Rot (negative) which will give your buzz a hit if you have it on your menu for more than two days, The Big Tipper (positive) which is self-explanatory, and The Health Nuts (positive) which is a health food that is ‘somehow not gross’. Oh, and buzz is how much people are talking about your restaurant, and you can have both positive and negative buzz, and obviously, you can put foods on your menu and do actions that will affect your buzz.
In the beginning, you can have up to four items on your menu (you have to have at least three) and four customers at one time. You go throughout a day serving customers by typing letters that correspond with the ingredients they want for their order. For example, the hamburger. They tell you how many patties they want (you start out with only meat and later can upgrade to meat and chicken), and you tap M in accordance to that. Later, after the burger is grilled (you have a color meter telling you when it’s cooking, when it’s done, and when it’s on fire), the customer tells you which burger s/he wants, say the Ryan Davis,* which is meat, bacon, two cheese, and tomatoes, and you quickly type M, B, CC, T. Here’s a funny note – I have a QWERTY keyboard, but I use the Dvorak keyboard system, so I can’t look at the keyboard as I’m typing. That makes for some interesting brain farts when I have to use a lesser-used key like Q. Which is the X key for the rest of you.
Anyway, I took to CSD like a duck to water, and it was my go-to game when I just wanted to relax. Yeah, it’s fast-paced, but once you know the menu items, it’s just a matter of typing and timing. I type fast, and i have a good memory, so it became fairly easy for me once I learned all the menu items. OK, some items such as soup I still avoid because it’s a bitch, but in general, most of the items became familiar to me and thus, easy to serve. Plus, the game is meditative, and I found myself getting into the CSD zone any time I played.
Some of the basics: You are trying to become a platinum-star restaurant, and there are several requirements you have to fulfill in order to receive each star (there are four before platinum). For example, there’s a health inspector who checks your restaurant from time to time to make sure you do your chores, and you have to pass a certain number of them at each star level. The one negative to the game is that you have to do twenty days for each star, and it becomes tedious after meeting the rest of the requirements to grind out what are essentially meaningless days. That’s a minor complaint, and it doesn’t bother me that much, obviously, as I’ve played over a hundred hours of the game. Each day is compressed into roughly ten minutes, and you have two rush hours – noon and six at night. You will have more or less customers based on your buzz, and you get bonus money if you achieve a perfect day.
In addition, there are catering jobs and other events that I don’t want to spoil for you. The former just allows you to make some extra cash whereas the latter…well, I’ll let you discover that for yourself. There are bets you can take, both from Crazy Dave and the daily bet. Those, too, give you money, but you have to either bet money ($300 with Dave) or a silver ticket (for the daily bet) and win the bet (the daily bet is always making a certain number of combos. Dave’s are more varied, including making a hundred dollars in tips and not having one bad order). There are different equipment you can buy, and several make your chores easier, which is good because the chores get tedious, especially when you have to do them during rush hour.
There are other quirks to the game such as dating people for whom you cook their favorite foods, funny emails, Steam challenges, burglaries, and VIP customers who will only order certain foods. I didn’t care for most of these, but they fall in the category of irritants, not absolute negatives.
I haven’t even mentioned rush hour yet, mostly because I didn’t find them to be that difficult after I’d played the game for a few hours. But, it can be overwhelming because you have to serve customers constantly, and the more stars you have, the more customers you can serve at one time. You start with four serving stations and end up with eight. You start out with four foods you can have on your menu at one time and end up with six. I feel the game has a steep learning curve in the beginning, but once you get accustomed to the pace and the style, the following additions are easier to handle. There’s a lot to learn, but you don’t have to incorporate everything from the start; indeed, you don’t have enough money to implement everything right away. You start with $7,500, and that can disappear in a heartbeat as you buy what you need to operate.
I 100%’ed the game, garnering every achievement along the way. Then, they came out with an Extreme Difficulty Mode which starts you out with more customers to begin with and it’s MUCH more frenetic overall. I finished that, too, and received the additional achievements as well. I’m a hardcore CSD’er, muthafuckahs! The picture at the top of the post is from my platinum-star restaurant in EDM. At this point, there isn’t much challenge to the game for me, but I still enjoy knocking out a day or two now and again.
I enjoyed the hell out of CSD. There’s a lot to do, and it doesn’t take itself too seriously. It’s enraging when I fuck up on the last order, but nothing compares to the thrill of finishing a perfect day. It’s fun and addictive, and as I said, for me, fairly low stress when I play. It’s also currently on sale for 60% off at Steam during their yearly summer sale. $3.99 is a steal. Go buy it now!
*Named for the Giant Bomb writer, Ryan Davis before he passed away because he signal-boosted CSD.