Twelve Games of Christmas: Cook Serve Delicious 2

Hello and welcome to ‘The Twelve Games of Christmas’, a highlight reel of some of my (Dann Sullivan, Editor-in-Chief) favourite games of 2017. As regular readers will know, we’re extremely eclectic in our tastes here at B3; hopefully these little suggestions, essentially recommendations, will match that. Enjoy!

What’s the difference between German pretzels and Classic pretzels? It’s all about the preparation.

Truth be told, I don’t know the difference between the two, but preparation is the key word in Cook Serve Delicious 2, vastly more so than in its prequel. Of all of the changes to the game — and there have been many — preparation counters are most definitely the largest change to how it plays.

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Before we get to the big change, however, I’d like to spend a little time talking about the first title, Cook Serve Delicious. For those unfamiliar with the original cooking game from 2012, it’s fast and frantic, putting you in charge of a small, office-tower restaurant. Each (almost full-day) shift sees you deploying a menu of your choosing before having to serve them up to hungry, impatient customers while maintaining and cleaning the restaurant.

It’s all played out from a first person viewpoint, with customers sidling along to the counter before their order slides in on the left-hand side of the screen. With a key, button, or mouse press, the order comes up on screen. The order itself is written at the bottom in text, alongside a large image of the dish in preparation and a pane filled with ingredients — each of these can be activated with a mouse-click, indicated controller input or a corresponding key press. In this, it’s very much a series of quick-time events, each requiring precision and speed, lest you mess up the customer’s dish.

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Success results in hype for the restaurant increasing, leading to more customers. In time, this results in more money, which in turn allows you to upgrade your menu and equipment.

As well as the above, there were also objectives which resulted in levelling up, unlocking one-off challenges and opening up more things to buy. But, more important than all of this, there was a massive sense of attention to detail from the developer — Cook Serve Delicious’ internal emails, menu descriptions and daily challenges showed a developer who cared a lot about the little world they’d created.

Anyway, back to the big change. Cook Serve Delicious 2 has undergone some major changes but, as I said in the opening, it’s most definitely the preparation counters which have altered the game’s pace and structure.

The new counters — which, much like serving counters, can increase in number as you level up — allow you to prepare full dishes,or just their main components in advance of orders. Rather than having to, say, set hot dogs to heat, you can instead prepare a batch of them in advance, removing the wait from serving time and simply having to select from rolls and sauces. Full meals can also be prepared in advance; things like Duck Egg Soup, Macaroni Cheese and Pretzels can be made by the batch and kept handy, ready to be served up when a customer orders. Finally, you can also prepare sides, which are dishes you don’t earn any money for directly, nor receive any orders for, but customers take them for free and give a higher rating for the dish.

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Obviously this opens up a massive number of options for the player, especially considering there are no menu restrictions when you are playing the game as your own restaurant (more on that in a moment). This means that, if you wish, you can simply run a massive, five star restaurant by just serving up pretzels. If you’re quick enough, you can get them out the door with zero failings.

Of course, that sounds a lot like gaming the system — to run a restaurant with just one dish in a game about juggling a menu seems very cheap. Well, dear reader, I put myself to the test, and while it changes the game into a game of habits — of drag-clicking and hanging on for exactly 1.5 seconds — it remains at least as stressful as declaring a diverse daily menu. Compared to normal trade, there is almost no error possible from the human player, however the density of orders, thanks to the game’s hype system, more than makes up for the work-around.

Cook Serve Delicious 2 does change up a few other things, and although they may not be as large a change as the preparation counters, they’re certainly worthy of mention:

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The biggest change outside of the day shift is undeniably the addition of other restaurants to work at. As you level up, you unlock more challenging work at each of the pre-themed restaurants, each of them cleverly concocted to be a steady challenge through pre-set levels of hype and customer interest. It’s a great way to accidentally test out other food types — I say ‘accidentally’ because you can practice with most food from the purchasing menu — and earn a few bucks without risking your own restaurant’s reputation.

Various other food types have been added, but in addition to the previously mentioned division of main menu dishes and sides there are now also specific menu slots for drinks, most of which come in the form of replenishment activities, unlike most dish preparations. All in all you can end up with a mass of options on your menu, but this system ensures that you can’t over-complicate it too much for yourself.

In addition to all of this there are now different play modes, including a zen mode and split-screen co-op, a restaurant designer and a mass of new emails and filler.

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The main issues with Cook Serve Delicious 2 were around launch and were quickly fixed, however the navigation menu does feel like it needs a little work. I have taken to playing the majority of the game via the mouse, while I played the first strictly on keyboard — this is due to the preparation counters being on TAB+(Number) input, which I (just me, this is personal) kept fowling up. I’ve not returned to check for keybinding options, but if they can be rebound to be shift+(Numeral) or bound to the numpad then please accept that concern as obsolete. That said, playing on mouse is as fun as the original was on keyboard, and I don’t doubt that if I’d stuck with the keyboard I’d have eventually got used to the prep counters.

Cook Serve Delicious 2 is a real gem, somehow channelling the best bits of mini-games and quick-time events with a funny, charming, cooking setting. If you can handle the speed of the game then it’s well worth a try. Even then, there’s the zen mode and the fact that the game’s pace rises and falls based on your actions — struggle for a bit, set a nice menu and enjoy the game.

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