Automachef (Switch eShop Review)
Don’t let the charming disguise fool you, the surprisingly challenging and complex Automachef means business.
In Automachef, you’ll team up with your best not-a-robot pal to start a fully automated restaurant business, moving through levels of different sizes, themes, and recipes to maybe or maybe not crush humanity. Just your average restauranteur stuff!
Your nameless robot friend provides instructions and moral support, and you’re tasked with piecing together each kitchen to serve up the required dishes. You also need to keep an eye on how many ingredients you’re using, your budget, and how much power your kitchen uses. As you go, the machinery and the recipes required will become more complex, as well as the level of challenge in keeping your finely crafted kitchens running efficiently. Each level has three challenges to complete to move on, but you don’t need to achieve all three to be able to progress through the campaign – think of it like Overcooked’s star system or Angry Birds.
The game has a charming exterior in both its art direction and the soundtrack, but don’t let that fool you; the game isn’t necessarily easy. I found myself having real difficulty with even the first few levels after the tutorial, so don’t expect to have a productive time playing this if you’re a little tired or new to automation games. It’s fun to figure things out and watch your behemoth of machinery at work but depending on your level of experience with these sorts of games, it might take you a while to puzzle it out.
The gameplay is relatively straightforward, but sometimes I found the game wasn’t clear enough about how some of the machines work or how exactly to place them. However, the best method is just to experiment and see what happens – thankfully, it’s a quick process to change your kitchen around or restart the level entirely, and there’s no penalty for doing so. There’s also multiple save slots per level, so if you spend a lot of time on one configuration of machines you can always save it, reset the level and try something different to see if that works any better without losing all your progress.
There’s a surprising wealth of options to choose from in just how your kitchen runs, and I suspect the options here are going to be familiar to those fond of games like Factorio. Sometimes you have to get a bit creative to make your intended set-up work. In one instance, I couldn’t connect every piece of machinery to my Order Reader, and I couldn’t afford another in my budget, so I played around with having my Dispenser spit out pieces of bread every 18 seconds; enough for orders to get completed, and not enough to be overly wasteful and lose one of the challenges. You’ll find yourself doing a lot of this as the levels progress – your first set-up isn’t likely to be the one that’ll help you finish the level. That’s also without introducing additional variables as the levels progress, such as disasters like fires, critics coming to sample your food, rush hours, hygiene, and the like.
Sometimes I found it a bit easier to play in docked mode than in handheld due to some of the text size and moving machinery around with the control stick feeling a little fiddlier in handheld, but it’s certainly not annoying enough to be deal-breaker. Other than that, the controls feel pretty good, and like the rest of the game, is for the most part straightforward. In the instances that I did press the wrong button, Automachef isn’t the sort of game that you need to be doing time-sensitive presses or anything like that.
Apart from the main campaign mode, there’s also contract mode, in which you run a business building automated kitchens to the specifications of each contract. I would recommend completing at least some of the campaign first to get a handle on how to play and while the contract mode is a nice addition, I’d say the campaign is the main attraction overall.
Not to be overly philosophical, but Automachef had me thinking a lot about what it means to cook. Sure, it’s immensely satisfying to watch your perfect automated culinary masterpiece of a kitchen churning out picture-perfect dishes, but it almost made me a little sad, like a world where machines spit out bread every 18 seconds has perhaps lost a bit of its magic.
Nonetheless, Automachef is complicated and sometimes downright difficult, but effortlessly charming and satisfying to crack once you finally get the gist of things. If you’ve ever been curious about an automation game, grab your apron and your toolbox, and witness your own mechanical cooking genius.
+ Utterly charming
+ Easy to restart levels and try something new
- The game could be clearer about how some machines work
- Moving machines can be fiddly in handheld
- Text size in handheld a little small