Ever wanted to play a joyous dexterity and memory challenge that might make you feel extra hungry afterwards? Welcome to Cook Serve Delicious 3?! It is the latest instalment of the chef simulator that requires you to wrap your hands around all of the buttons on your controller or keyboard to get that food out to the customers on time and to perfection.
For newcomers to the series, this is the best place to start with this fast paced balancing act as it is the game that provides the best learning curve to get into the maddening panic of clearing each level. For returnees, things have changed largely for the better too, giving you more options, more freedom and more flexibility to tackle your menu and orders.
Taking place after CSD2, your empire is reduced to ruins and you have been picked up by two chatty robots Whisk and Cleaver. They decide that you are going to get your chefs stripes back and embark of a road trip across America to get you to a competition. On the way you need to earn money, so the van is now your kitchen as you become a food truck.
Each level is a route containing truck stops and you’ll need to select your menu of items to serve. Different levels offer different dishes and each dish has a rating of points to show how difficult it is. There is a risk vs reward here as complex dishes earn you more but take longer and give you more chances to fluff it. Dishes are largely made into two categories. Some dishes can be kept in bulk for you to serve on arrival and kept in waiting trays on the top of your screen. Others are bespoke orders that come in on the way between truck stops. These are usually the most tricky ones to perfect. If you complete each dish in a stop perfectly, you get a perfect rating and if you manage to do all the stops in a run perfectly, well, you are probably doing better than me!
Playing with a controller, CSD3 requires you to have an innate memory of your controller and over time, how dishes are made. You select a dish, hold down a trigger or bumper button and then pick ingredients with face buttons. With more complex dishes, you’ll be moving through pages of options and they are colour coded so you start to get into the flow of matching colours to pages and ingredients. If you select the wrong thing, it doesn’t matter how well you cook it, no one will be happy taking a chicken version of a veggie dish! Cooking is timed and often you’ll need to return back to the customer to take the dish out the oven, or add sauces and garnish to things as you go. Cleaver and Whisk can also serve people in bulk so with a quick flick of the right analogue stick, you can serve all the completed dishes you have available.
Being able to prepare dishes on the way to a stop is crucial and a key change for the series as it means you can organise a battle plan rather than reacting to what’s coming. As orders have freshness scales too, you can leave the salads until last for example as they go bad quicker. It also means you can be tactical and serve certain clients in orders that will keep them patient. The right analogue serve is a huge game changer too and a much loved quality of life improvement.
Levels give you medals based on success (i.e. no unsatisfied customers or missed orders) and this unlocks over routes. Those routes have varying menus for you to purchase food options and continually serve up different menus throughout the game. You can also upgrade your truck too by levelling up via XP. This gives you a superb risk vs reward element to your strategy. You can have additional hot plates holding food for you, which can be very helpful but you can also have more customer serving hatches. This means you can serve in bulk but you’ll have more customers to try and keep happy at once, thus making the game harder. The trade off is that for every extra customer hatch you have, the minimum menu difficulty is reduced by a point. So do you stick with a harder menu that you must exact but can take longer to deal with, or do you make life easier but need to go faster? Its a fascinating decision and there is no right or wrong answer.
Along with upgrades, you can customise your van too for the same cash you can use to buy new dishes for your menu. I also really appreciated the vast amount of accessibility options too. As the game relies on movement and colour settings to help guide you along, you can turn lots of things on or off. You can also select colour palettes to help you if your colour blind. The jaunty soundtrack and excellent voice acting also lends a snazzy and sassy vibe to anything between the sheer panic of the levels too. Even if you do badly, you are still earning money and XP and so will be progressing forward naturally anyway.
I also wanted to mention chill mode. This turns off the customer patience system and lets you focus on getting the dishes right. This is the mode where I spent most of my time playing so I could get into a rhythm and gain muscle memory of dishes. You can play the entire game in it and get progression up to silver medal rank for each level and that has made the game far less stressful for me. The stress factor never feels like it outweighs the fun and satisfaction of completing a run though – its a fine balance and CSD3 nails it. You can also play in co-op which works a dream. Your screen is halved and you’ll be giving each other orders off screen just like Overcooked to stay in sync. Literally the only downside I have for the game is that for my PS4 version, the game screen seems to bleed ever so slightly off the edge of my TV screen and no matter what setting I try, it never fits properly. This may just be a personal TV thing though.
Cook Serve Delicious 3?! is an absolute triumph in testing your memory, dexterity and organisational skills. There is nothing out there quite like it and it has a class and style all of its own. Just don’t play with an empty stomach or you’ll be drooling by the time the final dish is served.
Cook Serve Delicious 3?!
Panicked perfection in gourmet video gaming. Addictive, crazy and full of different ways to tackle the task. Best served edition yet!
A true test of muscle memory, skill, dexterity and organisation skills.
Welcome changes to the formula and quality of life improvements.
So many dishes, all with bio's and looking yummy.
Co-Op mode is fun.
Upgrades and accessibility options means you have a variety of ways to balance your play style.
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