I was at home cutting up the broccoli to add to the evening meal, when a thought struck me, I wonder if I could mix my hobby of gaming with the joy of cooking? A quick look on Google, and low and behold my latest review title popped up. Cooking Simulator developed by Big Cheese Studio and published by Playway is a culinary delight that will have you cooking up a storm in your own professional kitchen. My first thoughts when I saw this were Eggcellent, but then I was concerned that I wouldn’t have the Thyme to play it. Fortunately, I could find a small space in my schedule, just as long as I don’t make the review too meaty.
This game allows you total freedom to set up, control, and run your own restaurant. You select the ingredients you wish to use, the decor, the recipes, and the tools that will be at your disposal. Like with all good eateries, you are judged on your performance by the quality of the goods you produce. Your customers rate your efforts, and everything you produce will make or break your new endeavour. Every part of this new business costs you money, you start with a limited amount, and so the pressure really is on from the first meal that you produce. If you run out of cash, then it’s game over, and your effort is marked down as another failed statistic.
As you load into this title, you see that all the action is very instruction heavy, and as such, I certainly recommend that you turn on the tutorial to help you through the opening stages. If you decide that you don’t want to do this, may the kitchen gods look down on you fondly. This isn’t a simple game to break the back of, and even when you think you have it mastered, you will still end up confused. When you select New Game you are given 4 options; Career mode, Cooking School, Leaderboard Challenges, and Sandbox Mode. I’ll touch upon each of these as they all differ slightly, but ultimately the gaming premise stays the same, keep calm, follow a recipe, and hope not to burn yourself or the food.
Career Mode is exactly as you’d expect. You start with a run down kitchen, you must select some basic food choices, and slowly build up your business. Your character earns XP by completing tasks, serving meals, and keeping everyone happy. Once you gain enough, you will increase your level, which gives you an increase in stats, such as; a reduction in the cost of produce, less chance of burning food, or several other benefits. As your levels rise, you unlock perks that increase movement speed, make items unbreakable, and generally help to make the gameplay a lot easier. This mode comes with its own tutorial, and a tutor who looks oddly like Gordon Ramsay.
This defeats the purpose of the next choice, which is Cooking School. This mode gives you the chance to learn the basics of how a kitchen works and allows you to move around with no pressure from the public. I spent some time here, as I thought that’s what I was supposed to do, I’m not saying it’s a waste of time per se, it just seemed a little overkill having two separate tutorial modes.
The Leaderboard Challenges are very good and brought out the competitive side in me. You are free to select any meal that is available, the aim of this is to cook it and serve it perfectly. You will receive a score based on your performance, and this will then be ranked against other players around the globe. There is nothing more enjoyable than a virtual cook off. I felt the pressure from the first moment; it was almost like I was on the Great British Bake Off.
Finally, you can cook forever more in the Sandbox setup. This was the area where I spent the least amount of time, mainly because I liked the focus of either the global competition, or the career. It all felt quite overwhelming, and I never felt in control when I tried out the free rein of the sandbox experience.
You now know how you will play the game, so let’s look at the finer details, and the gameplay mechanics. Cooking Simulator is a hands on experience, and nothing is done for you. If it needs seasoning, water, or any ingredients, then you will have to make sure you own what is required, or use the shop to buy it (by shop I mean cardboard box on a shelf. It’s a strange choice, when there is a laptop which is readily available to order anything online). All the cooking can be timed using conveniently placed timers, or you can look at the cooking status of each item. As you progress further into the game, this becomes increasingly difficult, as you are expected to cook several meals at once, and with no kitchen assistant, it’s down to yourself to do every job, including the cleaning. It gets overwhelming, and I certainly wouldn’t call this hectic title relaxing. It’s difficult and requires a lot of patience, but it is also very addictive, and you will keep coming back for more.
You may think, “What about food critics, do you have to deal with them?” Yes, you do. They love nothing more than giving out a trophy to increase your fame and standing, but failing to impress them will cost you heavily. Make sure you produce the perfect meal, or live with the consequences of negative press.
All the action takes place in a first person perspective. Any item you interact with somehow floats in front of you like a kitchen ghost. (Apparently our chef doesn’t have hands, but uses the power of levitation to complete his many jobs.) This isn’t the only oddity, every tool you use gives you a sign of its intended destination, yet rarely does it hit the mark. You’ll end up with oddly cut chips, and more soup on the counter and the floor than in the bowl. It’s a little disappointing, but you get used to it and work around its many flaws. Don’t come into this expecting high level graphics, if you do, you’ll be disappointed. Early Xbox One standard would be a fair statement, and maybe even a bit of a stretch. It’s rough around the edges, but works well for this genre.
When you are moving through the menus you are met with a jazzy and jolly soundtrack, this doesn’t follow you into the kitchen and is saved only for the pause and main screens. Whilst cooking you are given the option to have a radio sound in the background, or you can play in silence. I chose the latter as there was too much going on as it was. The sound effects are as you’d expect with the noise of; boiling, slicing, cutting and alarms filling the air. I really liked the balance of the audio in this title, everything sounded realistic, and was as you’d expect from a simulation game.
Now we get to the point in my review where I discuss the controls. Normally this falls into a generic conversation about mapping and response rates. For Cooking Simulator I have to highlight how infuriating this game is to handle. Completing even the simplest task is painstakingly difficult. You are given the world’s smallest pointer to highlight the item you want, and this takes a world class sniper’s accuracy to hit the point at the first attempt. You’ll season the chopping board, throw food on the floor, and tip out liquids all by accident. Then there is the colliding with everything within a foot of yourself. The control vibrates to show you’ve hit something. The game pad spends more time buzzing than in any other title I’ve played. Ultimately, the controls are woeful at worse, and clumsy at best. You can work around them, but with so much pressure to create the perfect dish, it makes this game particularly tough to play.
As with all simulation titles, you are given many choices and tasks. Cooking Simulator is no different. There are plenty of recipes to unlock, foods to discover, and tools to try out. With 3 different playable modes, 1 of them being very competitive, there is plenty to make you want to return. A mixture of easy and challenging achievements will keep the Gamerscore/trophy hunters happy. I’ve invested around 8 hours so far, and I still have a lot to do, so by my reckoning this one will keep you busy for a considerable amount of time.
This game has been ported from PC, where it’s gameplay and control would suit the freedom and accuracy of a mouse and keyboard. Does this mean it doesn’t work well on a console? No, not really. As a premise, it is well received, and most of the gaming mechanics working absolutely fine. It’s just a shame that the controls are so disappointing and frustrating. Do I recommend that you try this game? Even with its shortcomings, I do! It’s a well constructed, and realistic look at the life of a professional chef, but featuring a lot less cursing. By the end of my short time playing, did I haddock enough? Well, I didn’t hake it, but I was perhaps out of my depth as the difficulty ramped up. Can you take the heat of the kitchen and be a success? It’s time to pull on your apron and fill those orders.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Microsoft Xbox One code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to email@example.com.
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Cooking Simulator Review
Gameplay - 5/10
Graphics - 5/10
Sound - 8/10
Replay Value - 9/10
User Review( votes)
An in-depth look at life as a professional chef in this cooking sim. With lots of choices and character progression, there is plenty to keep you playing.
- Lots of recipes, and choices.
- A good amount of character progression.
- The sound effects are realistic.
- The Leaderboard Challenge is addictive.
- Plenty of replay value.
- The controls are terrible.
- Using a cardboard box to order your goods was just odd.
- The game was far too hectic for my liking.