One of my favorite indie franchises is back!
Type: Single-player, Local Co-op
Genre: Action, Simulation, Strategy
Developer: Vertigo Gaming Inc.
Publisher: Vertigo Gaming Inc.
Release Date: 29 Jan, 2020
Cook, Serve, Delicious 3?!! (I’ll just refer to it as CSD3 from now on) manages to tweak CSD2’s formula and manage to blend it with CSD1 all while adding a ton of detail to the overall experience that makes it the best CSD version yet – and it’s still in Early Access!
Despite the early lack of content, which is expected, CSD3 manages to add a nice story element, new foods (tons of them), voice-acting (and it’s damn entertaining!) and a weird truck food experience I didn’t know could top the previous 2’s arc of getting a bigger and better restaurant – it manages to not feel like a downgrade in progression but instead it transmits to the player a feel of gameplay shift that is fresh and unique without ruining anything that made the original such a classic.
While this is barely a story, the game does try to add a few cutscenes and a reason behind its post-apocalyptic take on America (yes, you read that right). A war breaks out and the iconic Cook, Serve, Delicious building is destroyed; you, the chef, are rescued by 2 robot girls (and fans) that quickly decide to turn their van into a food truck and let the chef continue his iconic legacy.
Thanks to the well done voice acting, the cutscenes and the overall presentation of the game manages to be way more interesting than I ever expected and while there is pretty much no story from what I’ve played, the game manages to give its gameplay and every level a bigger meaning than the predecessors, whose goal was basically set by the player only. Here, delivering food to citizens and travelling across the states is a joy that feels meaningful in the world CSD3 manages to build.
Essentially what matters here, the gameplay of CSD3 feels a lot like CSD2 but even more fast-paced (and difficult, too!) while adding some quality changes to the gameplay that simplify it, but don’t necessarily make it easier.
The biggest addition, for me, was the robot girls working as servers: by pressing CTRL, all ready to deliver orders are delivered instantly without you needing to navigate/hotkey to each delivery. This allows you to focus on actually cooking and managing the holding stations instead of tediously also managing what needs and doesn’t need to be delivered.
Chores are gone (which I’m a bit sad about actually, though I know most of you will be glad to hear it) and so are robberies, which are replaced by enemies that can disable some of your truck’s abilities – such as the holding stations which can stop working.
The Menu works based on a score system unlike the original. In CSD3 you need to pick a few Holding Station foods and some cook-to-order foods for each level, while meeting a score limit – each food has a score that represents its overall difficulty, from 0 to 5. Level 5 foods can be brutally difficult, especially if you decide to fill your menu with all maximum difficulty foods. I feel some scores need to be adjusted though, as I found a few level 2 foods harder than level 3 foods and some foods in the same level didn’t have a consistent difficulty tied to them, making the overall scoring system feel somewhat “random” at times and not well balanced/thought out.
The game has over 230 foods (I lost count midway, honestly) and feel unique… most of them. From the really simple pretzels (let them bake in the holding station and done) to the extremely difficult pizza, ratatouille or kebab (I have no idea why the kebab is a level 3 food, honestly, I’ve hated it since CSD1), there are foods from pretty much all over the world and learn more about (all of them with their own systems and combinations to cook, giving them this uniqueness and overall gives the gameplay variety and depth).
I am personally sad that there are no foods from Portugal though…
Biases aside, CSD3 has an impressive roster of foods, which pretty much feel all unique and give the gameplay great variety. It’s worth noting that not all foods have their descriptions done, but the ones already completed and really well written and humorous at times. The truck upgrades (the game’s upgrade system, working similar to the previous games’ restaurant upgrades) are also a nice, yet familiar addition to players acquainted with the franchise. Overall, the foods and upgrades, tied to an addicting “just-one-more-level” gameplay loop and is both fast-paced and tense (you can activate zen mode and play more relaxed and enjoy an experience more akin to CSD1, though!) just make CSD3 a really fun and polished experience I didn’t expect from a day 1 Early Access release.
Take my money now, soundtrack.
Seriously, great soundtrack, very relaxed and got me humming quite a big while playing. I even left the game open for a couple of hours just playing the menu song while I was working one time to sit back and work in a more relaxed manner. Music during gameplay is also very well done and fits the cheerful mood of the game’s visuals really well. It’s easily the best soundtrack of the franchise yet and the best I heard so far in 2020 (though only one month has gone by so that isn’t saying much…).
Voice acting was already briefly mentioned above and it is actually really well done, the robots are voiced well and with enthusiasm which further enhances the cheerful mood that CSD always gave me while playing, kudos to the voice actresses for their work!
Finally, overall sound effects – they are equally as great, from the sound effect of giving a perfect order sounding extremely satisfying to the anguish-inducing angry reacts, all sound effects are great and help give the gameplay a great sense of feedback and satisfaction when doing everything, even the sounds when cooking – slapping toppings on a pizza, baking pretzels or simply frying a few donuts or sopapillas.
Damn, GameMaker can allow for some great looking games!
CSD always had a great stylish art style put on its graphics and the overall food presentation is both simple yet delicious to look at and CSD3 is no different. The graphical upgrade from CSD2 to CSD3 is definitely smaller than the big jump seen from CSD1 to CSD2, the graphics are still extremely pretty and visually pleasing with vibrant colours and shiny textures. The food looks as great as it always did – I recommend to play after eating or you’ll probably have to grab a snack mid-game.
The biggest problem (with the game in general, honestly) is the UI which is… weak, to say the least. From the extremely awkward F9 to open the next set of orders to not being able to close it with a proper button, the UI has quite a few issues that transcend my comprehension. Picking the foods for the menu is oddly convoluted (then again, it was something CSD as a whole never managed to pull off properly) and a few logical inconsistencies with how some menus behave during gameplay just make the experience a bit odd. The holding station’s next order menu is the biggest issue for me and should either be displayed at all times or should work in a different manner. Having to press a button to open and the very same button to close in the middle of a harder level is just adding a level of stress that could be perfectly avoided. Re-binding is a fix that can be done but isn’t recommended and nearly all keyboard keys are used and re-binding to something more convenient can end up confusing some of the cooking processes during gameplay.
A fantastic game and a phenomenal(-ly worthy) entry to the CSD franchise, CSD3 is totally worth your investment this early in the EA period. Despite a few UI issues, the gameplay (with no bugs encountered at all!)and the content is already plentiful enough to justify a purchase, you’ll sink hours and hours like I did for sure and there’s no better way to spend them other than making delicious food for post-apocalyptic American citizens. By far one of the most polished Early Access experiences I ever had.