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Cook Serve Delicious ($4.99) might just be one of the best games on the iPad, which is odd considering it’s a punishing time-management game in which you chop, slice and serve virtual food.

The game was initially released on the PC, requiring users type in each ingredient by hand as requested on-screen – tiring but addictive. Thankfully the controls have been properly optimized for the touch interface, so the iPad (and Android version) makes for a slightly smoother yet equally frantic experience.

A Cooking Simulator

Recently I reviewed Chippy, a fish and chip shop simulator Get Frying With Chippy, A Chip Shop Simulator for iOS Get Frying With Chippy, A Chip Shop Simulator for iOS The British chip shop: a national institution, a hazard to your health and now an deep-frying iOS simulator too. Read More  that shares many similarities with Cook Serve Delicious. Despite both having the same goal – to serve as many customers as possible without screwing up – the two are quite different games. While Chippy requires more hands-on work; battering, frying and flinging your orders at impatient customers, Cook Serve Delicious feels a bit more automatic. Rather than sprinkling salt on a pretzel, this time round you need only tap the salt button when asked.

While this doesn’t sound particularly hands-on, the game will test your stress levels by throwing seemingly impossible numbers of orders at you at one time. Each foodstuff is different too – the pricier, more desirable dishes will require a slice here and a swirl there, while simpler and cheaper items are easier to dispense.

The game starts you off with some limited funding, a basic set of kitchen appliances which allow you to make most dishes (you don’t get a deep-fryers or a grill, for example) and four serving stations. Your serving stations are indicated by numbers running down the screen in the top-left. When a new order arrives, this is where you’ll need to tap it to begin serving your delicious food.

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As is customary with such time-management games, these orders won’t hang around for long. Miss an order and your reputation will suffer, so work fast to ensure each customer gets served. In addition to serving customers, you’ll occasionally get chores to do around your restaurant. These can take significantly longer to complete than your average food order, and failure to complete them will again score negative points.

The reputation system takes the form of “buzz”, and the buzz generated depends on your performance and the type of food you serve. Smelly big earners (like fish) might draw the crowds at lunchtime but they’ll kill your morning rush. The best way of earning buzz is by completing perfect orders, and the more you complete the higher your multiplier and the better your buzz.

The better your buzz rating, the busier your restaurant – which is a bit of a poison chalice, because your buzz is sure to drop when your eatery is so busy that you simply can’t keep up with orders.  It’s worth noting that you can’t restart an order once you have started it, so if you’re preparing an order and tap the wrong button then there’s no way to recoup that order.

A Restaurant Strategy Game

Beyond all the tapping and swiping is a game of business strategy. You’re given a lump sum at the start of the game with which you must populate your own menu by buying foods from the Management menu. This menu pops up before each new day of work, allowing you to add or drop foods from your active menu as well as upgrade existing purchases and buy additional equipment.

There’s a range of food on offer, and for good reason. If you leave the same items on your menu for too long, “menu rot” takes over and you’ll incur a -5% buzz for each item of food your customers deem boring. This keeps the game varied by forcing you to swap out and buy new food, though you’ll have to think about the knock-on effects some of those items will have.

Eventually you’ll be moving on to specialty foods like coffee and fried rice, which require a minimum one-star rating to unlock. The star rating dictates your overall progress in the game, with each new star requiring a set number of challenges and criteria be completed before you move on to better things. The more stars you earn, the more serving stations you have and the more food you can buy. This is essentially your long-term goal – if Cook Serve Delicious had a story, this would be it.

This planning side of things wouldn’t be anything worth mentioning without a solid and fun game underneath, something Cook Serve Delicious delivers on. It has that addictive “quick-blast” feel, with each day only taking a few minutes to complete. There are rush hour moments where you’ll be rushed off your feet, forfeiting chores to serve more beer to businessmen at lunch time while hoping the safety inspector doesn’t choose this very moment to audit your restaurant.

Developers have expressed interest in getting the game on the small screen, but for now you’ll need to play it on an iPad or Android tablet as it really does demand additional screen real-estate. To me, Cook Serve Delicious is one of those universally entertaining games you should own if you have an iPad (a tolerance for cooking-themed time-management games withstanding, of course).

It is also possible to grab the PC version through Vertigo Gaming’s official store for around $10.

Download: Cook Serve Delicious for iPad / Android ($4.99)

Have you played Cook Serve Delicious? Let us know what you think of it in the comments, below.

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