Publisher: Zoo Games
Release Date: July 22, 2008
It'd be easy to take one look at Order Up! and dismiss it entirely as a Cooking Mama clone, and regretfully, I imagine quite a few people will do just that. They're not entirely wrong either; the cooking sections feel like they're heavily inspired by Mama, and I'd go so far as to say that I don't think this game would exist if it weren't for the popularity of the Cooking Mama series.
While Order Up! on the Wii might borrow from the formula, it definitely adds a lot of its own style and some fresh gameplay to the mix. While a large portion of the game focuses on creating and cooking food, mostly done through the motion controls on the Wiimote, another major aspect is in creating and running a full-scale restaurant, complete with staff. You must also handle multiple orders at once, something that definitely feels a bit like another popular casual title, Diner Dash, but with much more detail.
Think of yourself as the Chef Gordon Ramsey of the Order Up! universe, not only tasked with preparing tasty food for your patrons, but also with managing your own group of sous chefs and running your own restaurants, with the game requiring you to create multiple locations before your time is done. Along with that, your success is measured in how many stars your restaurant currently rates, and a lot of that has to do with the quality of the food you produce and how quickly your can create it.
That's where your staff of sous chefs will come into play. As you take in orders, which constantly pour in, you need to figure out the components of an order that you should create first. Each order can have up to four different selections, so choosing your early preparations becomes more vital as things get busier. With your sous chefs in play, you can delegate certain tasks to them, leaving you with the more involved aspects of the dish you're trying to create. Using your chefs as a team is essential to creating your food in a timely fashion, and it definitely takes off some of the stress of getting everything done. Sounds a lot like a real kitchen, doesn't it?
The more precise your timing, the more money you'll earn, which you can then use to hire more sous chefs and eventually expand your business. In the beginning, things feel a bit slow, and you'll probably find things pretty repetitive, but as you create more restaurants, you'll gain access to different types of foods and recipes, most of which are grouped according to the theme of the restaurant for which you're preparing food. You'll start of with a basic diner, meaning a lot of fried food, hamburgers, etc., but then you'll work your way up to something more akin to fine dining, and the amount of prep work involved there is completely different from what you start with.
The gameplay in Order Up! is divided into days, and each restaurant has a certain number of levels that it needs to achieve before you can move on to your next step. Certain goals need to be met before you can increase in level, with most goals being simple, like creating enough cash. Well, they're simple in idea, but as you progress to the more advanced restaurants, the gameplay definitely becomes more challenging to perform.
Also, there are a few mini-games that will pop up on occasion, usually something that has to do with restaurant maintenance, involving keeping your location clean or handling some other type of random crisis. These are obviously thrown into the mix to change up the standard gameplay a bit, but they also feel unnecessary, considering you're already tasked with enough things to do in the main game. Also, they're not nearly as fun or engaging as creating dishes or frantically delegating tasks to your sous chefs, so I'm not sure why the developers bothered with them in the first place.
The control scheme feels really similar to Cooking Mama, with the majority of it being performed via the Wiimote. Things like stirring, folding, and chopping are all pretty self-explanatory and easy to perform, even without the on-screen instructions, but a few of the harder tasks are explained well enough, and in no time, you'll find yourself performing the majority of the functions with ease. A few things end up being a bit too similar to each other for my tastes, and on occasion, the Wiimote will interpret your actions incorrectly, which can get frustrating when you're dealing with a large quantity of orders at once. However, I didn't have this problem often enough to consider it game-breaking, and the more you play, the more you'll get a hang of the precise motion you need to make.
There's even a little bit of story in Order Up! involving the fictional town of Port Abello (I'm pretty sure you get this), which is supposed to be one of the top culinary locations in the world. You're currently the rookie chef in town, and you've been tasked with creating and maintaining your own series of restaurants. You'll also be a participant in the Fortified Chef Competition, where you'll pair off against other AI-controlled opponents for the title of top chef in Port Abello. Granted, there's nothing Oscar-worthy here, but it's nice to have a plot to propel the game forward a bit. Also, the character design is pretty unique, if maybe a bit goofy (seriously, check out some of the patrons), but it works well within the game's cooking theme. Combined with the visuals, the sound is incredibly well done, with a lot of audible cues for different actions that tie into the Wiimote microphone, and there's quite a bit of voice-over work as well. Even the music is catchy and enjoyable, making the entire presentation really engaging.
While Order Up! definitely owes its existence to other cooking sim titles, it does more than enough to differentiate itself from the pack, and it does a really solid job of creating a great experience for both casual Wii fans and even the more hardcore demographic of gamers. The overall presentation is slick and inventive, and the controls are pretty intuitive, if not always correct, but the real fun comes from managing your orders, assigning tasks to your AI partners, and creating more and more complex dishes for each new restaurant you obtain. Fans of titles such as Cooking Mama should find a lot to enjoy with Order Up!, and new players who have never tried the cooking sim genre will find themselves caught up in the addictive nature of the gameplay and the managing of a full staff of chefs and menus. Check it out as soon as you get the chance.
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