Review: Order Up!

I love food. Who doesn’t? I will openly admit to the fact that I enjoy Cooking Mama, Diner Dash, Pizza Tycoon, and all of those other food-related games. Perhaps it’s the fact that they are much more convenient than actual cooking, or they’re much less of a hassle. For whatever reason, they’re tons of fun, and Order Up! for the Wii serves up a whole mess of fun.

Order Up! puts you right in the shoes of either a male or female chef who wants to make a splash in the restaurant industry. Upon starting the game you make this decision, though it has no bearing on the route you will take on the way to becoming a revered chef. However, everyone must start somewhere, so in order to get to the top, your aspiring chef superstar is put straight to work at one of the greasiest burger joints around–Burger Face.

It’s at Burger Face that you are introduced to some of the wacky humor that’s injected throughout certain points of the game. You are introduced to an acne-prone teenager who has been trained in the fine art of showing new Burger Face employees the ropes. You can put your Burger Face hat on (literally, Order Up! includes a paper hat for you to wear) and dive right into your new job as a short-order cook.

For your first lesson you’ll learn how to utilize the Wii remote in tasks such as grilling burgers, putting a batch of fries in the deep fryer, cutting lettuce, and slicing tomatoes for a hamburger and fries combo meal. Each task is performed with a different motion of the Wii remote. For instance, to start the fries cooking, you use a thrusting motion downward to simulate lowering a deep fryer basket. To flip burgers, you need to flick the Wii remote as you would a regular spatula. It’s just like flipping burgers in real life!
Normally, that would sound like a horrible thing to find in a game. Order Up! takes normal, mundane tasks like your first job at McDonald’s and turns them into quite the rewarding experience. Even similarly to real life, you can and will be expected to multitask. You can put a batch of fries in to cook while you watch the cooking meter reach the sweet spot on the burgers, or you can tackle the vegetables while waiting on the burgers. As you progress through the game it will become crucial to your success, as the faster you deliver food to hungry customers, the more Coin you will receive in tips as payment. This micro-management can be likened to the Diner Dash games, where speed is important and pleasing your customers is your main goal.

After your brief stint working for Burger Face, your character happens upon a vacant greasy spoon that he or she decides to purchase, with the goal of turning it into something spectacular. That’s where things begin to get a little more difficult. At the Gravy Chug, you are in charge of every responsibility that being a restaurant owner demands. Fortunately, you can hire on help to aid you in preparing food. It costs Coin to hire assistants, but as you work your way through the harder meals that take more time to prepare, you will realize it was indeed money well spent. Not only will you receive more Coin in tips for getting orders processed as speedily as you can, but some tasks involved in the preparation of dishes are beastly.
Carving meat, more often than not, does not register at all by using the Wii remote. It requires a sawing motion, mimicking the way one would actually carve a piece of meat. There is no easy way to carve meat for cold sandwiches that will award you a rating any different from “poor”. When performing tasks such as cutting or carving, there is a running meter that drops the longer you take. It’s nigh impossible to get meat carved in a timely manner. It’s much easier to assign that task to an assistant, since they can get it done with no problems. In a similar fashion, quartering chicken feels awkward as well. The Wii remote is simply not responsive enough to bring the speed necessary in order to score well on the food you’re preparing. All I can say is, thank the restaurant gods for assistants. Otherwise, some dishes would never be prepared.

When you’re not cooking, various minigames will occur. Sometimes you will be visited by the health inspector, which means you’d better get those dishes spotless. Rats can invade your kitchen, and sometimes if you don’t pay close enough attention, fires will break out. All of these events are small games controlled by the Wii remote. Oddly enough, they are the most responsive parts of the game. I never once had an issue with any of them. I did find them amusing, because to pass health inspections you basically stand near the agent and wash dirty dishes. That’s pretty funny to me. I enjoyed the minigames, and found myself wishing there were more.

