Cook, Serve, Delicious: Was It Worth It?
Welcome to the third episode of Was It Worth It?, the part-podcast, part-review show by PirateTom (Tim) and CheesyDanish (Dane). This week, we played Cook, Serve, Delicious. This may be the longest conversation about virtual food preparation you’ve ever heard! You’ll find out if this game’s eclectic, varied soundtrack or challenging, fulfilling gameplay is enough to win us over, despite the extreme level of repetition and the unfortunately boring art style. And will we actually agree with each other in the end? Give the below audio a listen to find out!
Video & Transcription:
Tim: Hey everyone, this is PirateTom!
Dane: This is CheesyDanish!
Tim: And welcome to Was It Worth It?, the part-podcast, part-review show where we take a cheap indie game and, instead of giving it a one through five star rating, we decide “was it worth the cost?”
Dane: And this show is brought to you by Sharctank Media.
Tim: Sharctank Media: It’s fresh!™
Tim: That’s not our actual–
Dane: Yeah, I think we’re gonna get a cease and desist by Subway, you know. *laughs*
Tim: *laughs* So what game did we play this week, my friend?
Dane: We played Cook, Serve, Delicious.
Dane: It is a food service simulation game developed by Vertigo Gaming. Tim and I picked it up on Steam for $10. Cook, Service, Delicious is a game much like the popular browser or smart phone food service games that you may have heard of. Like the ones where you’re flipping pancakes, cooking burgers, or serving pizzas to various customers. I mentioned this in the last episode, but the reason I was really excited to play this one is because I figured, for a full game on Steam with the price of $10, there must be something about it that makes it a little more in-depth. Something that sets it apart from the other games.
Tim: Yeah and, you know, to be honest with you, I’ve played a lot of these food service simulation type games and, not only just the cheesy little flash games, but also the … you know, the Big Fish games that have a higher production quality than just the cheap ones. And it seems like this game took a lot of the features from those games and kind of simplified them, but then put them all together. And what I mean by that is: most of those games focus on one specific thing, and this game takes all of those different things and just kind of simplifies them and puts them all together. Instead of having a game that’s just you serving burgers, in this game you serve burgers, and you manage the store, and you, you know, buy recipes, and you do this, and you do that, and you do catering events and whatnot, whereas other games, you’re focused on one specific task, whereas this one has several different tasks, but they’re all a little simpler than the other games.
Dane: Right, I imagine it would be a little crazy if it had every single aspect of those games, with all of the complexities.
Tim: It would be extremely difficult! *laughs*
Dane: *laughs* Well, I still feel like this game does get pretty challenging. As a matter of fact, I think that is my favorite aspect of this game. I mean, depending on how popular your restaurant is, and how you’ve put together your menu, you can be building a multitude of complex dishes for tons of customers who are flooding into your restaurant, especially during the afternoon and evening rush hours, which can certainly get overwhelming! But at the same time, if you’ve gotten really good at making the various dishes you put on your menu, and managing your time correctly, you can really kick ass and feel awesome in the process. And, of course, you’re rewarded for it with more money earned, and if you successfully serve every order perfectly in a single day, you get a bonus. Once again, it’s not always easy if you choose to play it like that, but it’s really fun and fulfilling, at least in my opinion.
Tim: Yeah, I would agree with that for the most part, but there were times when the game would just screw you over with the wrong chore at the wrong time, or like, you know, you get all five or six customers in a row are all the hardest dish or the one dish that you don’t know as well as the others, and there’s just situations that can come up and screw you if you don’t have every dish planned perfectly. And even in some cases it’s like … there are some dishes that, you know, sure they make money, but they’re kind of annoying … like wine.
Dane: Yeah, there were some dishes where they would have a much higher price point than all of your other dishes, but they took so much extra work that it almost wasn’t worth it, I do agree with you there. Sometimes I would just have those perfect moments, where I would have a full rush hour where I felt like I was on fire. And there was, there was just…there was kind of a rush. There was a good feeling from that, where I was just knocking out orders left and right and it was just, it was really enjoyable when, I guess, the stars aligned, so to speak.
