Impressions: Cook, Serve, Delicious!

By Graham Smith on January 27th, 2014 at 5:00 pm.

A couple of weeks ago I said that Nidhogg was to swordfighting as Sensible Soccer was to football. Can I repeat myself, and say that Cook, Serve, Delicious! is to the service industry as Typing of the Dead is to zombie-killing? It’s Typing of the Chef. A game concerned not with simulating its actions accurately, but in capturing the core idea of those actions cleanly. In this case, running a restaurant, from preparing the food to purchasing the equipment.

The equipment comes first – a deep-fat fryer, a tip jar, maybe a stove – and then some food items for your menu. To begin with, you’re limited to fatty fast foods. I stocked my menu with burgers, corn dogs, chicken wings, and set my eye on saving enough money to add a salad.

Then you start your day. A customer walks in and asks for what they want: can I have a burger please, with three meat patties? You accept their order and press M three times to pop the patties on the grill. M-M-M. Then you wait.

Ding! They’re ready. The customer tells you they want 3x meat, bacon and tomatoes. You can select those ingredients with the mouse but it’s not fast enough, so you use the shortcut keys. M-M-M-B-T. Enter to serve and the customer is on its way.

Easy, yeah?

Another customer trickles in, then another. You throw out some garbage – up arrow, right arrow, up arrow, right arrow, S to sanitize your hands afterwards. A few more customers.

RUSH HOUR! Rush hour is beginning. A customer comes in. Burger? M-M. Another customer. A baked potato? Pop it in the oven. Another customer! A salad? Cheese. Onions and carrots. Bacon and croutons. C-O-B. The dishes need doing! Left arrow, right arrow, left arrow, right arrow, up arrow. Left-right-left-right-up. Wait, the burgers! The burgers are done! But you have to finish the dishes first, and you do. Two meat patties, two cheeses, bacon, lettuce, tomatoes. M-M-C-B-L-T. Wait, what – the customer left unhappy. Shit, two cheeses! C-C! Too late.

Also that baked potato is burnt to a crisp. And another customer you hadn’t even started to serve got bored waiting and has left. And you need to change the rat trap.

In other words, it’s Tapper. Customers come in and you need to rapidly serve them. It zooms in a little deeper, as each item on your menu requires a different set of button presses to correctly apply the right toppings and meet your patrons desires. It sprays out a little wider, as the management-lite mechanics surrounding each day give you a sense of progression, as you work towards a better menu, more equipment, higher tips, and your first restaurant star.

A simple thing, yeah?

I’ve been returning to it every night, after I’m done with my real world work, for a few more days through. There’s a lovely pace to it – the lulls, the rush hour sprints at lunch and dinner, the mad inconvenience any time you need to perform a chore. Bashing out a bunch of orders perfectly at rapid speed, ramping up your combo multiplier for getting all those orders perfect, feels lovely.

I think there’s meant to be something aspirational about it. You’re doing all the jobs of running a restaurant, from taking the bins out to preparing the food, but you also own your own business. Right now, early in the game, all of the people who visit my place look working class. One guy has holes in his clothes. I think I’m meant to be working towards the point where I can wallpaper those stained walls, replace the dirty fast food on my menu with sushi and lobster, and price these people out the door.

I don’t want to do that though. I like my dingy little restaurant as it is. I don’t want to lose touch with my roots, you know? Or my root vegetables.

But yeah, it’s a simple thing. Cook, Serve, Delicious! feels simple enough that I reflexively want to over-complicate my enjoyment of it. The truth is, there’s also a mobile version of the game. Working a single day is designed to fit the length of a long queue or a bus journey. I don’t take my desktop PC on the bus, but I value those experiences even when they’re tied to my desk. Cook, Serve, Delicious! is a game I play during mental bus journeys, when I want to pass the time between other pieces of work. One friend suggested it was like Magicka but for conjuring foodstuffs, another compared it to Receiver’s weapons and their careful button-mapping. I’ve begun thinking of it like real-life baking: a simple tasks it’s satisfying and relaxing to perform well.

