Before Sweet Bakery Tycoon was Food Truck Tycoon, Baltoro Games’ first attempt at an accessible Diner Dash-style catering sim. Within it, you can see an early bake of the ideas that would later solidify in Sweet Bakery Tycoon. You can also see how Baltoro Games will surely use the formula to create a multitude of similar games. A Greggs collaboration has to be on the cards.
Food Truck Tycoon has a simple aim: what if all of the intricacies and complications of owning a catering business could be mapped to a few buttons? We’ve watched Season One and Two of The Bear: we know it’s anything but simple. But Food Truck Tycoon strips out the extraneous stuff like business management, cooking and stockpiling ingredients, and sticks purely to food prep. Imagine working as a front-of-house worker at a Subway, where ingredients magically refresh, and you’ve got the essence of Food Truck Tycoon.
The result is something like a rhythm action game. Soda is made with two taps of the LB button, and then a single press of the LT button. Desserts are constructed with a hold of RB and then a tap of RT. Chips are fried with L3, while hot dogs, corn dogs and garlic bread are cooked and served onto plates with the direction buttons and A.
Virtually every button on that gamepad gets a workout, but you don’t need to learn them all at once. Hot dogs, condiments, bread and soda are the only ingredients to worry about at first, but as level after level passes, they get supplemented with something new. Salad, desserts and corn dogs get thrown into the mix, all with the intention of making you multitask. It’s the classic trick of rubbing your belly while patting your head, as you attempt to turn the making of hot dogs and soda into something like a reflex action.
Food Truck Tycoon applies pressure by having customers arrive with multiple orders, each with multiple ingredients, and then queuing those customers up. Make mistakes and the sense of being overwhelmed arrives quickly. Each order has a best-before date, and the customer can leave if their order isn’t satisfied in a short timeframe.
You might feel the beads of sweat rising on your forehead just by reading this. But it’s not as bad as it sounds. Sweet Bakery Tycoon fans should know that Food Truck Tycoon is a notch or two easier than its sequel, and Diner Dash/Overcooked!/Cooking Mama fans should also be aware that this is on the sedate side. That’s because Food Truck Tycoon gives you all the tools you might need, and doesn’t do much to overlap its customers.
Take the auto-aim that Food Truck Tycoon employs. The UI remembers which plate you last focused on, and snaps back to it as soon as you return to the plates. That matches how we tended to play each level: we’d get one plate done before moving onto the next. It’s reassuring to know that Food Truck Tycoon has your back, and plays by consistent rules that rarely mean you will make a mistake.
It’s also inordinately generous. Accidentally add a sausage to a plate that already has a sausage? Food Truck Tycoon knows that this is a one-sausage-per-person game and won’t let you make the obvious error. Had a corn dog sitting on a plate, unordered, for half of the level? Again, no need to worry. Nothing seems to cool down in Food Truck Tycoon (although a dessert can melt, so presumably we’re in a warmer climate), and customers aren’t picky. You can feed a hungry customer with a cold sausage and they’ll be happy as Larry.
This is a double-edged spatula. Once you become a whizz with the controls, you can pump out meals in a matter of milliseconds. We had a queue of sausages and corn dogs sitting on plates at all times, and a rack of four chips waiting too. We were ready for anything that the game threw at us, tapping at the buttons on our gamepad like some kind of savant. We were seeing it in our sleep: sequences of button presses that would create salad garnishes and ketchup-covered dogs (the customers in Food Truck Tycoon are absolute Philistines, eating salad with ketchup, bread on its own, and other such monstrosities).
It’s relaxing in its own way, and somewhat mindless. Which is where that other spatula edge comes into play. It’s slightly too mindless, and we reached a point – only about a third of the way through Food Truck Tycoon – where nothing could challenge us. We emerged with three-stars every time, as we cleared a customer before another could turn up. We felt like Tom Cruise in Cocktail. It dearly needed more complicated meals and interactions, more overlapping customers to make us really sweat.
But for all the easiness and lack of challenge, there was still a compulsion. Part of that’s down to the upgrade system, which allows you to upgrade the number of serving dishes, cones of chips that you can hold, and more. They made the game easier and more lucrative, with cash pumping into our coffers to buy yet more upgrades – just when we didn’t need it to be any easier. But it was still satisfying, and the ever-increasing cash tally was a nice motivator.
There’s also a slew of special challenges and extra levels which try (and ultimately fail) to make things harder. But it’s great that they’re there, coming with their own slight changes to the rules. Much like Sweet Bakery Tycoon, we completed Food Truck Tycoon for reasons that we couldn’t properly explain, likely tied to the ease and muscle-memory of making meals.
If Food Truck Tycoon has you salivating, then we’d probably point you to Sweet Bakery Tycoon instead. It’s got a better balance to it, expecting you to put at least a little bit of focus and effort into your food preparation. But should you complete that game and have an urge for seconds, then Food Truck Tycoon is a reasonably delicious more-of-the-same.