Tim: No, I know where you’re coming from and I get what you’re saying. There were those times where you’re just like: *drum noise with mouth* and just knocking out, you know, just hitting home run after home run and it did feel pretty sweet, but at the same time, I felt like those were rare.
Dane: Well, I mean, another thing about the game that I really liked, and I guess this is another part of it that I feel made it a little more in-depth and kind of set it apart from the other food service games, I liked that you could check your e-mails in the game. You kind of had “e-mail service”, quote unquote, and there was always something funny or interesting in there. Whether it be a bet to get, you know, 40 perfect, consecutive orders the next day, which earns you some extra cash, or if you get a hilarious passive aggressive e-mail from one of the people who work in the office building that your restaurant’s located in.
Tim: Yeah, I know what you mean. There were a lot of gems, but at the same time some of them were just stupid. It almost felt like real life where you’re just checking through spam or whatever, you know, you’re just like “oh, I don’t know why this guy’s talking about his toenails, I don’t care!”
Dane: *laughs* But I feel like you have to appreciate the reality of that, you know?
Tim: No, yeah, I agree.
Dane: Yeah, I think that there was some good humor there, though, like the person or people who were kind of writing some of those e-mails or making some of those jokes, some of them actually made me laugh out loud, and I think that’s actually pretty impressive for kind of a little indie game where you were expecting to make pizzas but you’re reading a silly e-mail with a horoscope that made you laugh your ass off.
Tim: Yeah, I agree, there were some e-mails that made me laugh out loud. I think there was a lot of flavor in this game in that respect and, yeah, it was enjoyable for me as well.
Dane: Totally! There’s also a lot of control over what goes into your menu. And each menu item has its own bonuses and penalties, requiring you to be pretty smart with the recipes that you choose. In an effort to really maximize the bonuses and get more attention to your restaurant on any given day, like, you really have to build your menu pretty intelligently.
For instance, if you have a lot of really healthy items, items that the game deems healthier than others, you can actually really maximize the buzz to your restaurant, which is the appeal: how many people you’ll actually get coming in that day. Which can actually be really overwhelming, like we mentioned before, but also really lucrative, which is super cool! It’ll even penalize you if you use some of the same menu items for more than two days in a row, which actually forces you to switch your menu around, whether you want to or not, which, you know, that might seem like a pain, but it actually freshens up the gameplay.
Tim: Yeah, that’s true. My experiences were that I did a lot of experimenting with that kind of stuff and what I found is that it honestly didn’t make a huge difference. The most money I made was when I used coffee, soda, and salads. Because I could just blast through salads, I knew every button for every combination of salads.
Dane: Right, it’s not like you have to wait for a salad to cook.
Tim: Exactly, and a salad, a fully upgraded salad is a decent profit, and people tip on them, so what happens when you have coffee, soda, and salad is, no matter what, every rush hour, you’re only getting salads. Every single customer is getting salads, which means a ton of profit, back to back to back, and I’m getting perfect days every day because how could you mess up soda, coffee, or salad, you know what I mean? It’s just like, it may have been 90 percent efficient on what I could have earned if I had wine and steak on my menu, but it’s like, it’s so much easier. And I almost think that-
Dane: Yeah, I know what you mean, it’s definitely, it’s efficiency versus variety. I get the appeal of wanting to just keep it efficient: you found something that works, stick with it. In my case, I try and force myself to switch things up every once in a while, otherwise I’ll get sick of the game.
To stick with some of the positive aspects of the game, something I did wanna mention is: the music, composed by Jonathan Geer, is great! I think it really fits the theme of the game and, while you do end up hearing the same tracks over and over, they’re fun and they’re really well composed! Something I liked was, when you have a lunch or dinner rush and you’re slammed with orders, the music gets really fast paced and intense and it’s so jazzy! It’s just really fun to listen to, and that was a good touch. It’s also worth noting that the bed music that you’re hearing right now is from the game’s original soundtrack, which can be purchased on the website bandcamp.com for $3.
