Cook, Serve, Frustration!?!
HIGH Being praised for doing a good job in completing a level…
LOW …then finding out six more perfect runs are required.
WTF Being unable to scrap a dish and start over.
The Cook, Serve, Delicious! series started on a pretty low key, almost looking like a throwaway mobile game. However, once past the surface, it managed to deliver an entertaining time of juggling orders, trying not to burn food and keeping customers happy. The second in the series was of the ‘bigger and better’ variety — more foods, more odd jobs to do and more challenge.
We are now on our third trip to the kitchen and the devs tinker with the formula a bit, but the recipe doesn’t seem quite right.
The structure of the previous titles is kept intact — prepare food by selecting the correct ingredients in the right order with the keyboard or controller, wait for it to cook, and serve it before everything goes up in flames. It really is as simple as that, and this time there are no side jobs like cleaning the toilet or washing dirty plates.
One of the biggest differences is in theming — Cook Serve Delicious 3! is set in a food truck that stops at various cities in a post-disaster America while the chef cooks betweens locations. This scenario is an interesting idea, but it feels like a last-minute addition that doesn’t affect the way it plays, doesn’t change the recipes, and the customers don’t look any different than in previous titles — there will be no wasteland raiders asking for a filet mignon. I would have expected some nice twists to spring forth from this scenario (a bonus if no food is wasted, for example) but… nope.
Apart from the underused concept, the main update in CSD3 are the side dishes — introduced in the second game, they were a way of racking up bonus points when served with a main dish. Here in the third chapter, they function like the main dishes.
Boosting the status of these sides is a problem because every ‘day’ of cooking has now at least four times the orders of previous titles in the series. The difficulty curve used to increase with a player’s skill, but not this time — right from the start, the chances of failing are very high. This means that the player will naturally gravitate towards the simplest dishes that don’t need complicated preparations because any other choice ends up in disaster. Naturally, CSD3 rarely lets it slide since it requires a minimum of ‘complicated’ dishes to unlock most levels.
The difficulty doesn’t feel fair. While ‘hard-as-nails’ seems to be becoming the new normal in videogames, making titles accessible and enjoyable for everyone should still be considered. The only alternative to this steep campaign is “Chill Mode” where customers will wait forever for their plates and the player only has to mind the right ingredients.
This seems like a good alternative at first, but in this mode the player can only earn a silver medal at best, and without gold medals, most of the levels will be inaccessible. I can’t help but feel that forcing a player to miss out on this much content because the developers couldn’t craft a ‘medium’ difficulty is poor design.
Other aspects of CSD3 feel equally underdone. Apart from the post-apocalyptic setting having no real effect, upgrading the truck with new stations to cook special orders or side dishes doesn’t help the player much, whereas more useful upgrades (like lamps that keep food from spoiling) seem to take forever to unlock in Chill Mode.
I’m also frustrated by the fact that if one commits a mistake while preparing a main dish, there’s no way of making up for it. It would be understandable if the customer was right there waiting, but if I’m cooking alone in a truck between stops, why can’t I just scrap the dish and start again? Complicating this situation is the fact that the abbreviations used for the ingredients (along with the images) tend to be confusing when one is strapped for time. Preparing a papaya salad instead of a garden salad happens often, and even the smallest mistake means no gold medal.
Looking at the performance of the Switch version, it plays fine when docked, but struggles a bit in handheld mode and stutters during each day’s first stop. Also, there’s no way of resizing the font of recipes — if one is playing on a small TV, I’d recommend reading glasses.
Cook, Serve, Delicious! 3?! is a tough one to recommend, especially after having a superior experience with the previous installment. The difficulty settings need more work, the radical change in theme goes underused and there aren’t enough twists in the gameplay formula to keep things feeling fresh. At the end of this meal, the tiramisu has been skipped and we’ve been served a bitter coffee instead.
— Damiano Gerli
Disclosures: This game is developed and published by Vertigo Gaming. It is currently available on PC, Switch, PS4 and XBO. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on Switch. Approximately 6 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was not completed. There is a co-op local multiplayer mode.
Parents: This game is rated E10+ by the ESRB for Alcohol Reference and Mild Violence. It’s basically just assembling dishes and cooking food. Safe for most people, I’d think.
Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available in the options.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: It is possible to play the game without sound, as the cutscenes are subtitled and so is the dialogue. Unfortunately it is not possible to resize the font and some of the writing is indeed very small. (see examples above.)
Remappable Controls: This game’s controls are not remappable. It is controlled via a controller or keyboard on PC or Switch, each button is used to add ingredients and to cook. It is not possible to use the touchscreen.
Years later, he got the idea that he was the most Sega-knowledgeable person in the world, so he opened a website in 1997, The Genesis Temple.
He's a sucker for great stories in gaming, he loves adventure and indie titles, but he never shies away from action and triple-A RPGs.
Damiano's been writing about videogames for 20 years, with no plans to stop. Say hi to him on Twitter at @damgentemp, or on his blog https://genesistemple.com (now dedicated to the history of video game design).