Cook, Serve, Delicious has always been one of those feel good stories in gaming, a rhythmic, chaotic catastrophe of cooking that finally found its audience. Two sequels later, the series has moved on from its humble beginnings. Not only is the WASD restaurant going on the road, but Cook Serve Delicious 3 even has a story.
This story has been republished following Cook, Serve, Delicious 3’s early access launch today.
Like everything else in the game, it’s hardly a serious affair. In fact, it’s downright absurd. CSD 3 starts out with Cook, Serve, Delicious, the best restaurant in the world, being destroyed by artillery fire. You’re in the middle of a post-apocalyptic war, which was alluded to in the emails and notes of Cook, Serve, Delicious 2.
You’re actually given a direct visual clue about this in the in-game menu with the map of the United States: Texas has walled itself off, Oregon fell into the ocean, California got ruined by nuclear warfare and Virginia has ceded from the States.
It’s not the kind of thing you’d expect from a game about juggling 10 orders of burgers, and there’s nothing in the actual game you can do about the geopolitical disaster facing the world. But you can get in a food truck and cook food, because everyone still needs to eat, and prime steak and veg are still available despite half of it probably being completely irradiated.
It’s absolute nonsense in the best possible way, although you can choose to ignore all of that if you want. The two robots, Whisk and Cleaver, who pull you from the wreckage and drive you across the United States have voice overs and cut scenes of their own. It’s a nice trimming on what is principally a rhythm game about cooking.
Most people take one of two sides with a game like Cook, Serve, Delicious. Either the constant pace and lack of time to think helps you relax, or its unbearably stressful.
I’m in the former camp. There’s a satisfaction to holding down the left trigger on a controller and rolling your fingers across all the face buttons, watching a tasty piece of bread get buttered, slathered, fried and butter again before being left to cook. (It’s especially good when you get a control setup that suits you perfectly. Rather than using the default keys when playing on a keyboard, I customised the controls to have universal keys, so all ingredients would be bound to QWER/ASDF, similar to how the bindings work on a gamepad.)
The main practical difference with CSD 3 is the ability to see what orders you’ll have coming in at each stop. By knowing what you need to prepare in advance, your brain switches from managing the orders coming in to managing the holding stations and when to switch your attention from finishing off dishes or looking after special orders, which can’t be prepped in advance. To help manage demand, there’s a button that automatically sends out all orders that don’t require any further touches, such as pretzels, provided you have enough of the food precooked if it’s still fresh. Customers’ patience will reset if you start making their dish in a holding station, too, which gives you more split-second options for managing a ton of stressful orders.
CSD 2 offered variety in the recipes by having you move from one themed restaurant to another, while giving you the ability to customise your own restaurant. CSD 3 isn’t fixed to a single location, but every route you make – routes are basically levels in this game – will have a particular food theme that dictates what recipes you can choose from for your daily menu. The game’s pretty generous with the money it dishes out, so you should have no trouble buying any recipe you want after the first two levels.
The tweaks are just enough to make CSD 3 distinct from its previous games. You’re managing more in advance, instead of juggling on the fly, and there’s more strategy involved in the dishes you make before. It’s not just whether the recipe is difficult, but how much you’ll be able to make in advance, and how that balances out with other dishes. You’ll get 18 servings out of a slice of brisket, for instance, whereas you’ll get maybe a third of that from a pan of brownies.
There’s other wackiness too. Future levels will have rival food trucks shooting at you on the road, which puts your holding stations out of commission. But there’s also an upgrade tree, which can expand your maximum orders, how much food your holding stations hold, customers’ patience, and more.
It’s all catnip for Cook, Serve, Delicious fans, and absolutely worth it right now even in its current early access form. There’s just over 20 hours of content right now, and I’ve played about 12 hours of the game across two profiles, most of it in co-op with my partner (using Steam Link’s streaming, which worked real well).
Cook, Serve, Delicious! 3?! is out on Steam on January 29 Australian time, aiming for a full release in the next four to six months.