Tim: Yeah, I think that in a vacuum, if you listen to each track individually, it’s pretty good. I actually had an issue with the way it changed throughout the day. Like, it had a large variety of styles, but it almost … you know, a very eclectic variety of styles. And, you know, sometimes it would switch from one to another and it didn’t make sense to me why, and it was distracting almost-
Tim: Yeah, like, either the tempo would change or, yeah, I did like the rush hour thing, like you said, how it gets really high tempo, really, you know, it actually helped, you know, it was almost like: okay, gotta go, gotta go, gotta go fast or whatever, but there were parts of the day where it was almost distracting. I’d try to figure out what songs were used at what point but I couldn’t come up with a pattern exactly.
Dane: Yeah, I think it was just random. Honestly, I think there’s like 20 tracks or so, maybe not 20, maybe 12 or so, and it just kind of, it plays them randomly.
Tim: Yeah, and that, to me, was a little distracting.
Tim: But I did enjoy them all individually, like I said! I think it was well done, but I just like, I felt like, I didn’t like the randomness of the music.
Dane: Yeah, I could see that. That’s fair, I mean, outside of the game, especially, the music is admirable, because like you mentioned, there are so many different styles. And a lot of them kind of old school kind of styles, you know classic styles, you know, with really like, classic sounding, like up-right bass you can really hear. Really fast paced and a lot of good string sections and that sort of thing and the composer really just knocked it out of the park.
Tim: Yeah, I would agree with that.
Dane: So, you know, we’ve mentioned a few things that we liked, or were kind of in the middle on with this game.
To move onto maybe least favorite aspects of the game … for me at least, here’s the big thing: The game is extremely repetitive. In order to progress in the game, you need to meet a certain number of requirements on a checklist. Once they’re met, your star rating goes up and you get a new checklist. With a star rating upgrade, you gain access to a few new things, like some special recipes … eventually you get to do an Iron Chef style tournament. They don’t really add anything new to the gameplay that isn’t just churning out orders for customers.
Tim: I mean, this game is the definition of grinding, like–
Tim: I think it could have been done a lot better if they didn’t have the minimum day requirement for a star move up. Because it’s like, okay, it’s a checklist of eight things and, you know, some of these things actually matter, like do this number of catering events, have this number of things on your menu, purchase this many … you know, have served this many perfect days, you know, something like that that’s actually meaningful. But when it’s just minimum 20 days to move up–
Tim: I mean, when 12 of the 20, you’ve checked off everything on the list already, and you’re just doing it to get those days, it is the definition of grinding. They’re just forcing you to, for no reason, go through level after level after level just to take that little bit of a leap up.
Tim: And it’s not even like it’s a huge leap, it’s like, yeah, okay, I hit one star, I can now do this, and I get eight new recipes that I can buy, but at the same time it’s like, so what? Like–
Dane: Yeah, and I know what you’re thinking: the complaint that the game makes you serve food to customers too much, when the point of the game is to serve food to customers, I know you’re thinking that that complaint sounds a little unfair, because, you know, what else could they have put into a food service game that isn’t serving food? Well, I think it wouldn’t have been as noticeable how chore-like and repetitive the game is if, like Tim just said, the individual days of business weren’t so long and it didn’t require you to power through 20 of them just to get a star upgrade.
For instance, according to Steam, I’ve played this game for over 20 hours, and I’m just a three star restaurant … out of five! And, you know, there are still features in the game that are locked, that I can technically still work towards, but that is a lot of hours to play a game that just involves pressing hot keys over and over and over and … literally nothing else.
Tim: Yeah, and I think that there’s so much stuff that could’ve been done differently that would’ve made the game maybe a little more accessible. I feel like in the beginning, the recipes are way too expensive and you’re not earning nearly enough money so, especially in the beginning, like, they give you a starter amount of money and you don’t know what you’re doing so you grab four or five recipes and you don’t realize that they don’t have synergy and they suck and your first days are gonna suck and you’re not gonna make much money! And then it’s like, okay, after your first five days you can buy one new menu item, but again, you still haven’t quite figured it out, so you’re gonna buy another thing that may or may not jive with your menu and then it’s gonna suck, and then you’re not gonna be making, you’re gonna be making marginally more money, and then maybe you’ll get a bet, maybe you won’t.
