Working with food can be a wondrous form of artistic expression. Not just the flavor, but the process and presentation. However, it can also be a total shit show if you are not prepared. Luckily, The Cooking Game VR is here to save the day by giving us the experience we need, with a lot less cleanup.
The fast food industry might not be the first thing that springs to mind when considering food prep as artwork. To that, every paying customer ever would argue at great length that their food had damn well better look good. This industry demands speed, quality, and the perfect technique if you want to be the very best. So, set your plating skills to stun, and let’s see if The Cooking Game VR can train us for a black belt in deep frying.
The Art of Frycraft
The concept behind The Cooking Game VR is as simple as you might expect. You are working at a fast food joint, as a cook, trying to fill orders before customers get angry. If you make the wrong things, take too long, or make a sloppy looking burger, you’re a failure. Harsh, right? Welcome to the fast food industry!
The Cooking Game VR takes this concept a bit further by putting you in direct competition with another cook. Weather its online multiplayer, or single player, this creates another layer of choice that requires you to think on your feet. Let’s jump into the gameplay.
So, You Think You Can Cook
The cooking aspect of the game is basic, let’s just get that out of the way. You make burgers, hot dogs, and fries by picking up items and moving them to the proper locations. Once they are done, you fill the customers’ orders by placing the items on trays that have numbers corresponding to the tables. The orders can be for any combination of items but it is simply those three items, every time.
With that out of the way, let’s talk about what makes this gameplay actually feel fun and challenging. You are not alone in the food joint. You have a waitress that takes your fulfilled orders to the customer, one tray at a time. Additionally, you are going up against another player or AI, who also has a waitress, that is fighting to server the same customers.
These two factors introduce more decision making on the part of the players. You get more points for delivering food to the tables that are further away from you. This is because your server only moves at one speed and you could very well lose that customer if the other cook fills the order faster. So, now we have another form of time management that feels natural and really pushes the gameplay in a more interesting direction. On top of all this, each round has an objective that will further impact your decision making. This could be serving more burgers first, making more money in a set amount of time, or even being the first to server 10 old people.
Wash Hands Before Returning to Your Station
Controlling all of the cooking action is a pretty standard affair. You grip items while pressing the trigger button and let go to release. You can room-scale move around in your kitchen space, but most actions are achievable by leaning in the direction of the item you’re going for. Best of all, you get a tutorial that goes over every possible action.
Outside of the basic controls, you also have control over the sound and music levels, the multiplayer match objectives, and some kitchen goods. Items like upgraded food and additional pans or fryers can be bought with the money you earn during gameplay. The items will let you produce faster and have a higher profit margin on your food items. In a way, this is how you can control the difficulty level in the game.
The only issues I ran into with controlling my experience, where possibly both my fault. My gameplay area is limited and this game does have you moving your arms around, nonstop. If you don’t have your play space centered in an area conducive to this type of motion, you will need to set it up outside of the game as it gives you no re-center options ingame. My other issue is with the trays being super sensitive when you put food on them. If you are not as deliberate as possible, your burger could end up on the next closest try and cost you the game.
Mustard Smiles and Pickle Eyes
When it comes to graphics, this game is just okay. While to cartoon vibe works and the big heads are fun to look at, everything else is basic at best. The food has two states, raw and done, and the background never really seems to vary. It is simple and looks okay, but it is underwhelming. The game also lacks a bit of polish. When selecting items like menu buttons, they change to a solid color and it ends up looking a little amateurish.
The sounds, on the other hand, are pretty well done. You get an upbeat score, lots of restaurant like atmospheric sounds, and the audio cues from your waitress let you know when you have failed or succeeded in a request. It would have been great to see some timers or buzzers for the food prep, but I suppose you get accustomed to the pace of the game fairly quickly.
One last thing I would like to point out, is the way information is displayed to the player. The overhead order screen, the numbers on the trays and tables, objectives and current standings are all available. They are not in your face but placed naturally throughout the environment and I just got to say that it shows that the designers put thought into it. It might not look beautiful, but it is presented to the player beautifully.
Chances are that you have played a game like The Cooking Game VR before. This one doesn’t reinvent the wheel but it does manage to bring in some rather fun mechanics that others lack. The ability to risk everything and steal your opponent’s customers is a lot of fun and working with your server really does give you more to manage.
My only real complaint is that this game does come with a shelf life. Yes, we have leaderboards and multiplayer games, but making the same three items is going to get old after a while. The random objectives do help to alleviate this, but only so much. A little more diversity in the menu might help but I really think this game is lacking one key ingredient. A little pinch of Subterfuge!
If the players had a way to throw each other of their game by taunting, throwing hot dogs, or even setting obstacles in the way of the other server, it would make this game stand out even more. That said, what The Cooking Game VR does give us is a solid cooking game that is actually pretty damn fun in short bursts. If you have a Rift or Vive, you can check it out on Steam or the Oculus Store and let me know what you think in the comments below.