Back on the Grill

I am back to Cook, Serve, Delicious! 2!! and enjoying it. I had planned to shelve it until the next update, when custom keybindings were to have been added, but that was delayed after the entire update was delayed about a month. Good game, one person development team, weak project management. *shrug*, it happens.

Custom keybinding is harder than it sounds. Let’s assume that CSD2 was programmed with that in mind, since CSD1 had it. That means you do not hardcode “chicken=K” but instead set it to a variable that is more easily changed, and set that variable to K. Okay, but to give the player control over that, you still need to give them an interface to change that. CSD2 has almost 200 foods, some of which have more than a dozen keybinds. Building a user interface that lets you usefully look at potentially 2000 options is non-trivial. I think the game really needs that feature, for reasons previously explained, but it is not unplayable without it. And the new update promises the interface needed to manage all those foods, which seems like a step towards an interface to manage all those keys.

So I went back to play more in anticipation of next week’s update. If nothing else, I wanted some money in the bank for the new upgrades. I found the harder levels still hard, significantly because of the inconsistent keybindings across foods, so I decided to try more of the easy levels. The “campaign” included at launch, and the new big thing for CSD2, is “Cook For Hire,” a series of restaurants where each “day” is a fixed challenge: a pre-selected menu with set “buzz” and modifiers. Earlier days have fewer options and customers, later days are a constant rush of people and juggling options. (Another theme of CSD2: you pick your difficulty level.) I had been playing through each restaurant, first day to last, until I got a gold medal on each. I hit a wall, somewhere around the edge of my skill level and managing several different keys for chocolate and mangoes on the same menu, which is where I left the game a month ago. Coming back, I tried more of the first days across restaurants.

That has been great. I have been exposed to more of the breadth of the game, found more things that I like, and went through some to climb the difficulty because I really liked the recipes and challenges for those restaurants. I found that I enjoy the recipes that take advantage of the holding stations, CSD2’s new functionality where you can prep food in advance. You do not make soup for each customer as they order it; you prepare a pot of soup, and you serve from that. Dishes like sliced meats and side soups take a long time to cook but feed a lot of people. Soup in particular has gone from one of the most difficult foods in CSD1 to something complex but worthwhile when you make an entire pot of soup.

Asian foods tend to be horrible. That may not be fair, since I have not tried them all, but I have tried restaurants with like four variants on stir fry, each of which has a dozen recipes, most of them somewhat similar but different enough to mess you up if you rely on muscle memory, and then they have some inconsistent keybindings. Ugh. Or lots of finicky details. Or keybindings that would probably make sense if I had time to practice the recipes, but I am seeing them for the first time when customers order them. (Another improvement that I hope is coming: let us practice/preview the recipes from the screen listing what foods are on the menu that day. Give me an easier way than noting all the foods then going back and forth through several screens to find them.) And then there are the foods that have special instructions at the bottom other than ingredients, like rolling and slicing and wrapping. Also the Taiwanese Shaved Ice whose keybindings I have already complained about. I do not know if the Asian foods picked are more complex, if they are new and have not had the streamlining that might come with “if I had this to do over,” they are just unfamiliar to me, or they are intentionally more difficult out of some orientalist exoticism. But sliced ham feels really easy after making gourmet tofu dishes.

Good game. Worth buying. If you have not yet, I would say it is worth full price, and Steam sales happen all the time (maybe next week, for the update?).

: Zubon