I mean, there was randomness in like, like Dane was talking about, you get e-mails with random bets, or there’s this random bet service. They’ll give you a certain number of silver tickets and then you can use those tickets to take certain bets, but the bets are like, okay, you can earn a lot of money if you have these specific menu items. And it’s like, okay, I went 12 days in a row and I couldn’t do a single one of the bets, and I looked at the potential earnings I could have had and it was like, god I wish I had that much money, but I just can’t … you know. And it’s not my fault, it’s completely random. There’s no way for me to know what-
Dane: Yeah, there’s no way to prepare your menu specifically for the bets that you’re gonna get, when the bets themselves are randomized. And because the money comes in so slowly for the first several hours of the game, you don’t have enough money to buy all of the food menu items in order to prepare for those bets, so it’s just kind of luck of the draw. I totally get where you’re coming from. I think based on our comparisons of our progress of the game, I am further than you are in the game. I can tell you, when you’re later in the game, money ends up not being a problem. I’m having regular $1800 days. *laughs*
Tim: Yeah, I’m getting to the point where days are starting to get a lot more profitable, versus when I first started out. I’m two or three days short of two star, and that’s with eight hours of play or something, so it takes you close to 10 hours just to get to two stars, which is–
Dane: Yup, and that’s why I’m close to four stars at 20 hours. Twenty hours of just pressing those hot keys. Yeah, it’s rough-
Tim: And what does four, what will four stars give you? What makes, is there anything at all that makes you want to get to four stars?
Dane: Just a burning curiosity to see what the last few things a game that I already dumped so much time into will offer to me. Which, I’m assuming at this point, is probably not very much, but…
Tim: I feel like they should, you know, in a game like this especially, they should have a carrot on a stick in front of you, guiding you, saying “look at this awesome thing that you get, you just need to power through five more days!” It’s like, I never felt like that. I never felt, you know, at first maybe the Iron Cook competition, or maybe catering events, but then it was just, like, every single reward I felt like I was getting was underwhelming.
Dane: Sure, that’s fair. To move on from the gameplay itself, I have a love/hate relationship with the graphics in this game. I feel like the restaurant designs themselves have been pretty boring, especially since you have to look at them for days and days and days and days of gameplay. And the people that come in and wait around for their food are kind of crudely drawn, and–
Tim: It’s like five frumpy looking people–
Dane: I know!
Tim: That you get every single day.
Dane: Unfortunately, there’s just no variety between them. I’m pretty sure the same 10 people come into your restaurant over and over, in the same day! *laughs* Now, that said, I do really like the way the food looks in this game.
Tim: I agree.
Dane: And that’s a good thing, because that’s all you really see while you’re playing. I mean, you kinda see the people waiting around, but it’s sort of zoomed out. But when you’re preparing a cheeseburger, there’s a giant-ass cheeseburger on the center of your screen, so it might as well look detailed. I want to add that the art in this game is by Sara Gross of twobitart.com, that’s t-w-o spelled out, and even though I wasn’t impressed by the way the customers looked in the game, I did check out her other stuff, and it’s all really good, so that’s worth noting.
Tim: Yeah, and I pretty much had the same opinion: the food looked great, the restaurant was boring, the people were ugly and … no variation. I mean, it was just really … I guess, you know, they didn’t need it, but come on, it doesn’t take that much to draw 20 different character models, you know what I mean?
Tim: They could have easily thrown it in.
Dane: Yeah, and a large number of the people were just slight variations of other people. *laughs*
Tim: Yeah, exactly, just a slightly less or slightly more dumpier looking person. Because they were all dumpy looking.