Also it doesn’t make me fat. 10/10.

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29 Comments »

  1. lomaxgnome says:

    One thing is for sure, CSD doesn’t screw around. Anyone expecting a “casual” game will be quickly thrashed, it’s one of the most intense and high paced games out there. Dark Souls at McDonalds.

    • TechnicalBen says:

      I cannot bring myself to play Papers Please as it replicates the real horrors of a stressful and possibly important paperwork job. It brings back too many flashbacks to real work.

      But this looks like something I could play. I loved my work in a pizza delivery place. So bring on the “stress” of cooking, it’s all tasty and great at the end of the day. :)

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        Llewyn says:

        Though that’s only the beginning of the horrors of Papers, Please…

    • RegisteredUser says:

      Just that I hated Dark Souls with a passion for being a cruel dick, whereas you actually CAN get a perfect day in CSD without any problem. And then get rewarded 250$ for that as well.
      Battles / days are actually beatable on the first try. Etc.

    • mr.black says:

      Corr. You utterly unnecessary capitalised “dark souls”.

  2. Frank says:

    Nice to see chubigans ( = Vertigo Gaming) getting some coverage!

  3. chiablo says:

    Cook, Serve, Delicious is an absolutely brilliant game, but I honestly think the iOS version is better. The problem with the PC version is that some of the shortcut keys make no sense, but there’s no easy fix for it.

    Pizza in C,S,D is infuriating. Each topping has a keyboard shortcut, and with Pizza there are a crap-ton of them. The duplicate starting letters are the frustrating part; both Olive and Onion have the same starting letter (O), so they have to put Onions on the N key, and Olives on the V key. Makes complete sense when you think about it, but when you need to fill this order in a split-second is where problems happen. Part of the challenge of the game is to memorize all of the shortcuts, but I wish they would have just not included the toppings with duplicate first letters, or group them (Olives+Onions).

    The game is awesome though, just avoid putting Pizza and Ice Cream on your menu and you’ll have a much better time.

    • BisonHero says:

      I remember one time the game challenged me to have a Baked Potato and Nachos on the menu at the same time. They both have sour cream as an ingredient, but they’re different letters! That day went terribly. Sour cream is S on the baked potato, but on the nachos S is already used for shrimp, so sour cream is C.
      In general, once you upgrade Baked Potato and Nachos, they get wicked complicated, yet aren’t even worth all that much money. Pizza and Pasta also get more complicated, but at least you get some cash for those.

    • Krupp says:

      You can remap the keys for every food/topping and what have you in the view/buy food menu.

      • TechnicalBen says:

        You can remap the keys? Game of the year!

        • dvandersluis says:

          Definitely – I remapped lasagna’s ingredients so that making one is as easy as ASDFASDFASDF – much quicker than having to remember PSCR.

          • BisonHero says:

            That sounds like it trivializes the game. Lasagna isn’t even that hard. I don’t know why the game gave it the “complicated recipe” tag, when it has like, the fewest ingredients in almost the whole game, and only has 4 recipes, and the 4th one is merely a combination of the first 3.
            Now, soup. Soup is totally fucked. And kabobs can screw right off.

    • Terragot says:

      Also, putting onions on pizza is a sin.

    • RegisteredUser says:

      Steam version allows remap, I am not sure the Desura does.
      Caveat emptor.

    • penryn says:

      I have this for my phone, so I don’t have to deal with the pain, but I used to work at a pizza place and you know what? That’s how it was. Onions were O, not N, but Olives were K (of all things), Salami was L, etc.

  4. Verio says:

    This is one of my favorite games of 2013. Another commenter said this above:
    ” Dark Souls at McDonalds”

    …and I couldn’t agree more. Mastering this game is incredibly satisfying. For about a month, this was an amazing source of zen relaxation every night, after the soul crushing BS at work, after putting the kid to sleep, this game and a quality IPA were perfect.

