Anybody up for seconds?
Cook, Serve, Delicious! is one of Steam’s hidden gems. This indie cooking and restaurant-management game provides frantic and challenging, yet super satisfying, gameplay at a very low price. The sequel was recently released, and it does plenty to upgrade the mechanics, but not without taking a lot of steps backwards.
The game is more or less a continuation of the already-established CSD. You’re still a cook making and serving various dishes for your customers. You make each dish by inputting a series of keys that correspond to certain ingredients. For example, a burger might require you to add lettuce, cheese, and tomatoes. Or it could ask for something like sauteed mushrooms and a fried egg. Learning the keys is vital to getting dishes out correctly and quickly, because during rush hours, the last thing you want is to mess up.
New to the game are the holding stations, which allow you to prep meals before customers order them. Some foods are required to be kept in a station, while others are optional. The holding stations are a great addition that adds a layer of strategy to how you cook, determining what needs to be prepped when.
The main problem is that, while the gameplay is very absorbing, it also is very repetitive. The gameplay never really changes — all that changes is the keys you press and in which order. If you thought the first game was too boring and repetitive, this game won’t change your mind. And there’s much more to memorize in the sequel as well. The original game had around 30 different recipes for you to cook; this one has closer to 200. You need the patience to commit at least some of these recipes to memory, or you’ll find yourself looking for the right key to press constantly.
CSD2, just like the original, has a very simple but effective art style. Special attention was given to the food graphics, and the end result is dishes that look spectacular, though virtual. Everything else looks fairly nice, though nothing looks outstanding. Complimenting this is the music. None of the tracks are too distracting, so your focus is always on cooking, but they all fit the mood perfectly.
Unfortunately, the UI is often very cluttered and confusing to navigate. This was sort of a problem with the original as well, but the issues are more blatant in this game. You often have to sort through multiple tabs just to put one or two ingredients on your dish. It’s something you can get used to, but your first few days might go wrong because you got lost in the UI.
Thankfully, the game lets you practice making every single dish in the game, which is recommended. Not only is it helpful for new players, but CSD veterans who need to learn the new key configurations for old dishes. At the very least, the UI is organized consistently, so learning the system is definitely possible. It just takes a bit of time.
The real problems with CSD2 lie in the overall game design. Clearly, a lot of love was put into this game, but some design decisions are downright baffling. I mentioned earlier that there are around 200 meals to make. While this is true, many of the meals are prepared in the same way as others, just with different keys to press. This makes the repetitive nature of the gameplay all the more noticeable. The original game had far fewer recipes, but at least all of them were uniquely prepared, with few exceptions.
Then there’s the gameplay progression. The original had you build your own restaurant and design your own menus. This game has that too, but much more focus was put on expanding the original’s challenge kitchens. There are several restaurants that force a specific menu on you, making you to adapt to foods that you might loathe serving. To be frank, this isn’t really a problem for me personally, but it’s significantly more enjoyable to customize one’s own menu.
As a quick note, I saw several Steam reviewers mention bugs, but I can’t remember coming across any in my time playing through the game. They might lie in the multiplayer gameplay, which this reviewer hasn’t tried yet.
Thankfully, the developer, David Galindo, seems dedicated to making patches and fixing kinks, as well as getting new gameplay content out soon. And I hope he commits, because Cook, Serve, Delicious! 2!! has the potential to be a stunning game. Even now, at only $12.99 on Steam, it’s worth the price if you think you’re interested. But right now, there’s just a few too many brown spots on this banana to really recommend it.
Overall Score: 7.2 (72%)
Summary: Cook, Serve, Delicious! 2!! recaptures the frantic but satisfying gameplay of the original while adding in some great new features, though some poor design choices and the naturally-repetitive gameplay ultimately create some cracks in the system.
- Plenty of new recipes
- New gameplay mechanics
- Holding stations add strategy
- Tense but rewarding gameplay
- Pleasing aesthetics
- Not too expensive
- Many recipes are too similar
- Gameplay gets repetitive
- Progression system awkward
- Limits creative freedom with menus
- Problematic UI