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.
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.