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Cooking Simulator

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC
Genre: Simulation
Publisher: PlayWay
Developer: Big Cheese Studio
Release Date: July 29, 2021


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PC VR Review - 'Cooking Simulator VR'

by Cody Medellin on May 18, 2022 @ 12:30 a.m. PDT

In Cooking Simulator, you have the chance to become a real restaurant chef, whose job is to create high-quality dishes from 30 available recipes to the most finicky and fussy customers.

Recent years have seen the simulator game sub-genre mix in stuff from real simulators. While they still provide near-endless settings to do ridiculous things, they're also in line with their real-world analogs, like fixing up cars or robbing houses. A few years back, Cooking Simulator let you mess up the kitchen while you performed actual cooking techniques, something that other cooking games don't do.  Cooking Simulator has been released again in VR.

After a lengthy tutorial section where you're taught just about all everything you need, you have a choice of three different game modes. The main one is the career mode, where you start as a new chef and are charged with transforming a run-down restaurant into a five-star eatery. To do this, you'll learn how to cook the dishes as requested by the patrons, properly and quickly. Every dish you make gets a rating, which nets cash to get more ingredients, recipes, and better kitchen equipment.

Many other cooking games have you twirling sticks or mashing buttons to get the job done. You'll actually have to cook the dish as you would in real life, using the techniques real chefs would use. Fish on the grill needs to be turned over with tongs when you think it's time for the other side to get cooked. Meat and vegetables need to be seasoned with the right amount of spices. Produce needs to be manually cut into the right size, and boiling or letting food sit in a pot yields the right amount of stock that can be used elsewhere. Since you're alone in this kitchen, that means you do everything from getting the ingredients and pots to placing it in the waiting area to be picked up.

The process becomes more involved than expected, since you have so few tools to work with. You can get a readout for how much of a spice or liquid is placed on a food, and hovering over a piece of food will not only get you a temperature readout but also tell you exactly what you're picking up. However, you won't get a cutting guide, so you have to eyeball it and rely heavily on trial and error to cut the pieces just right. The game can be both strict and forgiving with your food results, as cooking things with either too much or too little of one ingredient and pulling the food away from the cooking source at the wrong time can lead to penalties when your food is graded. Making a mess or cooking stuff from the floor is just fine, though.

The basics of the game are tough but fair for a sim, but there are things in the campaign that can be annoying. The campaign is lengthy but slow paced, while the demand for perfection can be stressful due to the imprecise nature of these kinds of games. It doesn't help that you don't get to cook every dish the game offers, so beating the game means nailing down enough of the basics to cook the more elaborate stuff on your own. Also, for a game based on cooking, there's lots of bookkeeping, from ordering recipes to calling for kitchen repairs. It's fine in terms of making the campaign feel longer, but that could've been pushed aside in the name of more actual cooking.

The second mode is time attack, as you're tasked with cooking a dish as quickly as possible. You have a running timer once you start, but it moves forward instead of backward, so the pressure is slightly alleviated. The game tries to streamline things by only having the necessary ingredients on hand right away, versus having to stock up or having other ingredients in the way, but otherwise, it feels like the main game. Aside from giving you a chance to train for the campaign, you also have a worldwide leaderboard for every dish, driving you to improve.

The third mode is sandbox, and people will likely head here first. Unlike the other modes, everything is already at your disposal, so you're invited to cook everything at your leisure. Those looking for chaos from playing around with food or burning every dish in sight will have just as much fun as those who are legitimately using the mode to practice dishes without a timer. For those looking to completely decimate a kitchen, things aren't too robust. Things that will naturally blow up, like placing a propane tank on an open flame or heating up a fire extinguisher, do so with just as much gusto as expected. On the other hand, put a metal pot in a microwave, and nothing sparks. Placing food in an oven for too long will burn it but won't set it aflame, and pouring water in a deep fryer won't cause an explosion. It's rather tame compared to what some may expect from the trailer, but it's enjoyable to experiment with.

The move to VR does wonders in terms of taking away a bit of the jank normally associated with the sub-genre. There's still a bit of wonky physics, such as when you're using a spatula to flip some meat or seeing everything on your plate bounce with the slightest of movements. The inability to feel the resistance when cutting some foods is something VR can't quite correct, so slicing and hacking bread will always give you the same result. Pouring bottles or tapping on salt and pepper shakers feels natural, minus the lack of accuracy in terms of how much you're pouring out. Reaching over to mess with dials on stoves through button presses can be hit-and-miss. Movement can be done either naturally or by warping, and opening doors and messing with pans also feels natural instead of cumbersome. The sharpening of the controls via VR doesn't take away from the inherent chaos of the genre, but you'll have more of your fun focused on messing up dishes versus trying to figure out how to pick up a knife.

The presentation in VR remains unchanged from its normal counterpart. The food is the real focus, and every dish that's been prepared well looks super detailed, like it came from a magazine. The transformation from raw food to a cooked dish is quite nice, and even if you ruin the dish, the results show some polish. The kitchen looks fine, with the effects like water and fire being decent, but it fits the expectations of the sub-genre.

Like the original, Cooking Simulator VR is best enjoyed in short sessions if you're playing the campaign mode. It takes such a long time for things to ramp up that you'll want short sessions so you don't get burned out on the game. The sessions are going to be filled with fun, as you're either crafting chaos or preparing dishes that closely resemble the techniques you'd do in real life. Cooking Simulator VR is a solid VR game and stands as a good example for how to port simulators to the VR space.

Score: 7.0/10

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