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Don’t Cook It For Too Long

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Unlike a buffet, where the goal is to stuff yourself until you want to puke, Order Up is much easier to digest in smaller bites.

The player takes the role of a chef on a quest for world domination through the culinary arts.  Upon first glance, this title may seem like another Cooking Mama or Diner Dash clone.  But thanks to a unique sense of humor and some clever Wiimoting, Order Up provides a decent amount of entertainment value, just be sure to not stuff yourself all at once.

After falling out of a moving plane (no, I’m not joking), our chef finds work at a nearby fast food burger joint.  This initial stage acts as a tutorial.  While not the most detailed, this intro stage gives the player a great sense of the game to come.  Soon after, the chef opens his own restaurant where the gameplay starts to kick into a higher gear.

Unlike Cooking Mama, the player really has to manage the well being of the restaurant (but not as deep, as say, the Sims or Sim City).  Customers will be constantly walking in from the moment you open to the moment you close.  Once the order has been taken by the waitress, it is up to you to prepare each meal properly.  For example, one of the first things the player will learn to make is a burger.  The beef must be fried then flipped, tomatoes must be sliced, lettuce must be pulled, and fries must be fried in a fryer.  Using onscreen indicators, the player must gauge when each element has been cooked properly to avoid burning, over or under cooking.  Once the meal is completed, the player must then instruct the waitress to deliver it to the table before everything gets cold. 

There are times when the player may feel a little overwhelmed with the cooking tasks that must be completed.  But this is where skill and time management comes into play.  While your burger is frying, the player should cut the tomatoes and toss the fries into the burning oil.  The shorter the customer has to wait for properly prepared food, the bigger the tip you will receive.  By obtaining money, the player can then unlock new recipes, hire extra staff, or even upgrade the kitchen appliances to make cooking easier.

Each dish is immediately given a score as soon as the dish is set in front of the customer.  Unfortunately, giving cooking tasks to your hired help will usually result in a lower score, putting more pressure on the player.  Managing time, multitasking, and skill play a big part in the success of Order Up.  It is a shame that his game is only single player.  Instead of hiring computer AI bots that never cook to perfection, I would have gladly let my buddy help with the virtual culinary preparation.  And where is the 4 player cookoff option?  I guess too many cooks could have spoiled the soup.

For the most part, Order Up controls well.  However, I ran into some major problem when trying to unlock new spices.  Through a mini game, the player must waggle the wiimote in a specific motion before time runs out.  Beyond the first simple circle motion, I was never able to have the game recognize my wiimote movement, causing me to fail repeatedly.  After two rounds of this, I was ready to chuck my wiimote into my TV.  Minus this lack of a controllable mini game, the player has great maneuverability in the kitchen.  Rarely will the player blame the lack of wiimote control.  And it should be noted that a nunchuk is not required to the play the game, but it can help navigate menus and provide quicker access to the dining room view point.

Order Up plays off every stereotype in the book.  The waitress is an old hag with a smoker’s voice and beehive doo, the young kid has no teeth but likes all his food with a coating of sugar, the spice man is a descendant of ancient China, the cowboy likes everything burnt to a crisp, and the vampire-like customer enjoys his meat on the rare side. These stereotypes give the game its sense of humor.  This light hearted humorous tone is complimented by the 3D Flash/Cel shading animation.  The game reminds me a lot of a Nickelodeon cartoon. 

To further these stereotypes, customers constantly speak the same one liners.  The speaking portion of the game may provide humor, but there are many times when voice work will overlap each other, causing an undecipherable mumble.  Other than this complaint, the audio department fits in well with the rest of the game’s atmosphere. 

Like the title of this review suggests, Order Up is best enjoyed in small increments.  Like an exercise schedule, this game can be played for 20-30 minutes, 2-3 times a week.  The gameplay provides a deeper experience than the box art suggests, but don’t plan on cooking virtual food for hours on end.  In fact, I hate cooking in real life, so cooking virtually can only provide so much entertainment.  I feel this fact will transfer over to other gamers as well.

Order Up is one of those games that is really made for the Wii.  By twisting, turning, flipping, and flicking the Wiimote, players will feel like they are actually preparing food.  I must admit that I like Order Up more than Cooking Mama or Diner Dash, but I would still categorize it as having a minigame style of play.  Although there is a decent amount of depth preparing food, pleasing customers, hiring new staff, and selecting the right spices, repetition will set in after a couple hours of play.  That is why this game is best enjoyed one bite at a time. 

If you enjoy cooking sims, then you definitely need to check out Order Up.  For all other Wii owners, Order Up is a solid weekend rental.  And as an added quirk, the game comes bundled with a paper “chef” hat. 

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