Dane: Yup, so yeah, I guess we might as well summarize our experiences with the game at this point. For me, I wasn’t expecting much going in. I wanted a food service game that brought a little more to the table than the free or under $5 food service games out there. And I think it’s fair to say that that is what I got.
Despite the fact that, if you actually want to get far in the game, it requires far too many hours of repetitive gameplay for any sane person to dump into it, I did enjoy customizing my menu and I loved the rush I’d get while whipping up dozens of consecutive perfect orders with some of the hardest recipes in the game. There was also some excellent humor scattered throughout the game, like with the e-mails I mentioned earlier, and I actually did laugh out loud a few times, so that’s definitely a plus. I’d say, for me, at $10, it was worth it, especially if there’s ever an update that speeds up the pacing of the game.
Tim: My experience with the game was, with having a lot of experience with restaurant simulation games or food service simulation games, it was disappointing for me. It was a grind with not enough flavor, not enough variation, like, you know, all the food service simulation games are, by design, repetitive.
But they were, you know, I felt like you progressed faster, and you got new things faster, and you’d get a new restaurant faster, and the new restaurant was completely different. Or, you know, you’d get new recipes faster and it was like, okay … for example, take the game Bistro Boulevard: you start with one restaurant, and I can’t remember if it’s Mexican or American food or whatever, but there’s 16 recipes that you can get at that restaurant, and probably after four hours of gameplay you’re at a completely new restaurant, and this time it’s Japanese and you’d get 20 different Japanese recipes you can get. There’s all this different equipment and the equipment’s more upgradeable and customizable, or you hire staff, you hire cooks and waiters and they’re upgradeable and they can specialize in different areas of cooking, so that you get different quality meals depending on the … and there’s just, so much more to those games in their own areas, and I felt like that’s what I was looking for and that’s not what I got.
Like you said, you were forcing yourself to change up the menu, which made it less repetitive, but I didn’t find enjoyment in changing up the menu really, I just did because I had to, or I did because I got bored of the previous menu. And then the next menu, I didn’t know as well, so I’d mess up and I’d have to restart the day, because I wanted perfect. You know, that being said, there were some enjoyable aspects. You know, completing a perfect rush hour was often a good feel and, after the first upgrade from zero to one star, I was on the fence. I couldn’t decide if it was worth it or not. But going from one to two stars, I firmly implanted in my head that I don’t think it’s worth it at all.
I think it’s way too much of a grind and not enough … not enough stuff interesting, like the e-mails are fine and the game has some flavor and the music’s, you know, interesting but there just wasn’t enough there for me. I mean, you could say “okay, it’s only $10 and there’s a lot of stuff that you get” but quality goes above quantity for me any day, so, that’s just … yeah, not worth it for me.
Dane: Sounds like we feel a little differently on it, but, that’s okay!
Tim: Yeah, that’s what this is all about: different perspectives!
Dane: *laughs* Anyway, so that’s that on Cook, Serve, Delicious. We did pick a game for next week! We’re gonna play Pixel Junk Shooter. So, I guess we’ll see how that is, it looks pretty interesting. It kinda has a–
Tim: Yeah, it’s like a flying action shooter-up game, should be fun.
Dane: Yeah, it seems like it had some puzzle aspects to it, and I liked the graphics style. It kinda reminded me of some of the older DOS based, you know, platformers.
Tim: Yeah, I think the art style looked pretty cool and I’m really excited to play it!
Dane: Alright, well, see you guys next week!
Tim: Yeah, thanks for listening!
And for a recap:
Tim’s verdict: Not worth it!
Dane’s verdict: Worth it!
Cook, Serve, Delicious was developed by Vertigo Gaming. It can be purchased on Steam for $9.99. Most of the music featured in this episode is from the Cook, Serve, Delicious Original Soundtrack and was composed by Jonathan Geer. It can be purchased on Band Camp for $2.99. The final music track featured in this episode is from the Pixeljunk Shooter Original Soundtrack and was composed by High Frequency Bandwidth. It can be purchased on Amazon for $8.99.