Cooked to perfection.
For the last 8 years the Cook, Serve, Delicious! series has evolved from a fast-paced cooking/restaurant simulator to a fast-paced cooking/food truck simulator set in war-torn America in the future. I first came across the original game on a Giant Bomb Quicklook and was immediately won over. It captured exactly what I liked about cooking games. CSD2 added even more, and had the extra bonus of being available on the Switch to play it anywhere. Cook, Serve, Delicious! 3?! Has finally left the Early Access period, so now it’s time to find out if the series is still as fresh as ever.
2041 – The US has been devastated by war. The franchises are still there, the Cook, Serve Delicious! Restaurant in the Teragon Tower is as strong as ever…until it is destroyed during the opening scenes. You are pulled out of the rubble by two rescue robots Whisk and Cleaver who donate their rescue truck to the cause of serving delicious food. A year later and it’s time to take to the roads in the food truck and keep the restaurant alive. The dystopian war torn future might seem like a sudden turn for a series about running a restaurant. But if you paid attention to the in-game emails you received during the last two games you’d know it isn’t so far fetched.
Operating out of a food truck in the far flung future still retains the same Cook, Serve, Delicious you’re familiar with, but it changes the formula in some big ways. Be warned (as the game also advised), do not play this game while hungry! There are hundreds of recipes and so many of them look sooo good, too good even. This was the worst time to be working on losing weight, but it’s also taught me about all kinds of yummy-looking food.
Instead of just serving customers as they walk up, the food truck has a period of time en route where you can prepare orders before you arrive at the next stop. It’s still just as hectic, maybe even more so as you brace yourself for the next wave of customers. There are special orders that pop up as the truck is on the move, as well as making sure the holding stations are ready to go. I very quickly found out I couldn’t just keep the holding stations full, the food only stays good for so long. As soon as you pull up to a stop you’ll need to keep the holding stations stocked while juggling the meals that have more to prep. It is always frantic during the stops, more customers than ever want your meals.
In CSD3, you’re not stuck trying to select a menu from an extensive list of available meals. Each route is themed, narrowing down what’s available to select from. This also keeps you from relying on the same meals over and over again. You also set the pace for each location, each meal has a difficulty points rating. The lower rated items are easy to throw together and are practically ready to go when cooked. Higher rated items involve a few extra steps in prep and a wide variety of ingredients. At the earlier stages I went in a little too confident in my CSD skills, making menus that had some of the highest rating dishes available. I had to revise this strategy pretty quickly as it turns out I’m no master chef. I recommend taking it easy with the menu choices until you’ve had some time getting used to the new pace of this game. It’s also just not necessary early on until the difficulty ramps up and requires higher rated meals. Eventually you’ll be ready for the Iron Cook National Foodtruck Championship. There’s even a narrative as you progress across what’s left of the USA, Food Truck attacks (they mess with your truck) and so many meals to make. Whisk and Cleaver make for entertaining companions, commiserating with you (despite only messing up one order), or just being their peppy selves. Voice actors Negaoryx and Vana lend their voices to the robotic duo in the first real talking roles in a CSD game.
The good news is Cook, Serve Delicious! 3?! Is as good as it ever was. While it does make some changes to the structure, this series has always added upon each entry. Going back to the previous two games, it’s fun to see how the series has changed and evolved while still being entirely enjoyable.
You no longer have to deal with chores, no more taking out the rubbish, running the dishwasher or dealing with pests. I missed those chores mixed in with juggling food orders, but there’s plenty to keep you busy instead. While the previous games had their lulls between meal rushes, in CSD3 it feels like you should always be working on something even while the truck is on the move. It keeps the pressure on, but it never feels too stressful. When it starts feeling a little too much, there’s the chill mode to help. You can still mess up orders in this mode, but your customers will have the patience of Saints. Just don’t expect to be taking home any gold medals.
From the very first game the recipes in this series have always looked so good. They look absolutely delicious the third time around. There are so many different foods, and each menu option informs you about the region the meal is from and some neat facts. Before you purchase them to add to the menu, you can also make them in a training mode. This is especially helpful if you’re about to go into a run without having made it yet.
Once you’ve reached Yum level 5 you unlock the ability to upgrade the food truck. This is where you can get extra holding stations, or take on an extra challenge by adding another prep station. It’s definitely worth sinking some of your upgrade parts in improving the effectiveness of the holding stations and reducing the damage done by food truck attacks.
Your new robot friends Whisk and Cleaver are the ones who saved you from the destruction of Cook, Serve, Delicious. Their ability to autoserve is a godsend! When the orders fill up with holding station orders, you can get them all served at once. It can also be done while prepping another meal, it was something I always wish I could do with CSD2. It still didn’t stop me from prematurely plating not entirely cooked dishes and messing up my perfect run, but that’s purely on me.
The music has always been too catchy for its own good, especially the main title theme in the first two games. It’s hard to sum up the music by Jonothan Geer, it sounds good in all its smooth jazz and fast tempo tracks. While the CSD theme doesn’t return, I have grown fond of the new track “It’s Dangerous to Go Alone”.
Sometimes you don’t want to cook alone. So for those who want more cooks in the kitchen there’s co-op. A friend can jump in any time and work as a team. If a particularly difficult level is giving you grief, it can help to keep on top of all the orders going on.
Being on the Switch, with the possibility of playing the game in handheld mode or using a Switch Lite, the size of the text can be impacted. With a game like CSD3, it is vital to be readable. You need to be able to easily read food orders and ingredients. Fortunately, CSD3 provides the option to increase the font size. The options even go as far as being able to mute gun sounds and police sirens. Recognising that these sounds could make people anxious coming from PTSD, developer Vertigo Gaming removed them in a really cool move.
It goes without saying that if you’re not into fast paced cooking simulators, CSD3 likely won’t click with you any more than the first two games. If everything written so far appeals to you or you’re a fan of the series, then I can’t recommend this game enough. It’s not a perfect game, there are some minor loading issues when in the training mode. The options seem to struggle a little to show up initially, but it doesn’t impact on the actual levels. The difficulty can spike if you’re not careful, especially late game, but the Chill setting mitigates these more gruelling sections if you are happy not getting the Gold ranking.
If you’ve enjoyed a Cook, Serve, Delicious game in the past, rest assured you’ll have plenty to like here. Vertigo Gaming has really done a great job building up these games. Across the three games there has always been enough changes to the structure and rhythm to how they play that each game is still very playable now. Playing the original CSD on an iPhone/iPad is still one of my favourite touch screen games, for way too long I held out hope that I would get to play CSD2 on there one day. On the Switch CSD2 did have touch screen controls, which is great if you trip up on button combinations or just find it better that way. The good news is that CSD3 also provides touch screen controls. While the Switch screen isn’t as big as an iPad, it’s manageable, but a tad fiddly.
It’s been a long wait to get our hands on Cook, Serve, Delicious! 3?! on the Switch as the game went through Early Access. It was well worth the wait! CSD3 manages to keep the formula interesting once again, although for fans of the series it might mean not everything you enjoyed made it over. Cook, Serve, Delicious! 3?! is a solid, enjoyable cooking sim that will keep you busy for many hours. It’s like an all-you-can-eat that you’d actually want to eat at.
It's ok, there's plenty to play.