Restaurant/time management games have been a staple of the casual gamer’s entertainment diet for some time now, and can be traced far beyond the smashing success of the Dash franchise. It’s no surprise then, to see a fantastic 2008 fast food service sim re-released on a console with peripherals most similar to its native control scheme on the Wii. Some four years later Order Up! has made its debut on the PlayStation 3 (and in portable form on the 3DS), complete with trophy and Move support, and the potential to catch the eye of a much wider audience, now that it’s been freed from the constraints of bargain bin hell.
Order Up asks you take up the mantle of your very own fledgling chef (male or female – you choose!) and begin work at the prestigious (or not) Burger Face. It’s at Burger Face you’re introduced to some of the wacky humor that’s injected throughout certain points of the game. You’re introduced to an acne-prone teenager who’s been trained in the fine art of showing new Burger Face employees the ropes.
Tutorial lessons ensue, most of which involve demonstrating the correct way to flip burgers via Move-enabled gesture, how to effectively slice tomatoes, and proper frying techniques. All these skills and more will quickly prove infinitely useful, as the name of the game is acquiring and mastering cooking skills, then putting them to the test.
For your first lesson you’ll learn how to utilize the Move wand for tasks such as grilling burgers, putting a batch of fries in the deep fryer, cutting lettuce, and slicing tomatoes for a hamburger and fries combo meal. Each task is performed with a different motion of the Move controller. For instance, to start the fries cooking, you use a thrusting motion downward to simulate lowering a deep fryer basket. To flip burgers, you need to flick the wand as you would a regular spatula.
Normally, that would sound like a horrible thing to find in a game, right? But with Order Up, that’s simply not the case. This time management gem takes normal, mundane tasks like your first job at McDonald’s and turns them into quite the rewarding experience. You can and will be expected to multitask. You can put a batch of fries in to cook while you watch the cooking meter reach the sweet spot on the burgers, or you can tackle the vegetables while waiting on the burgers. As you progress through the game this becomes crucial to your success, as the faster you deliver food to hungry customers, the more Coin you receive in tips. This micro-management can be likened to the Diner Dash games, where speed is important and pleasing your customers is your main goal.
After your brief stint working for Burger Face, your character happens upon a vacant greasy spoon that he or she decides to purchase, with the goal of turning it into something spectacular. That’s where things begin to get a little more difficult. At the Gravy Chug, you’re in charge of every responsibility that being a restaurant owner demands. Fortunately, you can hire on help to aid you in preparing food. It costs Coin to hire assistants, but as you work your way through the harder meals that take more time to prepare, you will realize it was indeed money well spent. Not only will you receive more Coin in tips for getting orders processed as speedily as you can, but some tasks involved in the preparation of dishes are beastly.
The customers in Order Up! are a diverse crowd, with some hilarious one-liners and personalities. Even though some might find the patrons a bit too stereotypical for their tastes (see what I did there?), there are tons of laughs to be found. Each customer has a personality and preference for the way their meals are prepared. Some want you to pour an entire bottle of barbecue sauce all over their plate, and some prefer to keep it simple with a pinch of salt in their french onion soup. This is where spices come into play. A trip to the Farmer’s Market in the port town of Port Abello will offer many different spices to purchase that cover the wide spectrum of your patrons’ tastes. You can buy barbecue sauce, malt vinegar, brown sugar, salt, black pepper, and more as you progress through the game. Using spices that correlate to what your customers ask for will result in tip bonuses, earning you more Coin.
At the end of each shift, comment cards your hungry visitors have left will tell you how well you matched their tastes. If you’re not sure who enjoys what, don’t worry. The game does a good job of reminding you who likes what. Even if you forget, there’s no real penalty. You just won’t make as much Coin.
Coin is your ticket to making it big. Pleasing customers quickly and efficiently earns more money, as well as seasoning their dishes the way they like it. Customers may also order specials, which you can provide in a timely fashion to get a double bonus. As you make more and more money, specials can be bought from the Black Market in the Farmer’s Market. These specialty dishes pull more customers in, because it’s your restaurant’s special take on an old classic, such as the BBQ Burger or the Black Pepper Chicken. When you’re making bank you can do many things to make your diner into the best it can be. You can fire or hire new help, upgrade kitchen tools and appliances, clean up shop, and buy new items that will appear on the menu. Doing all of these things often will earn starts for your restaurant, until you’re lucky enough to become a five-star establishment.
The game isn’t over there, though. Not by a long shot. After your stint at the Gravy Chug, more opportunities open up, such as the ability to operate French, Italian, and even Mexican restaurants. With each new style of food there are more dishes to learn to prepare, more help to hire, and more new customers. Eventually you can work your way up to an Iron Chef spoof that leads into a hilarious conclusion that you’ll be a bit sad to see, because that means the end of the game. It’s a shame when the game is completed, but it should be noted that it will take upwards of 10 hours to complete a career, or more if you so desire. It all depends on your playing style.
Not only will you want to keep playing for the sheer entertainment factor, but the art style is top-notch. Each character is lovingly crafted with a style not unlike cel-shading. Each new acquaintance you make wouldn’t be out of place in a cartoon you might find on say, Nickelodeon, about cooking. Bright colors abound, and everything has a definite kiddy feel to it. Even though the food follows suit, it always ends up looking so appetizing you’ll want to drop the controller every few minutes to ponder going out to a real diner. The graphics are crisp and clear, quite clean, and one of the finer aesthetics that put Order Up! above the rest.
Of course, with visuals you have to have sound, and Order Up! is no slouch. You can hear the burgers sizzle and the fat clogging your arteries. Perhaps that last bit was an exaggeration, but when cooking food you’re treated to all the sounds you would experience had you chosen to prepare food in real life. The waitress at the Gravy Chug gives the authentic greasy spoon charm, with little comments such as “What are ya havin’, honey?” or “These folks look hungry! Chop, chop!”. Accompanying some wacky voice acting is a constant energetic surf rock track. It isn’t overpowering enough to be an annoyance, but it hardly ever seems to change. You’ll be so busy preparing food though that you won’t really be paying attention to the music.
Order Up! offers a very rewarding and challenging career mode that frankly puts Cooking Mama to shame. Rather than blindly creating dishes for a cute little anime chef to smile at you and praise you, you’re cooking for a purpose. It’s honestly a great way to experience the hectic world of restaurant ownership without all the muss and fuss. It’s great fun, looks like a well-animated cartoon, and offers a completely unique experience that works well with the Move wand and even Trophy support to keep you motivated.
One can only hope that Order Up! hits it big in the entertainment business, because subsequent releases have the potential to become some of the best cooking games to ever have been conceived – besides Pizza Tycoon, you know. Now if you’ll excuse me, there’s a country-fried steak calling my name. All this review writing has made me hungry.
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UTV Ignition Games