    If you want to see it in action before buying, this Quick Look at Giant Bomb (my other favorite gaming journalism site) sold me on the game: http://www.giantbomb.com/videos/quick-look-cook-serve-delicious/2300-6702/

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      Llewyn says:

      There’s also a demo on the developer’s site.

    • chiablo says:

      Giant Bomb (Ryan Davis in particular) is the reason he is still able to make games and update Cook, Serve, Delicious: http://www.vertigogaming.net/blog/?p=2476

      When I first read this I realized how big of an impact niche gaming sites like Rock, Paper, Shotgun and GiantBomb can have on indie developers and it brought me to tears. Keep doing what you’re doing RPS.

      • Verio says:

        Holy crap, thanks for linking that. I bought CSD in October or so after stumbling across the QL in one of the myriad tribute-to-Ryan-Davis threads on Giant Bomb. I laughed my ass off at the quick look and went and bought it, then a few days later I saw the burger named after Ryan and had a little moment, since 1) he had passed away just a few months prior, and 2) since here I was after having specifically bought the game because of that quick look. It was a hell of a thing to see that the quick look had meant something to the dev as well.

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    HKEY_LOVECRAFT says:

    Consider reading Part V of the Gamasutra article regarding Steam Sales and its direct impact on Vertigo Gaming, which stands in stark contrast to Jason Rohrer’s recent comments on sales and pricing:

    http://www.gamasutra.com/blogs/DavidGalindo/20140109/208337/How_much_do_indie_PC_devs_make_anyways_Part_V.php

    As a long-time fan of David’s output, it was an extremely interesting behind-the-scenes view of indie development, especially regarding finances and what can be considered a ‘success.’

  6. Mr Chug says:

    Bought this a while ago and played it non-stop, but took a break for a couple of months and on coming back I found I’d lost the muscle memory required to run the kitchen at the level required by how far I’d progressed. This has made me determined to jump back in to get that 3rd star though, 10/10 would develop RSI again.

  7. yoga4dogs says:

    As an actual IRL linecook this game is soul crushing. I bought it when it came out wanting to see how it compared to real life. Its just as stressful and infuriating as my job is! Except I don’t have to wash my hands as much. Nailed it. Now I can my can shitty work day can never end.

    I mean this as a positive. The dev totally pegged the energy and sense of the job.

    • TechnicalBen says:

      Ah, different experiences results in different feelings towards the game. See my post at the top. I feel for you, I really do. Hope you get to retire and relax one day!

    • KitchenDon says:

      I feel the same way, yoga4dogs. I’ve worked as a cook for 25 years and this game really nails the feeling of working in a busy kitchen. Same tension, same repetitive processes, same juggling of orders. I love the game but I can only play in short sessions because I start to feel a little shell shocked. :)

  8. Ross Angus says:

    I’ve just listened to Rum Doings and John mentioned that King.com want to trademark “Delicious!”. In which case, I guess this game is the new Banner Saga.

  9. Kitsunin says:

    Dang I was not expecting this. Talk about kinaesthetic perfection with a topic I did not expect. Fingers dancing across the keys as you put the ingredients in the pot. Balancing the timing of quick dishes with long ones so everyone winds up getting served and you don’t overburden yourself all at once (like putting three potatoes in the oven at the exact same time). Double checking orders and quick-keys as you second-guess your memory. The feeling of stress during a rush. It really all works so wonderfully.

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    strangeloup says:

    I really, really like this and I’m not sure why. Maybe because when you get good at it, your fingers move across the keys with the speed of a movie hacker, and it’s a bit like a reverse Matrix: you don’t see the game as food orders anymore, you just see the code.

  11. RegisteredUser says:

    I would use this game as a job assessment tool in a heartbeat given its components and relevance for certain job types.

  12. Kubrick Stare Nun says:

    3 random words in the title? King is totally gonna sue them.