Monday, July 16, 2012

Order Up!! (PS3) Review

Let's step outside of Retro Review Month for a moment with this review of Order Up!!, a cooking and restaurant-running game. You can also find this title on the Wii, 3DS, and elsewhere, but the build I am reviewing is that of the PlayStation 3 version. (Note: Order Up!! is available in retail or in digital form via the PlayStation Store.)

Now You're Cooking With Gas

Order Up! originally debuted on the Nintendo Wii. It seemed to be the perfect platform for the cooking and restaurant-running sim with all the gestures you could do to make delicious dishes. Fast-forward to four years later (and double the amount of exclamation points) and Order Up!! has arrived on Sony's PlayStation 3 with Move capabilities. Will this virtual version of managing a restaurant be one that should stay open for business?

There's a scarce plot to Order Up!! and it revolves around you, the player, choosing between one of two chefs: one bald, portly male and one exceptionally perky female. The choice chef parachutes out of the plane that circles above the island of Port Abello (get it?) and lands straight into the dumpster of a fast food chain called Burger Face. It is there your chef decides the joint is a foolproof place to hone their craft and earn some much needed dough.

Welcome to your new culinary world.
Your job at Burger Face is the tutorial of the game. It teaches you the ins and outs of making food and serving customers. There's a series of cars that pull into the drive thru, each requesting a single order. For instance, the first order asks for a burger topped with lettuce and tomato along with a side of fries. To give a customer the most satisfaction (and to earn the biggest tip possible), you need to perfect the order. This means manufacturing each piece of the order perfectly. For the tomato, you need to slice it by moving the left stick downward as the fluctuating circle on the tomato reaches its narrowest and doing this for all sections of the garnish. For the lettuce, it's as simple as flicking the left stick to the right multiple times to rake off each leaf.

The burger patty and fries take a bit more dedication. Setting the meat on the grill means you must watch it closely. A meter shows how done the meat is. Grill it too much and it will burn up and possibly be a fire hazard; grill it too little and the meat will be raw. Getting the little tick mark to end up in the green "perfect" area of the meter is encouraged. Of course, you have to cook both sides unlike the fries. The fries are less of a hassle, simply requiring you to dip them into the fryer, and waiting for the mark to be inside the green "Perfect" range of the meter.

The mouth waters just thinking about this dish.
After completing your training at Burger Face, your chef ends up seeing their paycheck, gets disgusted, and opts to buy their own diner. This is where the game opens up considerably. Through the course of Order Up!! you will eventually own five restaurants. Each restaurant must reach five star status before you can move onto the next restaurant or in-game challenge. Stars are gained through finishing multiple tasks such as earning a cumulative total of coins, buying a certain amount of chef specials, cleaning up your restaurant, and impressing the finicky food critic. The latter of which requires you to add the required spices - and only those spices - to appease the taste buds of the snobby critic. This is always the last of the five stars you need to net for each restaurant.

Coins are the currency of Order Up!! and they can be earned through a myriad of manners. The easiest and most consistent way of gaining money is through satisfying your various customers. Later on in the game you will have a full table of four to please. It's a juggling act trying to make four meals at once, watching so something doesn't burn on the grill while sauteing some meat in a skillet as well as completing each meal close together so they don't have the opportunity to get cold. Thankfully, you can hire the help of one of many assistant chefs (for some coins as hired help isn't free). Though you can only have two at a time and they don't usually create food with a perfect rating, they are great to have to split tasks up between them to ease the burden on you.

Three's a crowd, so what's four people then?
They say hunger is the best spice, but you wouldn't know that with Order Up!! On many occasions a customer will ask for a certain kick to their dish. Through buying different types of spices at the Farmers Market, you can satisfy their sensitive palates. When a customer asks for something sweet, throw in some brown sugar to liven the dish up. When a customer wants something aromatic, throw in some onion powder to satiate his or her nose, and so forth. You get a coin bonus when you assuage the request of a customer desiring a specific variety of spice. Some dishes even require that they have some type of spice tossed in, so it's always a good idea to keep your spices in good supply.

The majority of your playing time will be spent cooking. There's a plethora of different controller and stick movements you need to perform to create capable and competent dishes. From using the Sixaxis functionality to tilt the controller in a way to coat the frying pan's full surface with an egg yolk to using the left stick to stir the contents of a pot, there's different methods of cooking in Order Up!! With the Move controller, I imagine that there is a greater sense of satisfaction as you are able to perform lifelike gestures instead of being bound to dual analog. It would also make sifting through the game's menus much simpler.

Careful! That pot is quite hot!
Regardless, since the majority of playing Order Up!! is through cooking, the game meets the problem of feeling like you're just doing repetitive busywork, and it does feel quite repetitive several hours into the game. You can only grill the same burgers, dice the same onions, and butter the same bread until you eventually grow weary. Nonetheless, there are five in-kitchen mini-games and several out-of-kitchen mini-games to mix things up. These, however, aren't enough to avoid the sense of ennui players will at the end of the day feel.

Order Up!! is an incredibly charming game. The characters are oddly proportioned to the point of being cute, the dialogue is well voiced and humorous, and the world is crisp, clean, and full of life. The infrequent but present amount of slowdown can occur while cooking, though, and this usually happens when you are performing too many tasks at once. Fortunately, any messed up part of the meal can be redone with the only penalty being lost time. The music cycles between the same two or three tracks throughout the cooking experience, so by the time you have completed the gain 100,000 coins trophy, you might feel the music is monotonous and/or grating.

Order Up!! is a worthwhile addition to the PlayStation 3 library, and certainly a nice change of pace from the sports games and shooters that dominate the market. Nonetheless, Order Up!! skews more towards families and the younger set than the stereotypical "hardcore" gamer. The repetitive nature of cooking is the most jarring negative of the game, and since it takes up the bulk of the gameplay, it is only fair that you should be warned. Perhaps a game best played in small doses, Order Up!! serves up a competent dish of funny characters, intriguing controls, and a mostly enjoyable cooking and restaurant-running experience.

[SuperPhillip Says: 6.75/10]

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