Transporting the dining experience to the gaming world has come in various forms over the years, with the serving and cleaning up aspect covered in Diner Dash, the Cooking Mama series focusing on the preparation of meals, and the Overcooked! titles showcasing just how frantic being a chef can be. But what if there was a game that took a selection of ingredients from each of those aforementioned titles? Well, I think it’s safe to say Cook, Serve, Delicious! 2!! on Xbox One ticks that box.
Anyone can take a mixture of ingredients from different recipes and throw them together; usually leading to a disastrous creation like a sponge cake filled with beans or something. Fortunately for developers Vertigo Gaming, they’ve already had one bash at serving up a tasty meal in the original Cook, Serve, Delicious!, so now it’s time to see if the recipe has been tweaked enough for the sequel to be a succulent delight, or if that bean cake is a more appetising choice after all.
Cook, Serve, Delicious! 2!! (CSD 2) is best described as a hardcore restaurant sim, which sees you starting out a restaurant from scratch. The popular restaurant you may, or may not, have worked hard on in the previous game is no more after some shenanigans at SherriSoda Tower leads to a full on police assault to take down the greedy executives, with no business within surviving the crackdown. Setting up home in Teragon Tower now, you’ll have to begin with a 0 star establishment and regain your status in the culinary world. It’s a novel little story to give purpose to what you’re doing, however most will probably forget it once the tale has been read.
The aim in the lengthy campaign mode is to create a buzz for the new restaurant by ensuring a high quality service each day, fulfilling the needs of whoever walks through the door and reinvesting money earned on fresh menu options. As the cash flow is limited, you can work as a chef for hire in one of 30+ other restaurants in the tower, garnering medals and a wage, then spending the income on your improvements. I love how much variety there is in these places, with a coffee shop testing your barista skills, a sports bar full of corndogs and the like, and a Chinese themed eatery, to name just a few.
To get a grip on the gameplay, the basics are taught to us through a handful of tutorials ranging from taking orders that queue up on the UI to the prepping of food to ensure the food goes out swiftly. In short, you’ll have a limited amount of time to find out specifically what the customer wants and then construct whatever’s needed. For example, if they require a burger then the meat has to be cooked initially, before placing it on a bun and adding the exact toppings they ask for. This can lead to some very time-consuming orders and managing your time is crucial to avoid any angry feedback.
There’s a real element of strategy here because there aren’t many Holding Stations to prep certain foods on, hence you must weigh up which items should be ready to go in bulk and which ones are fine to make separately. The amount of time customers are willing to wait varies, but putting side orders and such in Holding Station slots can prolong this significantly, so it’s about deciding how best to manage the space without leaving yourself in the lurch with the entrees.
One thing that’s bugged me throughout though is how complex the controls are, given that your business lives and dies on efficiency. The X button takes an order, the Y button lets you choose a slot from prepping stations and the A button serves/cooks whatever has been conjured up; all of which is fine. It’s when the complex meals are factored in that everything becomes ridiculously tricky with lists of toppings, sauces and extras to sift through. There’ll be a page of food items and choosing from this requires a trigger press in tandem with the displayed face button, before cycling through to another set of items to add more and then a third cycle on occasion, in order to meet a single person’s demands.
Now just imagine messing about and trying to decipher which input is needed for the components of the meal in the middle of rush hour. Oh yeah, that’s when the order queue fills up thick and fast, with customers likely to just walk out as you are horrifically overwhelmed. Never have I ever had an adrenaline rush that comes close to the feeling CSD 2 provides whilst you’re frantically sending out food at a speed only The Flash could relate to. And that’s how it hooks you in. You see, the lack of intuitive controls is half the reason that it ends up being so incredibly satisfying to pull off a miraculous shift with no disgruntled customers.
Doing well also sees your chef rank increase and this in turn can bring about a higher star rating, which unlocks more decorative items for the Cook, Serve, Delicious! restaurant and additional food options for the menu. The wide variety of food and drink options available to acquire through levelling up, or purchased via in-game cash, is noteworthy; tiramisu, hot wings, chimichangas, sushi, pizzas, donuts and so much more, each providing boosts and drawbacks for including them on the menu. I don’t care for the cosmetic items though; simply due to how horrendous the editing tools are when trying to renovate the space you own. It’s a real chore to get the hang of.
And speaking of chores, these are little extra activities that pop up on your job list mid-shift e.g. flushing the toilets, putting out the bins and setting rat traps. Although the completion of an activity is usually done by just the pressing of a few buttons in the right order, it keeps you on your toes and you really don’t want the negative buzz a failed/ignored chore brings. That’s a life lesson if ever there was one – always do your chores, kids.
There’s nothing else to do outside of the campaign, but there are different modes to enjoy. Sort of. The general play for the day stays the same, however the Zen mode takes away rush hours and time worries, whilst the Classic mode removes the boosts brought about by the foods on the menu. For the true sadists, there’s also a Stress mode that comes at you full throttle with tons of inpatient customers to serve one after the other. It’s utter hell, and has often left me crying in the corner with half a dozen donuts for company. If you want though, you could share the pain in local split-screen co-op as the whole game allows for this possibility.
If you’re now picturing me stuffing donuts into my mouth, which are covered in tears for extra saltiness, then be prepared for the visuals in CSD 2, for they’ll probably look worse than you can imagine. Everything within the environments appears as if it’s been cut out and stuck on the screen, ensuring the overall aesthetic is below par for an Xbox One title. Some of the foods come across pretty well in design, but mostly it’s not great.
That’s not a huge problem though is it? And aside from the awkward controls and poor editing tools that make life incredibly tough, there’s not anything major to complain about. Cook, Serve, Delicious! 2!! is an addictive culinary experience that puts budding chefs through their paces. It’s as much fun working in your own restaurant as it is lend your skills in various other establishments and the amount of different foods present is to be applauded. While you may find it difficult, the rewarding nature makes it all worthwhile in the end.
Given that it’s priced at just over a tenner, there’s enjoyment aplenty to be found in Cook, Serve, Delicious! 2!! on Xbox One… once you get your head around the damn control scheme of course.