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Order Up!! - 3DS Download Review

Game Info
Order Up!!

3DS Download | Ignition Entertainment / SuperVillain Studios | 1 Player | Out Now (North America) | $9.99
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6th July 2012; By KnucklesSonic8

After the lacklustre treatment you received at nearby establishments, the feeling of comfort you get walking into this quaint new restaurant makes you feel at ease. But your wide smile retracts to a mere smirk as you realize the requested dish you were so eager to try doesn't look like it did in the menu. The vegetables you ordered are smothered in gravy when you specifically asked them to hold the sauce; your salad is smushed into a corner, overlapping your meat; and the side serving of rice is scattered all about as if it were a pizza topping. In the midst of all these concerns, your stomach reminds you to do less thinking and more eating. After a bit of uncertainty on where to begin, you jab your fork into a juicy piece of meat and guide it into your mouth; low and behold, the smile returns! After 20 minutes of savoring every morsel, the chef emerges from the kitchen to personally ask what you, as a first-timer, thought of the meal. In the back of your mind, you know what you want to say about the presentation of the dish, but your mouth decides to do the talking and instead you find yourself listing off praises for the enjoyable meal. This is my long way of expressing how I feel about the effort put into Order Up. Even the most avid of simulation fans will find the game won't cater to their every whim, but since it delivers in areas where it really counts, it's hard to stay miffed over a few idiosyncrasies that don't prove ruinous to the experience.

    The biggest surprise of getting into the experience comes not from what you'll be doing -- the title already gives that away -- but how you wind up getting there. Burger Face, a local establishment in the small city of Port Abello, has some boots they need filling and you literally fall from the sky (well, from a plane) and operate as the answer to their prayers. Serving as a tutorial for the journey ahead, you spend a bit of time before realizing that the working conditions existing there just aren't a credit to your skills as a practicing chef. Moving on to bigger and better things, your first day of work turns out to be your last, and you decide to open up your own business in a nearby corner of the same district. This kicks off an entrepreneurial venture that will have you making your way around the entire city, capitalizing on profits so you can grow five restaurant operations with the overall goal of building a reputation as the city's best chef.

Each day you set foot in the kitchen, the way you conduct your business will always follow a consistent pattern. Ordering comes first, so as customers come in and seat themselves, you'll simply tap which table to serve and get a listing of what each person wants. The waiter or waitress will make their way over to your work station to provide you with reference sheets indicating the meal ordered and the four different steps involved in preparing it for consumption. You can drag the ingredient from each entry on the sheet and have the screen move over to the relevant area of your kitchen where you can prepare the food, whether that be by the stove, grill, deep fryer, or cutting board. There are also two icons in the top right corner of the Touch Screen for dragging ingredients into the stove or the food processor for baking and blending, respectively. On the bottom right corner are another two slots reserved for your Assistant Chefs. Once hired, they can be delegated tasks to help you in the preparation process. The interface feels logically laid out and never ever does it ever turn into a situation where you feel claustrophobic even as you take on more involved tasks.

    With each step you take on, there will be a horizontal or vertical bar to evaluate your work, with a Perfect rating being the best you can strive for and Poor being what you want to avoid. Never stuck with a mistake, you can choose to drag a completed food item over to the trash and start again, or select the silver platter to continue on with the rest of the work. While the control systems vary depending on the step indicated, the stylus will remain in your hand the entire time you go about tackling each item on your list. Slicing, for instance, has you performing downward swipes that need to be timed to the contraction of small circles; dicing boils down to tapping on the screen repeatedly; and grating has you moving the stylus back and forth in a diagonal motion. 

    The steps just described could be classified as basic prep work. As you take part in the preparation of more time-consuming meals, the process involved will become a bit less active but will place a great emphasis on keeping an eye on timers so as not to cause a fire. Sautéing will have you occasionally flipping from time to time, for example, while frying and steaming will just be a matter of raising the food item from the station at the right time. All throughout the experience, not once do you ever feel the game throws in a control scheme that is unnecessary or overly gimmicky. There's one step in particular where you need to spread butter across a pan and on the first time I did this, I actually thought they would have you using the system's gyroscopic sensors. But no, the tilting the game asks you to do simply means using the stylus to move the pan around in the air. I was very pleased to see that unlike Cooking Mama 4: Kitchen Magic, the controls in this game are always logical and are fitted to the individual tasks they have you doing. If this were a contest between the two, Order Up would already be winning on that front alone.

Each step in the food-making process has a different speed, and players will quickly come to realize which steps take longer than others. Understanding how to manipulate the order of events to your advantage is one thing that Order Up does a great job of encouraging. Completed meals will sit out on the kitchen counter when you're done with them, but if the food's temperature decreases to warm or even cold, then your tip won't be as big. Achieving a perfect rating on each step and sending out the food while it's hot is how you'll work towards achieving the highest tip possible. 

    Another variable that plays a role in how much money you're awarded has to do with the inclusion of spices. Now, special meals will automatically call for certain spices and these are always indicated to you. However, you will also have regular customers who ask for spices on normal orders as per their personal tastes. You can pay coins to see what these are after you receive their orders, but in later levels this becomes very costly. Therefore, it becomes a matter of learning what each of your favourite customers requests are and remembering that as they continue to walk through your restaurant's doors, day in and day out. Additionally, comment cards at the conclusion of each day's activities provide general feedback on how each person felt your cooking measured up in comparison to their ideal dining experience, and even though they don't change all that much as you move forward, there is a small sense of satisfaction that comes from reading you did a good job.

