Cooking Simulator is exactly what it sells itself as: a fun (and often funny) cooking sim offering different modes for different experiences, i.e. different tastes for different palates, with the ability to pipe in your own music. The game also boasts perks, skills, and 60+ recipes to unlock and use to your heart’s content, as well as realistic physics and the life-like realization that you’re going to have to clean up the plate you just threw against the wall for fun. Hey, at least they didn’t call it Cleanup Simulator.
Here’s the thing about Cooking Simulator: it’s most likely exactly what you’re imagining such a game to be. Whatever you’re thinking of right this moment? You’re probably right. I was! That’s not a bad thing as it’s been awhile since I’ve played a game that so perfectly and simplistically was exactly what was advertised. I’d like to stress this fact as it’s important.
The premise is simple: you’ll navigate a 3D-styled interactive kitchen, dealing with every detail and circumstance you’ve come across in the real thing. The menu reveals plenty of choices, and two main options: New Game (a sort of story mode) and Sandbox mode. There’s also a button that leads straight to the tutorial, but you get there just by starting up a new game, so it’s more for extra practice than anything else.
Story mode consists of managing the money you spend for your restaurant (equipment does eventually break and ingredients often need to be bought), managing time as you deal with every order, carefully doling out just the right amount of salt on that baked trout you’ve been slaving over. Such nuance can be nerve-racking, to say the least.
Sandbox Mode allows a slower-paced experience, and an easier one – as all recipes are unlocked and available to use, and all perks are available to toggle on or off as you see fit. There’s also the ability to decorate your kitchen components by theme, and Sandbox Mode unlocks all of those as well. There are a couple gag themes, including a Horror theme, which looked so grimy I couldn’t bear to keep it. Personally, I preferred the more laid-back Sandbox Mode, if only for the fact that I didn’t feel so harshly judged when I messed up an order.
One tip I’ll suggest if you’re looking for musical accompaniment in the kitchen. Adding music to the folder that puts your tunes in-game only reads files, not folders; just dump that music in there and you’ll be cooking to the sweet sounds of whatever-you-choose.
There are a few complaints to air for Cooking Simulator, though they’re mostly nitpicking on my part. The initial loading screen as you start the game is atrociously long. Scary long. Every time I worried the game had stopped loading at all – so far this fear has been unfounded, but the complaint stands. There’s a certain amount of problem-solving required as well, and I’m the type to like my hand held, at least for longer than the all-too-short short tutorial.
My overall impression of Cooking Simulator is a good one…but I kind of expected that. While the physics of slicing potatoes was a steep learning curve, it’s easier than you might think once things get – forgive me – cooking. Those just looking for quick cooking thrills should find Sandbox mode an enjoyable experience, while those seeking a more culinary challenge will have fun managing the picky food critics in Story mode. There’s really not much else to the game, but there didn’t need to be. Well, maybe more of the Gordon Ramsey analogue who occasionally pops up with witty one-liners; he’s far too tame to be the real thing.