The customers in Order Up! are a diverse crowd, with some hilarious one-liners and personalities. Even though some might find the patrons a bit too stereotypical for their tastes (see what I did there?), there are tons of laughs to be found. Each customer has a personality and preference for the way their meals are prepared. Some would like you to pour an entire bottle of barbecue sauce all over their plate, and some prefer to keep it simple with a pinch of salt in their french onion soup. This is where spices come into play. A trip to Farmer’s Market in the port town of Port Abello will offer many different spices to purchase that cover the wide spectrum of your patrons’ tastes. You can buy barbecue sauce, malt vinegar, brown sugar, salt, black pepper, and more as you progress through the game. Using spices that correlate to what your customers ask for will result in tip bonuses, earning you more Coin. At the end of each shift, comment cards your hungry visitors have left will inform you of how well you matched their tastes in spices. If you’re not sure who enjoys what, don’t worry. The game does a good job of reminding you who likes what. Even if you forget, there’s no real penalty. You just won’t make as much Coin.

Just like we all are, everywhere, you’re working to make ends meet, and Coin is your ticket to making it big. Pleasing customers quickly and efficiently earns more money, as well as seasoning their dishes the way they like it. Customers may also order specials, which you can provide in a timely fashion to get a double bonus. As you make more and more money, specials can be bought from the Black Market in the Farmer’s Market. These specialty dishes pull more customers in, because it’s your restaurant’s special take on an old classic, such as the BBQ Burger or the Black Pepper Chicken. When you’re making bank you can do many things to make your diner into the best it can be. You can fire or hire new help, upgrade kitchen tools and appliances, clean up shop, and buy new items that will appear on the menu. Doing all of these things often will earn starts for your restaurant, until you are lucky enough to become a five-star establishment.
The game isn’t over there, though. Not by a long shot. After your stint at the Gravy Chug, more opportunities open up, such as the ability to operate French, Italian, and even Mexican restaurants. With each new style of food there are more dishes to learn to prepare, more help to hire, and more new customers. Eventually you can work your way up to an Iron Chef spoof that leads into a hilarious conclusion that you’ll be a bit sad to see, because that means the end of the game. It’s a shame when the game is completed, but it should be noted that it will take upwards of 10 hours to complete a career, or more if you so desire. It all depends on your playing style and pacing.

Not only will you want to keep playing for the sheer entertainment factor, but the art style is top-notch. Each character is lovingly crafted with a style not unlike cel-shading. Each new acquaintance you make wouldn’t be out of place in a cartoon you might find on say, Nickelodeon, about cooking. Bright colors abound, and everything has a definite kiddy feel to it. Even though the food follows suit, it always ends up looking so appetizing you’ll want to drop the controller every few minutes to ponder going out to a real diner. The graphics are crisp and clear, quite impressively clean for a Wii title, and one of the finer aesthetics that put Order Up! above the rest.
Of course, with visuals you have to have sound, and Order Up! is no slouch. You can hear the burgers sizzle and the fat clogging your arteries. Perhaps that last bit was an exaggeration, but when cooking food you’re treated to all the sounds you would experience had you chosen to prepare food in real life. The only thing that’s missing is a scent producer attachment for the Wii where you could get a whiff of all the wonderful concoction’s you’ve made. Patrons are equipped with quite a few doozies that will prompt some laughter while you’re trying to pay attention and not burning chicken legs. The waitress who you are working with at the Gravy Chug provides the authentic greasy spoon charm, making little comments such as “What are ya havin’, honey?” or “These folks look hungry! Chop, chop!”. Accompanying some wacky voice acting is a constant energetic surf rock track. It isn’t overpowering enough to be an annoyance, but it hardly ever seems to change. You’ll be so busy preparing food though that you won’t really be paying attention to the music.

Order Up! offers a very rewarding and challenging career mode that frankly puts Cooking Mama to shame. Rather than blindly creating dishes for a cute little anime chef to smile at you and praise you, you’re cooking for a purpose. It’s honestly a great way to experience the hectic world of restaurant ownership without all the muss and fuss. On my initial playthrough I found myself lost in the fun cooking action for easily three hours. I hadn’t even realized the time had passed. It’s ridiculously fun, it looks like a well-animated cartoon, and it offers a completely unique experience that merits sequels and spinoffs. However, even amongst all of this good karma, you have to know there’s some bad–the Wii remote is horrendously inefficient when it comes to doing some tasks, and it can make playing very frustrating. It’s nothing that couldn’t be cleared up in a sequel, though.

One can only hope that Order Up! hits it big in the entertainment business, because subsequent releases could be some of the best cooking games to ever have been conceived. Now if you’ll excuse me, there’s a country-fried steak calling my name. All this review writing has made me hungry.

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