    This whole element of having specific customers drives interaction in a way that doesn't feel overly mechanical or forced, so even as you continue seeing the same customers as you take over new venues, connecting with them in this regard is a tangible way in which the game counteracts repetition. That might sound a bit backwards when you think about it, but players will find themselves getting caught up in the catering aspect as each day picks up. It gets to a point where you start to feel like any investing employee wants to feel; namely, that they love their job. 

Establishing the realism of a good establishment in working order and some of the upkeep that goes along with that, brief mini-games are sometimes thrown in during, before, and after your cooking sessions to break things up a bit. These include tapping rats running across the kitchen counter, using the Circle Pad to sharpen a dull knife, or rubbing the stylus back and forth to clean dishes as part of a health inspection. Most of these aren't bad, but some do get annoying mostly because they don't feel like they contribute all that much to the experience. Then again, they don't greatly detract from it either, so that's a positive thing. The only activity that bugged me a bit more than the others was the pepper chopping at Mister Miyoda's Spice Emporium. The game has you drawing specific patterns with the stylus, but they don't always respond as well as they could. Thankfully, this activity is optional so it never becomes a major bother. 

    Feeling committed to the long-term success of your fast-food chains is important in a game like this. Even though the style of each location changes, the variations of tasks become less and less as you move forward. If the team wasn't extra careful about this aspect to the gameplay, Order Up could easily have become a repetitive bore. But this is a game that does a great job of taking much of the tedium out of the recipe and actually develops in you a desire to see your businesses grow. Coins earned can be used to beef up your equipment, clean up the look of your restaurant, and purchase new menu items. To develop each location into a five-star restaurant, there are five goals you need to set for yourself. Three of these were hinted at already, with the other two being to reach a set amount of coins and getting a winning critique from a food critic. You always feel like you're working towards something and never just going about your daily affairs in an idle manner. 

    Much has been said on the body of the experience, but there are still aspects worth discussing relating to how players will perceive and react to what takes place a bit beneath the surface. The first of these has to do with the Assistant Chefs. Early on, the thinking is it's easier and more reliable to just do the work yourself, and this is something you rarely ever have to shake as you move forward. The fact of the matter is that although your team members can perform some of the longer duties at a faster rate, the quality suffers -- a notch below what the game considers perfect. What this means, then, is that when serving specials or catering to the regular folks, it really is the better course of action to do everything on your lonesome. Without a significant offset in strategy to be seen from their presence as far as superior food production, players will only use them to silence their complaints or to vary the experience a little. The reason for doing so is never because it's in your best interests, thus making it an area where the game could've done better.

The environment that's created in Order Up is one of constant prioritization, so players will find themselves regularly gauging whether or not they can afford to handle smaller tasks as they wait for something to be stirred, flipped, raised, or brought out of something. You definitely have the ability to multitask because of the way the interface is set up, allowing you to use the Circle Pad and/or the face buttons to change which station you'd like to position the camera to. Unfortunately, while this does contribute to the overall fun factor and level of immersion brought on by having your hands in more than one basket, the game takes a few hits when it comes to presentation. With or without the Assistant Chefs helping you out with multiple things going on at once, the framerate does experience considerable slowdown at times. And this is something that even occurs as the camera leaves the kitchen space and goes back out to the seating areas. More than just the framerate, though, parts of food look unstable and the utensils used by customers sometimes bounce in place like jumping beans.

    While the game usually has very responsive controls, there are occasions where the responsiveness starts to trickle down the drain, even impacting your ability to achieve a perfect score. Not just with the preparing of ingredients, but there are also delays when trying to move to other stations after a dish has been completed. I also encountered a few glitches during my experience with this game. On the first occasion, a gauge appeared in an area where it wasn't supposed to and I was then given the lowest rating even though the needle was still in the Perfect zone. With the second, the game did not load properly as I tried to get to the front of the restaurant to start another day. Besides that, there were also two separate instances of what looked to be dead pixels, and the game even froze on me once. As a result of all this, my views on the programming did venture into the less receptive territory as I progressed, and even though I was still able to have a good time, it was both disappointing and frustrating to see all these things take place.

As far as other areas of the game's presentation, it should come as no surprise that Order Up does a good job of presenting an appealing personality. Calm and cool but not afraid to offer a bit more in the way of variety, it remains a very user-friendly experience right down to its look. Nice voice work is used to insert you into the experience, although, as I mentioned before, some of the repeat comments uttered by your support staff do get a bit annoying over time. In terms of 3D usage, unless you're hovering over a pot of soup and are stirring ingredients, it's practically meaningless. In some cases, it can add a bit more texture to ingredients that are being sautéd, but again, it's all insignificant. 

    Sad to say, there are flaws that hold Order Up back from being a favourite destination for refined and addicting gameplay representation within this genre. However, the game fulfills expectations in most areas, making it's easy to still have plenty of fun regardless. It has enough personality and sense of immersion built into it through the different maintained focuses (i.e., consumer needs, business development) that the overall atmosphere allows for the creation of a non-mechanical flow. At the end of the day, this is a mostly filling experience, and anyone hungering for a good cooking sim can feel confident knowing they'll be taking more than a few bites out of this.

22/30 - Good

Gameplay 8/10 - Realistic elements and logical controls contribute to a good flow, user-friendly interface, some flaws with the mini-games and assistants
Presentation 5/10 - Welcoming atmosphere, good voice work but can irritate, glitches, multiple technical issues that impact the game's responsiveness
Enjoyment 4/5 - Continual process of the same general actions but doesn't become boring, immersive, feels great to multitask and cater to specific patrons
Extra Content 5/5 - Multiple venues to develop, spend coins on all sorts of goodies, hours of gameplay that you'll come back to a number of times

Equivalent to a score of 73% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating) - Our Rating System

Review by KnucklesSonic8

Order Up!!
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