Cook Serve Delicious is a Kongregate game from 2010 that fell through a time portal and emerged bleary eyed into 2020. Well, strictly speaking, Cook Serve Delicious itself, the original, was released in 2013, at exactly the moment when you’d expect devs to be making the jump from decaying Flash to proper indie game development, but the second two entries in the series still have that Flash game style, making them come across as time-displaced.
Specifically, Cook Serve Delicious is a game where you are the chef of a restaurant and must prepare orders. It’s almost exactly like those Papa’s Whateveria games except that instead of making lots of variations on a specific type of food, you are making all of the foods. There are a total of 37 different foods you can prepare from concessions stand pretzels up to steak and lobster, and you can have up to six of them on your active menu each day. Customers come in, ask for a random selection of the six, and you have to prepare it using gamepad or keyboard inputs before they get impatient and leave. Different orders can be slightly different from each other. For example, one of the types of food is a hamburger. A specific hamburger order might ask for any number between zero and three patties, might ask for bacon, lettuce, tomato, pickles, onion, etc. etc., and each ingredient corresponds to a button on the gamepad or a key on the keyboard. In order to keep a line from piling up, you need to slap the ingredients on quickly and without making mistakes.
The game has a neat self-correcting difficulty curve where getting perfect orders causes more “buzz” for your restaurant, which brings in more customers in the next game day. Each game day still lasts the same amount of real time (somewhere around 10-15 minutes), so higher buzz means more customers in the same span of time means greater frequency of customers means you have to make orders faster to keep the line moving. If people get impatient and leave, the order counts as botched and you get a buzz penalty for the next day, bringing things back down to where they’re easier to manage.
The original Cook Serve Delicious has just under 50 different types of food and about 300 total recipes, though they’re not evenly distributed. There are very few recipes for fish, for example: You either fillet, season, and cook, or fillet, season, add lemon, and cook. On the other hand, there’s something like thirty different ways to make a plate of nachos.
Cook Serve Delicious 2 and 3 have a much, much larger menu of food items, and having only just started on 2 (I tried 3 for a few hours back before I was making an effort to finish games), I’m not sure I like how quickly the menu expands, especially since the control scheme is different between 1 and 2/3, so none of the old recipes I’ve memorized carry over. Worse, CSD 2 has all recipes for a specific type of food unlocked from the beginning. In CSD 1, your starting hambuger came with the buns, the patties, cheese, bacon, lettuce, and tomato (but no onions, pickles, chicken patties, etc. etc.), and you had to pay to upgrade it, which increased the price but added several new recipes incorporating the new ingredients. This let you slowly build up familiarity with a food’s recipes over time. But in CSD 2, every recipe is unlocked as soon as you start in on a new food. This means that memorizing recipes is no longer practical without taking time aside to study this video game. In CSD 1, memorizing recipes was a matter of using level 1 of a food until you mastered it, without getting overly-ambitious and upgrading to level 2 early. In CSD 2, memorizing recipes is a matter of going into practice mode and beating your head against the complete arsenal of recipes for that food type until you’ve completely mastered them. CSD 2 is also more generous with time limits, so it seems like less memorization and more quickly processing the recipe is the intended method of play.
I still like CSD 2, but I liked CSD 1 better. A brief glance at the three games suggested they probably steadily improved over time, so I took them in order in hopes of avoiding exactly this kind of disappointment. C’est la vie.