One of the first indie games I ever played was the original Cook, Serve Delicious. I absolutely loved it and would still say its one of my favorite indie games of all-time. It was also one of the games that made me realize how great the indie game scene was and I’ve never looked back. I now honestly tend to prefer them over big budget AAA releases. Vertigo Gaming came out with a sequel in 2017 but it wasn’t exactly the smoothest or best launch ever. Cook, Serve, Delicious! 2!! was a bit buggy and received mixed early reviews from fans. Though the game recovered amazingly well from its early missteps and the game’s Steam page reviews are now solidly very positive, there are still a large number of fans who prefer the original game (mostly due to the recipe changes and lack of progression with your own restaurant). I’m kind of in the middle in the debate between CSD 1 and 2. I’m more nostalgic for the first game (and its more unique and complicated recipes) but the second game also improved on a lot of things, added a ton of new foods to the game, and has an incredibly large amount of levels to play (over 400 of them). Ultimately, I love both games in this series (though for different reasons) and when I was given the chance to play Cook, Serve, Delicious! 3?! early for a preview, there was no doubt I was going to do so. Since the game will be in early access for a planned 4-6 months and the campaign is only about half finished, this will be a preview article with my early thoughts on the game instead of an in-depth review.
Cook, Serve, Delicious! 3?! has always been a very quirky series but this one takes the game in a bizarre new direction, at least story-wise. Taking place in 2042 in an America changed by war, the game begins with the bombing of the Cook, Serve, Delicious restaurant that your chef built up over the last two games. Two rescue robots named Whisk and Cleaver (voice acted by Twitch streamers negaoryx and Vana) are luckily able to save your chef from the debris. They also come up with the idea of turning your restaurant into a food truck business. After some early success, the robots also push your chef to drive 2,000 miles across America to compete in the Iron Cook Foodtruck Championships. This is the first time the series has had a full-blown story (the first had a bit of one while the second was mostly just about finishing shifts in other restaurants) and even though its nothing amazing, its still a welcome addition. The story only seems to play out between locations (at least as far as I’ve gotten) but there is some pretty funny writing and voice acting. So far the game has over 100 levels (117 to be exact), hundreds of foods you can cook (dozens of new additions to the already large catalog returning from CSD 2), and the ability to upgrade your food truck. Like CSD 2, Cook, Serve, Delicious! 3?! can be played either single-player or local co-op. I played CSD 2 via local co-op and I was surprised by how good it was as a co-op game. As the engine is the same, it shouldn’t be too surprising that the local co-op is just as good in CSD 3.
There are some differences between Cook, Serve, Delicious! 3?! and its predecessors, but I would say they are very similar games overall. It definitely shares more in common with the second game than the first as the recipes are still mostly easier ones. It does have more flexibility than CSD 2 as you can pick from a roster of possible foods in each level instead of being forced into a set menu like in the past game. There are usually some restrictions in terms of what types of foods you can use though (fried foods, salads, world cuisine, frozen foods, etc.). Every food is also graded on a 0-5 scale for difficulty as many levels require you to reach 5, 10, or more “point” menus. I feel like some of these grades are a little “off” at times (at least in my opinion some 1 pointers are harder than 3-point foods) but this system is a good compromise between the near lack of restrictions in CSD 1 (which meant you could keep using the same 10 or so foods over and over again) and the strict menus of CSD 2 that were completely unchangeable (other than in your own restaurant). If there’s a specific food you love preparing (or are really good at), you can use it on almost every menu if you so choose. However, you will also have to use a good chunk of the food catalog at least once throughout the game to fulfill the requirements in each level.
One of the other major differences between this and the first two games is the growing importance of the holding stations (which were one of the best new additions to CSD 2). While your food truck is traveling between stops on your route, you will mostly be focused on getting your holding stations prepped (luckily you are given the exact number of each food you will need to prepare for each stop) though this is also the only time you will have to prepare prep station foods. Once your truck has reached its destination only foods made in holding stations will be asked for from then on. Keeping an eye on your holding stations is incredibly important in this game as the vast majority of foods you prepare will come from them (though many of them have a second step to complete once someone orders them). Most levels you’ll only have to prepare around 10-20 other “special orders” (ones you can’t make in holding stations). These changes make the game quite a bit faster paced and harder than the past two entries in the series. It’s very common to fulfill every order on the board within seconds in this game (only to have all of your stations fill back up right after). Thank goodness for the ability to push CTRL to have your robot friends give everybody their completed orders as many of these levels require you to fulfill over 200 orders in a day (though you can scale that down slightly by using less prep stations than I went with). Stops kind of feel like super rush hours, though you do have the chance to prepare while your truck is traveling to its next stop. If you don’t adequately prepare during your traveling time, you are going to be in some serious trouble once you reach your stop. Making things more difficult, you rarely have enough room in your holding stations to fulfill all of the orders you’ll get at a stop, meaning you’ll have to juggle multiple different tasks (finishing off orders, making new batches of food for your holding stations, etc.). If things are too difficult for you, you can always opt for the “chill” mode which makes for a more relaxing experience but also doesn’t allow you to earn gold medals.
Cook, Serve, Delicious! 3?! was made using the same engine as its predecessor so it shouldn’t be too surprising that everything is already working quite smoothly even though it was released in early access. Outside of finishing up the campaign and adding more levels, the main purpose of this game’s early access status is to get suggestions for improvements from fans. The upcoming roadmap includes four phases and the final release is planned for Summer. Phase 1 (February) will add two new territories, achievements (which are sorely missed right now for achievement hunters like me), and “additional features.” March will see two more new territories, new trinkets, customization, and more. April should see another two territories added and May will see the final territory and the “Iron Cook Speedway” (here’s hoping this is a return of some of the additional game modes that the first game had). My wishlist for Cook, Serve, Delicious! 3?! mostly revolves around things that I miss from CSD 1. I really miss the endurance mode from the original game and it would make so much sense to have a survival mode with the theming of this game. I got hours and hours out of that mode and would love to see it return. Any additional game modes would be very much appreciated as they were very much missed in CSD 2 (though it had more than enough content to make up for it). I also would love to get the weekly challenges back (or even better, make them randomly and automatically generated so they can be daily challenges). I’m also hoping for a larger quantity and variety of achievements than CSD 2 had (it had 45 but I feel like it could have had way more than that).
This is a preview so I won’t be giving Cook, Serve, Delicious! 3?! a rating but I have to say my early opinions are very positive. Fans of the series will likely love it just as much as the first two games. However, I will say that while the game does have some differences from the first two, there isn’t really anything here that will change anyone’s opinion if they don’t already love the series. Hardcore fans like me will love having new levels to complete (and the slight twists to the formula) but I could see some people who just “sort of enjoyed” one or both of the first two games getting bored with the series at this point. I’m nowhere near bored with this series and even when Cook, Serve, Delicious! 7???!!! comes out, I’ll still probably be ready and willing to play.
Geeky Hobbies would like to thank Vertigo Gaming for the review copy of Cook, Serve, Delicious! 3?! that was used for this review. Other than receiving a free copy of the game to review, we at Geeky Hobbies received no other compensation for this review. Receiving the review copy for free had no impact on the content of this review or the final score.