I love a good catering styled sim and Recipe for Disaster plans to be a hugely detailed one. Having played the demo earlier this year as part of a Steam Next Fest, I was eager to get into the game to see what progress on its initial ideas had been made. It turns out, not a lot. This Early Access release is all about the foundations and you need to be invested in the roadmap to really buy in early. Otherwise, you might be a little disappointed in what feels like a sizeable demo at present.
The good news is that the scope is here for Recipe for Disaster to be damn exciting. The game places you in a restaurant that you can customise walls, tables, decorations, toilets and appliances in. Getting the layout efficient is a nice bonus but really the key to success is staff assignment. Each appliance and table can be assigned a staff member based on priority. The first person will try to serve or cook something and if they are busy, it goes to number 2 or 3 in line to complete. Spreading out the load and making sure you aren’t waiting for someone to finish cleaning up a large floor before they start cooking is crucial. This is because the longer you keep customers waiting, the less impressed they’ll be. Each staff member has stats for each appliance they can use, serving, cleaning and personality traits too so balancing those with priority orders means its a constant juggling act. Staff level up over time on skills but like The Sims, their first times using a grill will mean you’ll make a terrible dish. Unlike The Sims, this means you’ll get a bad customer rating.
Every customer rates their experience out of 5 stars and this is often a success criteria to reach to complete a level. Ambience, food, service, amenities and personal taste all alter their rating. You might have a lovely meal but if you’ve only got bacon fries and the customer wants a veggie option, you’ll never get a high rating. There is also a popularity percentage too which means you can start increasing your prices as you get better known and have good ratings over time.
The real selling point for me is the recipe builder. This is a flow chart that places all available ingredients and appliances together for you to create your own dish. Want fried bananas with shrimp? Go for it. Want to serve raw garlic meats? You’ll likely make everyone ill but you can. Whatever you want on the menu is up for discussion and you can do it in a way that means multiple chefs cover off multiple parts. For example one can deep fry chips, another grills the burger, another prepares the salad. You can be as complex or simple as you like and this is where I wanted to spend my time, tweaking recipes and making up silly creations.
For all of this, the actual gameplay loop is very similar to every other management game. Open and build up your business, hit stats, open next level with slightly more to juggle. This is totally fine and I’m intrigued that multiplayer competitions are on the roadmap for the future as that will give the game a really unique selling point. It does mean that the 5 missions available at launch are quite basic and I found that the game wanted to try and set things on fire quite often although this has since been patched to reduce the occurrence.
All the issues I have with the current state of the game fall into three categories. Controls up first – WASD movement locks every minute or so. Frankly, I’d avoid it for now and stick with purely mouse movements but you’ll need R to rotate objects. The second issue was around toilet confusion. For some reason despite putting in doors, walls and toilet stall doors I kept running into 1 star reviews of ‘everyone can see me on the toilet’. I never did work out what I was doing wrong and it didn’t effect everyone either. The third issue is more universal – the lack of feedback around why something has worked well or not worked well. Are my food combinations terrible? Is it all just window dressing and it doesn’t matter what you do as long as you make something? Why is my 5 star service staff member always getting ‘rude’ feedback? How can I stop that happening? This lack of transparency plagues the whole experience so I never know aside from the end reviews what to do to make things better. Add in the recurring issue of staff just standing there as if they don’t know what to do next and it really shows that Recipe for Disaster is very early access in some places.
There is a few hours of content here to get going and I really love the recipe creation element of the game. If the devs can crack the bugs and bring in a more rounded, informative ecosystem of things going on – there is definitely huge potential here. As with all early access games though, its being bought on a promise. Fingers crossed.
Early access version provided for review by developer.
I livestreamed the tutorial and opening scenario below. As its an early access title, I won’t score it just yet and plan to circle back for a full release review later.
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