Outside of playing video games, there’s not a whole lot I enjoy more than cooking. Admittedly getting to eat the food at the end of a long session of baking or frying is a big part of that, but video game cooking can be a whole lot of fun too. Cuisineer is all about cooking up the best food possible for the patrons of your humble café, with a bit of dungeon crawling based ingredient gathering thrown in for good measure.
Our hero Pom is just your average young adventurer, traveling the world and exploring dungeons without a care in the world. That all changes when she visits home though, and finds her parents’ restaurant has closed down and they have a mountain of debt to pay off. They’ve done the responsible thing in this situation and run off for a round the world holiday, leaving Pom to pick up the pieces and save this beloved community eatery from bankruptcy. It’s a light-hearted story told well, and one that gets you into the action immediately.
Before cooking anything Pom needs to fill the fridges with produce, but in Cuisineer you don’t just order in eggs and flour from the supplier, you have to get it from a dungeon. Every time you leave town you’ll be presented with a new randomised dungeon in the location you choose, full of chickens, wild boars and angry potatoes who would all rather not be made into a hearty stew. With a spatula in hand it’s up to you to try and fill your backpack before they beat you up and cause you to drop most of what you’ve gathered, because that wouldn’t be ideal for your next dinner service.
Pom has a basic combo she can unleash on these food foes, as well as a selection of special moves that can be used every ten seconds or so based on the equipment she’s equipped with. At the start of the game this is a spatula and a pile of plates, which can be used to produce a large damaging shockwave and thrown across the stage in a large spread shot respectively. If you’re successful enough back at the restaurant you’ll be able to afford new gear and be able to power yourself up for future runs too, which is essential in some of the later areas you visit.
Once you’ve got a whole lot of food collected it’s time to open up the restaurant and get cooking. There’s actually not a whole lot you need to worry about when running the entire eatery on your own though surprisingly. When a customer walks in they seat themselves at the nearest available seat, shout out their order, and you go to the cooking station it requires and select it to start it cooking. Once it’s ready it instantly appears at the service table and they collect it themselves and wolf it down. I was expecting to be required to rush about a bit more to keep things running smoothly, but honestly it’s quite a relaxing experience.
Issues do come up occasionally during service, but they aren’t issues that can be solved until after the time for cooking is over. Sometimes people will stand in the entrance and bemoan the fact you don’t have certain dishes on the menu (essentially telling you to either go and gather more ingredients or get new cooking equipment) and if there’s not room to sit down they’ll stand for a few moments waiting before leaving in a huff. There’s a way to solve these problems though, and that usually means upgrading the restaurant.
With the right materials and a bit of cash you can kit out the restaurant with all sorts of handy new furnishings and appliances, from extra tables and chairs to ovens and fryers. You get to place all these wherever you want, and once you start adding in extra decorations too the restaurant really starts to feel like your own personal creation. It won’t take long for the restaurant to start feeling a little cramped with all the extra additions though, so you’ll probably want to invest in an expansion or two (especially because you’re limited to a specific number of cooking stations until you do, which really reduces what you can have on the menu). It’s satisfying to grow your business and boost your income doing so, and before you know it you’ll be paying off that debt and living the good life.
All the upgrades in the world won’t make the restaurant a success if you don’t have the recipes for tasty (and profitable) meals though, so unless you want to serve boiled eggs for the rest of your life you’d better go and get some. The other townsfolk have all the recipes you need to run a successful business, and are more than happy to give you them if you help with their problems. This just means bringing them certain items, which honestly gets a little repetitive but has to be done if you want to succeed.
As much as I enjoyed playing through Cuisineer there were a few elements that I found pretty frustrating. Early on especially it feels like it takes a long time to upgrade your restaurant with all the appliances you need to cook different meals, especially because of the arbitrary limits on how much kitchen equipment you’re allowed in the restaurant before building an extension. There are also multiple systems that just aren’t explained and you have to figure out for yourself as you go, which makes the opening hours of the game especially frustrating.
As a total package the gameplay loop of Cuisineer is entertaining enough, but no single part of it is incredible. The combat feels a little basic and lacks a whole lot of nuance, and working in the kitchen just involves walking to different tables and pressing the A button. None of this is necessarily bad, but it’s not a game I ever wanted to play for more than a couple of hours at a time.
Cuisineer is a fun foodie game that really opens up once you get past the first few hours, but getting to that point is a bit of a grind. It’s really satisfying to grow your business and make it your own, but the actual cooking and adventuring does feel a little lacking. Cuisineer may not earn a Michelin star, but it’s worth playing if you’re hungry for a light-hearted and fairly simple restaurant romp.
A fun food based game
Upgrading and creating your own restaurant is satisfying
A nice gameplay loop
Both the cooking and adventuring feel a bit lacking
The opening few hours are a grind
Getting new recipes gets a bit repetitive