For a game in the “turn your zero-star, rat-infested craphole into a gleaming bastion of gourmet food” genre, Cook, Serve, Delicious certainly crams in a lot. Apart from cooking, you have to wash dishes, clean toilets, and accurately describe robbers holding you up—all while your customers are still ordering from you. It’s enough to melt your brain, really.
CSD has a simple premise, but forces you to make split-second decisions and prioritize. Each food is prepared using a minigame of typing the right keys in the right order. Different dishes require different preparation and cook times—chicken, say, must be tenderized precisely six times—so ordering and time management is crucial. There’s also a tradeoff between how difficult a dish is to make, and how much it is worth, so slacking off isn’t always the best plan.
But what sets CSD apart are the decisions you make when the restaurant’s doors are closed. Buzz—your restaurant’s popularity—is the driving force in determining your success, and is a wonderfully fun mechanic. It’s influenced by your menu and actions, and affects how many orders you’ll have, and therefore how much money you’ll make. Too many fatty foods on the menu, for example, will lower the popularity of your restaurant because hey, apparently nobody wants to live on corn dogs and beer. Conversely, having a restaurant with healthy dishes and a perfect hygiene record will increase popularity and sales. Consequently, buzz manipulation is a helpful strategy for perfect streaks.
As with any restaurant sim, there’s some repetition, and grinding becomes predictable. CSD counters it well with randomized daily challenges, such as bets and catering events. The pace and soundtrack also vary by the time of day, although given how long CSD is—each restaurant star requires twenty game-days of work—this does wear out its welcome. However, it’s worth sticking to, as each level offers new recipes, perks and challenges, and it’s really pleasing to see how you improve.
Ultimately, Cook, Serve, Delicious! is one of the best-rounded restaurant sims available. There’s so much the game throws at you, and the additional challenges make it engaging and surprisingly satisfying.
This review was originally published on Short Game Review.