For some reason, people love to do things in video games that they would find incredibly tedious and mundane in real life. Washing the dog. Shopping on a limited budget. Going to court. Math. And especially cooking. We can barely be bothered to microwave ramen noodles in the real world, but slap an anime girl into the mix to yell at us when something goes wrong, and we’ll happily chop, grill, stir, and clean up the leftovers until we become master videogame chefs. Order Up! exploits of this strange, masochistic tendency by starting you off as grill cook at a crappy burger joint and tasking you to build a restaurant empire… one onion burger at a time.
Comparisons to the mega-selling Cooking Mama are obvious and warranted, but we greatly prefer Order Up! thanks to deeper gameplay and a career mode that provides actual motivation.
Both games have you flailing the Wii remote around to dice vegetables, coat chicken with flour, stir macaroni, and so on. It works well most of the time, though some tasks just don’t seem to work well. For instance, we had particular trouble with carving meat – the remote’s motion just wasn’t registering. Luckily, you can hire assistant chefs and have them do some of the steps you don’t like. We never had that option for the tough tasks in a Cooking Mama game.
Order Up! also bests Cooking Mama in the way it adds in a bit of time management, taking a cue from casual flash games such as Diner Dash or Cake Mania. You’re typically presented with multiple orders at a time, and if you make customers wait too long or serve them cold food (for example, if you took so long on the pancakes that the omelette sat too long) your tips will suffer. On the flip side, some customers like specific spices, so if you learn their tastes, your tips will skyrocket.
It’s also oddly rewarding to see a regular arrive and know just what spice to add to their guacamole to get them howling in appreciation. Similarly, the career progression, which has you buying up more and more different restaurants (Mexican, Italian, etc) is much more rewarding than simply unlocking more menu items.
We didn’t appreciate the way the mini-games – flicking rats off the counter, shaking a sleeping assistant awake, or washing dishes in front of the health inspector – constantly popped up. They’re far too frequent and annoyingly intrusive, and if they’re designed to keep things from getting redundant, they actually have the opposite effect. Order Up! does get stale over time. But it’s got charm for miles, and that’s a lesson many, many games could stand to learn.
Aug 20, 2008