By Quentin H. / September 11th, 2023
Cuisineer is a game that you play as Pom, a young adventurer who has to manage the family restaurant, which is mired in debt, after her parents leave a note that they are going on a trip around the world. Pom takes this responsibility cheerfully on, but restaurants take a lot of work. Pom has to purchase and place furniture in the restaurant, pick out decorations, and of course…go out into the rougelite world around her to find ingredients. After all, if Pom doesn’t have ingredients, then she cannot make dishes for customers, and if she cannot make dishes for customers, then she cannot wipe away the restaurant’s debt. In the short 15 minutes that I spent with Cuisineer at the beginning of the game, I found a title that oozes cuteness and charm. Pom is extremely adorable, and I loved how her bubbly personality seemed ready to take on any and all challenges that come her way as she tries to bring the soon-christened Potato Palace to life.
There are two halves to Cuisineer: the cooking and city side of things, and the world exploration and combat side of things. You have the freedom to pick how you want to spend your days in Cuisineer: you can run the restaurant all day, you can farm items in the outside world all day, or you can do a mixture of the two by cooking in the morning and then going out exploring the procedurally-generated world after you close the restaurant.
The game functions as more of a restaurant management system than any kind of deep cooking simulator. For example, a customer would walk into my shop. If I had the ingredients for what they wanted to eat, they would come sit down and I would make the dish by pressing a button at the nearby cooking pot. In a few seconds, the dish is ready and you bring it over to the customer. The customer eats, pays, and leaves while you collect the money. This is not a simulator game like Cooking Mama where you have to actually prepare the dish. Instead, you’re running a restaurant and trying to make sure that you have the ability to give the customer what they want in an efficient manner. While I only was able to serve a couple customers in my short demo, I felt like this could be a hectic but fun aspect of the game once I’ve really expanded the Potato Palace and I’m trying to serve up 10 or more customers at once and give them that great restaurant experience they deserve.
However, you cannot just run a restaurant as you need to farm up cooking ingredients in order to make the recipes your potential customers want to buy, and this is where the roguelite aspect of Cuisineer comes out. I equipped my spatula weapon, which allows me to attack enemies, and I head into a world to slaughter whatever I can as everything gives me different ingredients I need. As I wandered around the map that has a 2.5D overhead perspective, I found myself quickly gathering a variety of ingredients while occasionally getting the random gear drop. In my run, I wound up with a nicer spatula that I obtained as part of the storyline and a pair of boots. The combat was very snappy and responsive, and I quickly learned the attack patterns of the cute enemies I came across. When I got damaged, I would down a bit of boba tea to recover my health. When I died in the field near the end of my demo, I did not lose all of my possessions but instead only lost some of them. All of this made me feel like the different mechanics, especially the death mechanic, makes Cuisineer is a fairly forgiving title that new players to the rougelite genre are meant to enjoy. I particularly liked that I didn’t feel pressured to run away from the slightest hint of danger, as I knew I wouldn’t lose all the progress and items I’ve gathered since the last save point if I did kick the proverbial bucket.
And honestly? All of this works.
The thing that surprised me the most about my demo of Cuisineer at PAX West 2023 was that I was more incentivized to go out hunting in the roguelite world around me not for gear drops to better fight with, but for ingredients to run my restaurant with. I can see myself easily opening the Potato Palace for a few hours, running low on ingredients, and then heading out into the world (I explored the Green Ruins in my demo) to fight and gather up what I need to re-open the next day. More sales means more money and that your restaurant’s reputation rises so that even more customers will come.
Roguelite games are all about finding that (slightly more forgiving) gameplay loop for players to explore as they work their way through the game, and Cuisineer definitely figured that part out. I absolutely adored the various inhabitants of Parell, the city your character is based in, and I wanted to push my exploring out as far as I could to the outer limits of the roguelike area. Cuisineer is definitely onto something potentially great here, and I am excited to see where Pom’s adventure sends her with this title releases in early November.
What kind of dishes do you want to serve to customers in the Potato Palace?
Let us know in the comments below!
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