Mento's May Mastery: Day 24: Cook, Serve, Delicious!

What's this? A May Mastery that's (somewhat) on time? Honestly, I didn't have to play today's game too much to know what to make of it, which isn't necessarily a negative. It's more that it's very much a game to play in intermittent spurts, like Luftrausers or Spelunky or most mobile/tablet games.

Unfortunately, this being Memorial Day weekend and all, there's not a whole lot of newsworthy material to discuss in today's intro. I did finally take the time to watch the recently translated GameCenter CX special where Kacho Arino and his crew honor Super Mario Bros.'s 30th birthday with an hour-long NicoNico live event (Japan's equivalent to YouTube and the occasional annual shows they put on filled with YouTubers you've never heard of). Arino is challenged to play World 1-1 with only his feet and a power pad variant, and then gets to challenge others with three stages he personally created in the upcoming Mario Maker.

Which also reminds me: the Nintendo Entertainment System also turns thirty a little later this year in October. Though I've already honored its Famicom equivalent's 30th, which occurred back in 2013, I'm not sure what I intend to do for this particular milestone, if anything at all. I'm actually celebrating another video game-related 30th anniversary next month, so maybe I shouldn't overdo it. Then again, the Super Famicom (but not the SNES) celebrates its 25th in November and the PlayStation 2 turns 15 in October. I guess there's such a thing as too many anniversary celebrations, but then I am very fond of talking about older games because I am old and this is what old people do.

For the time being, though, we're going to be talking about contemporary Steam games. Like the following:

Cook, Serve, Delicious!

No Caption Provided

Verb, Verb, Adjective is a cooking/restaurateur sim from Vertigo Games that got a lot of buzz on this site, courtesy of the approbations of one Ryan Davis. Though it resembles your run of the grill frantic and addictive restaurant game of the type that were early mobile/Indie hits, Cook, Serve, Delicious somehow manages to combine semi-realistic cuisine preparation with the aforementioned panic-inducing real-time speedgaming hooks. Chefs set up their menus ahead of time, taking into account the popularity of certain dishes and how well they compliment each other, and then spend a whole day preparing food, performing chores (such as taking out garbage and setting rat traps) and raking in the dough and tips. Every food item on the menu has a slightly different QTE attached to it, and it becomes a game of juggling the food items and chores that take time (such as steaks or washing dishes, respectively) with those you can do nearly instantaneously, getting the latter out of the way so you can focus on the former. Getting food orders mostly right earns you an "average" result, while getting them spot on nets you a perfect. A day filled entirely with perfects nets you a huge bonus, especially early on, so it pays to get wise to how the game works and work towards flawless days as often as possible.

You know, I've never eaten a corndog. It's just not a UK thing. If I'm ever in the States again, I'll hunt one down.
You know, I've never eaten a corndog. It's just not a UK thing. If I'm ever in the States again, I'll hunt one down.

What threw me off is just how layered this game actually is for what could be waved off as a simple mobile-tier experience. There's a lot of consideration that goes into menus (each food item has its own pros and cons), what recipes you choose to invest in, what cooking equipment you buy to prepare more elaborate types of food or other purchases that make life easier in myriad other ways. Each variation of every meal has its own name. You have to account for your restaurant's popularity (called "buzz" in-game) which fluctuates depending on how well you've been doing, how food trends are going and how bored people are becoming of your culinary choices. Different food items are popular at different times of the day, and stacking too many breakfast meals on the menu (for instance) will make the day top-heavy as a result. You can buy upgrades to meals you cook frequently, adding more ingredients and other preparation steps in exchange for earning more per sale. I'm not even at the one-star rating yet (there's a checklist of requirements, one of which includes playing for twenty in-game days which is close to a couple of hours at least) and I'm aware that's even more features to come, such as foiling robberies and taking part in a certain metallic-named syndicated TV show for competitive chefs.

Like Mr. Davis, who is honored with a hamburger variant in his name (and who the creators personally thanked for spreading the gospel and being a stand up guy when he passed in 2013), I was seriously impressed with the level of content this game has. Maybe my expectations were a little more tempered by that memorable Quick Look and the fact it's been almost three years since that video happened. That said, the game is still extremely stressful ("hardcore", as Ryan put it). The various rush periods (lunch and dinner, essentially) really tax how quickly you're able to complete orders on time, and you're frequently juggling multiple tasks at once while making split-second decisions as to whether you have time to complete a longer chore before a client walks off unhappy, or to tend to that person's order first and potentially lose some buzz from having a stinky, vermin-ridden kitchen. Certain foodstuffs sell better and are easier to prepare, but due to the way "menu rot" works for meals that eventually fall out of favor, you're often pulling items for a couple of days to let them be "fresh" again and replacing them with meals you're less confident about cooking to a sufficiently efficient degree. I'm fond of the recipes where you simply throw a bunch of different ingredients together, like the pizzas and salads, rather than the odd cases like cooked chicken breasts which require six (exactly six!) hits with the tenderizer hammer before going on the grill.

As is also the case with the recent Invisible Inc., it's hard to dislike a game that does something this classy.
As is also the case with the recent Invisible Inc., it's hard to dislike a game that does something this classy.

Because of this stress factor and the fact that the game can get kinda samey after three or four "day"s in a row, it's perfect as a "drop-in, drop-out" style portable game that you can keep popping back into. I've actually booted it up and played a little of it three separate times today, each with a few hours of breaks in-between, and I imagine I'll keep making incremental progress towards earning stars for my restaurant as May Mastery continues (and for the months beyond, for that matter). It's as moreish as the mouthwatering meals it depicts.

Day 01: I Have No Mouth, and I Must ScreamDay 11: MiasmataDay 21: Magrunner: Dark Pulse
Day 02: I Have No Mouth, and I Must ScreamDay 12: BotaniculaDay 22: Magrunner: Dark Pulse
Day 03: I Have No Mouth, and I Must ScreamDay 13: BotaniculaDay 23: The Nightmare Cooperative & Lilly Looking Through
Day 04: Life of PixelDay 14: Shantae: Risky's RevengeDay 24: Cook, Serve, Delicious!
Day 05: Life of PixelDay 15: Bit Dungeon IIDay 25: Dreamfall: The Longest Journey
Day 06: SPAZDay 16: Stick it to the Man!Day 26: Dreamfall: The Longest Journey
Day 07: SPAZDay 17: NaissanceEDay 27: Dreamfall: The Longest Journey
Day 08: NightSkyDay 18: The SwapperDay 28: The Banner Saga
Day 09: The RoomDay 19: ClaireDay 29: The Banner Saga
Day 10: Ultionus: A Tale of Petty RevengeDay 20: DokuroDay 30: The Banner Saga
Finale: Papers, Please
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