Review: Cook, Serve, Delicious! 2!!
A good developer will take player feedback from a previous game into account when designing the next, and there’s no doubt that’s what the Cook, Serve, Delicious! 2!! devs did. I know I wasn’t the only one a little put off by the progression and variety of the original CSD, because those are the chief changes you’ll find in CSD2. There’s a lot more that’s been added to the mix as well, making this a very ambitious follow-up title. Ambition is what you’ll need to break into it, too, because for every change addressing a weakness of the first, there’s seemingly a new system or challenge to make this one even harder.
The first Cook, Serve, Delicious! ended with you running a smashing five-star restaurant out of SherriSoda Tower, but there is no success the investor class can’t ruin. A rash of hardcore embezzlement has left the tower and your establishment destitute, your only recourse being to start over from scratch. And why not? You did it once, you can do it again from the heights of the Teragon Supertower. Here you’ll have total control over the new Cook, Serve, Delicious! restaurant, but also the opportunity to take shifts at the other eateries in the tower. Ranging from snacks and desserts to steak and seafood houses, each shop features a vastly different lineup of foods to prepare and challenges to overcome. Whether you’re working your own tables or temping for others, your goal remains the same: rebuild your restaurant and reputation until you’re once again among the culinary greats of the world.
Hopefully you remember how the original CSD operated, with its thrilling, high-stress, button-pressing cooking and extremely gradual progression. There are a lot of changes here to highlight, and the first has to be the new cooking options. In addition to the short-order shuffle of the first game, there are now prep stations that can hold entrees and side orders. The utility of preparing meals ahead of rushes should be obvious, but optional side dishes can also be prepared to extend the time that people will wait for their orders. This can stack to dramatic effect, giving you upwards of a full minute to get to cooking an order. It’s not really optional, either, because you start off with seven stations to take orders from as opposed to the four from the original, and the new recipes are not going to make matters any easier.
I’m coming at this from a bit of a weird angle because I’ve already played Cook, Serve, Delicious!! 3!? and I know how the gameplay loop smartly evolves from here, but CSD2 feels like a massive overload coming from CSD1. Prep stations add an interesting new angle to the game but one that doesn’t really compliment the intensity of CSD1’s made-to-order madness. A big part of this is how ridiculously complicated even the most simple orders are in this one, requiring multiple preparation steps and thumbing through pages of ingredients to make something. Dishes with multiple pages of stuff in CSD1 were huge jumps in difficulty for me, and here everything has them, even cereal where you have to turn the page to get to the milk. I tried a shift at a Chinese restaurant where to make any meat dish, you had to pick one of five marinades, one of two proteins, let it cook, then get back to it before it burns and pick another sauce from page 1 and more topping from pages 2 and 3. And during rushes you’ll have seven tickets like that. According to the in-game clock, my shift at the Chinese place ended at 10pm and I finished my last order at 1am.
If everything in Cook, Serve, Delicious! 2!! wasn’t so absurdly hard to make, I’d almost certainly prefer it greatly to the first game. The menu is enormous now and buzz is an entirely optional system (that you have to opt out of, but still), meaning you can build the menu of your dreams and really drill down on the recipes you like. Having the option of doing traditional days at your restaurant or shifts with specific menus at others gives the game a lot of variety, especially since you can try out new foods on the job and you get experience no matter what you’re doing. It might even be too much variety, because I won’t deny CSD2 feeling a little directionless at times. The requirements for star ranks are gone and progression seems centered around leveling up, so you’re really just on your own indefinitely. Upgrades are limited to reducing the impact of chores and there’s a robust design mode for customizing the look of your restaurant, though it’s purely cosmetic.
I really do think Cook, Serve, Delicious! 2!! is an improvement over the original game, but with so many different, dramatic changes, it probably comes out even for most folks. For my part, I love how open and sandboxy the whole structure is, but I really chafe at how much harder even basic dishes are. The prep stations are a cool idea (and I know they lead to something great in CSD3), but here they only add to the complexity. Anyone who enjoyed the first Cook, Serve, Delicious! should definitely give this a try, just with the understanding that too much has changed to really guarantee anything. If you liked complex orders or disliked the slow progression, you’ll likely appreciate this one more, at least once you work your way through the buffet of changes to the best bits.