Chef: A Restaurant Tycoon Game
Developer: Inner Void
Publisher: Digital Tribe
Genre: Simulation, Management
Release Date: 20/08/2020
A code was provided for review purposes.
I think all of us can relate to having that one tycoon game that left us staring at a screen for hours, completely unaware of the time passing. There’s something about management games that draws many of us in and becomes addictive, whether that be running your own theme park or building your own city. I’m not sure what this power lust and control says about humans…
When I saw Chef in our games list, I was happy to review it, having spent many hours on titles such as Rollercoaster Tycoon and Planet Zoo. A restaurant sim was something I’d never really played before, besides old flash games on the family PC on rainy days. But was it a recipe for disaster or the creme de la creme of restaurant tycoons?
The Basics of Restaurant Running
Like most titles, you’re offered to take part in the tutorial. As the interface looked a little different than most sim games, I gladly took this offer. There is suprisingly a lot of things to learn, and features that I wasn’t expecting.
There are the usual things like designing your restaurant, hiring staff and planning your menu. However, your decor and food needs to coincide with the societal class that visits your restaurant the most. To start with, this is the ‘Cheapskate’ class. They like cheap prices, meat and carb rich food, and are put off by too many veggie options!
This feature in Chef added a little strategy, having to adjust your menu and decor accordingly. You could gain points to expand your outreach to other districts and other classes; can you try and please everyone? The more people you please, the more your popularity rating will increase. Alongside the menu was my favourite feature, the recipe editor.
Making a Meal of It
In Chef‘s recipe editor, it’s a key way of creating better dishes and adding desired items to the menu. If you take a look at the reviews tab, you can see what people think of your restaurant. People would complain about certain dishes, and you could see what they rated each aspect of your restaurant. My food wasn’t rated very highly, so I set to work making new recipes!
As you play, you earn recipe points, allowing you to buy more ingredients and upgrade them. With my cheapskate customers calling for more meaty and carby dishes, I created meals such as lasagne. There would be a basic requirement such as 100g of pasta for each recipe, then the rest was your choice. Dragging ingredients from the right to the centre, you could see on the left hand side the rating of the dish move up or down. My aim was to go as close as possible to that 100 level dish!
However, I couldn’t really tell what ingredients were meant to go well together. I would add what I’d include in real life and the rating would go down. There was no deeper tutorial into this section at all, which unfortunately was the case for most of the game.
Waiting, Waiting, Waiting
The tutorial for Chef was handy for the most basic things, but I felt it could have covered so much more. Thankfully the controls aren’t too difficult, but I had to work out for myself how to rotate the camera. I couldn’t seem to find any control layout screen, and if there was, it wasn’t very accessible.
As mentioned, the recipe editor had me guessing what to do, and I had to go through all these tabs to find out what they were myself. Sometimes the tutorial would eventually go into it, but I felt it was dragged out and left you waiting. There is no section to see your objectives, so I kept playing until a screen popped up saying I’d done whatever I needed to do.
I would have preferred the tutorial to cover everything from the get go, as by the time it explained it I was already hours into the game.
You Are Bankrupt
I’ve always found managing money on a sim hard. How do I get that balance of pleasing customers, but also not losing money? Usually, I find that it’s apparent pretty quickly when I’ve gone wrong, and I can restart or create a new game. But with the lack of tutorial in Chef, I felt helpless.
I could see my money going deeper and deeper into the red, but had no idea what to do about it. After one warning earlier on in the game, I didn’t know how to get back out of debt. Eventually, my profit was going up, but then I was hit with ‘YOU ARE BANKRUPT!’
Now, I wouldn’t have cared too much if this was early on in the game. But this was around 5 hours into my first restaurant. I was returned to the main menu, with the option to make a new game or load from my last save. The latter would be pointless as my pride and joy was beyond repair! You bet I exited the game in a flash after that.
The lack of direction left me not knowing what I was doing, and honestly a little bored. With all I could do is spend money and upgrade my staff or food, there was no wonder I went bankrupt. Yes, you could fast foward days, but I want to be actively doing something. You can only unlock another restaurant at popularity level 1000, something I was way off after 5 hours. So, I think the description ‘tycoon’ is used a little loosely here.
Does The Job
Visually, Chef is pretty basic. The textures aren’t that nice, and some of the wallpaper or flooring is ghastly, but I quite liked the simplistic character design. The colours were maybe a little garish, but overall it did the job for a title from a small studio, with the main focus on running your restaurant. I think the best artwork was actually for the dishes, which were more realistic and looked tasty!
Unfortunately, there were a lot of glitches with the characters, such as not sitting in the right positions or having chunks missing from their faces. Funny to look at, but not as immersive.
The soundtrack was forgettable, with nothing that really stood out. However it did fit well with the game and switched between various tracks so it wasn’t repetitive. Think classic accordion and piano playing in a French restaurant scene in films.
Will I Be Coming Back?
Chef is in theory the type of game made for replayability, similar to scrapping a family on The Sims to start a brand new one from the beginning. Learning from your mistakes, you can build better restaurants or just play from a different angle, perhaps favouring a different class. But for me, there’s too little direction to start a new game. I want to know what to do straight away, and not skip days waiting for something to happen.
I do think there are some really intriguing features such as the recipe editor and pleasing different classes. It was enjoyable reading through the humorous reviews and dialogue. However, it didn’t all click together for me and I was left disappointed.