Cook, Serve, Delicious! 3?! takes the fevered cooking game on the road, which opens up a slightly different gameplay style while further refining the original gameplay concept along the way.
All three of the games in the series amount to what is a frantic rhythm game as orders come in associated with specific sequences of button presses to complete. For many of the early orders, this can lead a player to a zen-like experience of hitting the sequences without much thought, but later orders require a much more active mental state, with optional ingredients that can drop customer satisfaction if missed or included unintentionally.
I’ve played previous iterations of this franchise on the PC, so I was definitely curious about how the experience would translate to a controller. The PC version of the game often ties keybindings to the first letter of an ingredient (with some frustrating exceptions), the console edition maps each ingredient to a face button, which means you might have to also hold in a specific trigger to get the item you’d like any time you’re dealing with more than four ingredients.
In the grand scheme of things, it’s probably an acceptable trade off to make. Many dishes, particularly the early ones, require you to simply dump all of the available ingredients into a pot, pan, or other piece of cooking equipment, which is much easier when you know that regardless of what the recipe calls for, you’re just going to have to hit all the face buttons. On the PC, two four ingredient recipes might use very different key presses. The balance comes in recipes where you have to choose specific ingredients from a larger list. Rather than hitting a key on the keyboard related to the name of the ingredient, you’ll have to pay closer attention to its A, X, B, Y equivalent.
The third iteration of the game has players running a food truck, driving to various stops in a post-apocalyptic world. The story’s window dressing is minimal, but plays out in a few ways. First of all, since you’re driving to the location you’ll serve food, you have time to cook on the way to each location. Special orders can be cooked and covered so they’re ready to serve when you arrive at your location. Other bulk foods can be cooked at a holding station to either be served or finished when you arrive, but they have a shelf life, so balancing when to cook in advance becomes part of the challenge. Another change is that the ancillary tasks like scrubbing the dishes are gone, which means you’ll be solely focused on preparing food.
Your truck can be upgraded along your journey to protect yourself from attacks (that come with modifiers like knocking a holding station offline), increase customer patience, or even refresh food that’s spoiling. Most of the upgrades are pretty noticeable differences, giving a solid sense of progression to the game. It’s needed too, because there are several hundred levels to play through in this game. You can also spend the money you earn on decorative pieces for the truck. Not necessary, but a fun touch. The music you’ll be hearing across your journey is also unlike what you’d hear in maybe any other videogame, but it’s fun, light, and calming to counteract the stressful gameplay.
When it comes down to it, Cook, Serve, Delicious! 3?! really isn’t for everyone, but it does a great job for the people who it’s for. It can be a very stressful game and it involves a good deal of repetition. For fans though, it narrows the scope of the gameplay to really focus in on what’s important, which is the cooking. It does this while broadening that core gameplay with an incredible variety of dishes available, regardless of a level’s requirements. Level unlocks are tied to medals you earn for your performance in each level which is a natural fit for the people playing a game like this that strive to hit level-long perfect combos.
If you haven’t been sold on the concept in the past, I don’t think this game will sell you, but if you enjoy it, it’s well worth the price of entry.