Order Up! (Wii) review
"Despite the solid selection of dishes on hand, cooking for the same motley assortment can get old after awhile and the game doesn't really offer much relief. About the only exceptions are a few mini-games. One has you flicking rats that run along the screen. Another has you quickly scrubbing plates under the eye of the watchful health inspector. Then there are the ones where you must move the Wii Remote to shake your workers awake when the going gets tough. These are nice diversions that fit the humorous cooking theme quite well, but there simply aren't enough of them to entirely dispel the monotony that is inherent to a title of this nature."
During a plane ride over the island of Port Abello, a chef suddenly finds himself falling through a hole in the floor. He lands in a rubbish heap far below, a castaway in a strange seaside town with nothing to call his own but his floppy chef hat. Ever the resourceful fellow, he applies for--and is hired for--a job at the local fast food joint. When taxes and other things take away everything he worked to earn, though, he takes advantage of a bank loan and opens up his own restaurant.
Order Up! is the story of that plucky little chef--or chefette--and his (or her) quest to build a culinary empire. It may strike you as generic at a glance, but give it a chance and you'll find that the game has a lot of heart. Terrific artwork, fun challenges and a great sense of humor combine to create a satisfying digital feast, just so long as you don't gorge yourself all at once.
Gameplay is divided into six basic areas. The first is a simple tutorial stage. There, you'll learn the art of in-game cooking. It's not comprehensive training, but it's enough to prepare you for how the bulk of the game's remainder will transpire. Once you're satisfied that you can handle things pretty well, you can progress to that first restaurant you purchased. Advancing after that requires satisfying five objectives--always the same, despite scenery changes and increasing difficulty--until you've finally purchased four eateries and turned them all into something special. Then there's a final competition between various chefs before the game ends.
The first few hours of play are a total blast as you spend your earnings on restaurant upgrades, spices, recipes and additional workers. You can even try your luck at a random jackpot to improve your earnings potential. Even if your interest in such customization wanes, they're simply a brief prelude to the main event: the cooking!
When you step into your restaurant, herds of customers soon follow and your server rushes out to greet them. He or she then returns with the list of dishes you must prepare. The number varies, mostly based on how many stars you've built up for your little restaurant by satisfying simple objectives. You can tackle the incoming orders in any order you like, or even all at once, since there are various stages to each one.
As an example, hamburger preparation includes tossing a patty on the grill, chopping up some tomatoes and crisping some fries in the deep fat fryer. You can do all of this simultaneously, provided you have enough space and dexterity. The different processes each require different amounts of time to complete even when things are at their best. Though it's easy to switch between stations on the fly, the Wii Remote gestures required to accomplish some tasks (such as cutting sheets of pasta into tiny squares, or hacking apart a bunch of beef) can get you hung up if you rush excessively. Controls are for the most part satisfactory and you'll rarely drop a rating because they were unresponsive, but sometimes things do feel quite hectic.
Fortunately, you can assign specific roles to hired help if you're confident in their abilities to perform the duties correctly. The different folks you hire possess different skills. Some keep customers happy as they wait and others can fry like nobody's business. Their assistance is always welcome, but you can't rely on them because too often they'll hold you back from getting a 'perfect' rating on a given dish. Order Up! requires you to balance all of those factors on the fly, to quickly jump in and out of one task after another with precision and intelligence. Then everything starts bubbling or sizzling and you have to grab all of the goodies before they scorch or burn. It might not sound like much when you see it written here, but it's quite exhilarating.
Then spices come along to add another variable to the mix. These allow you to increase the size of your tips if you match them to the proper patrons. For example, there's a gassy old man without any real sense of smell who likes foods with a powerful aroma, plus a boy with almost no teeth who is delighted when you dump sugar in his meal... no matter what it might be. Other customers offer similar rewards if you cook their food a certain way, such as the cowboy who wants you to burn everything almost to a crisp or the Dracula-like character who likes everything served in raw form.
Knowing your customers will definitely help you through the game, and there are a lot of them to learn. There's a pretty decent variety of stereotypes represented here, including a vegetable-loving whiner and a snide spinstress. As you'll soon find, though, there aren't quite enough. Most of them come with an impressive stable of one-liners that they'll spout as they walk to their tables or interact with your waiters, but it isn't long before those start repeating. As you move to fancier restaurants, a lot of the same group of eaters follows you around.
Despite the solid selection of dishes on hand, cooking for the same motley assortment can get old after awhile and the game doesn't really offer much relief. About the only exceptions are a few mini-games. One has you flicking rats that run along the screen. Another has you quickly scrubbing plates under the eye of the watchful health inspector. Then there are the ones where you must move the Wii Remote to shake your workers awake when the going gets tough. These are nice diversions that fit the humorous cooking theme quite well, but there simply aren't enough of them to entirely dispel the monotony that is inherent to a title of this nature.
Rather than cushion that flaw, the developers made some design decisions that worsen its impact. There are times where you have to fly through several days of cooking just to save up enough coins to purchase a new stove or some deluxe recipes required to satisfy certain objectives. This is true even if you're getting a 'perfect' grade and bonuses on each dish you prepare, since the costly items near the game's end are overpriced by an unfair margin. Presumably, those things were meant to pad the game and provide more lasting value, but instead they just dilute what's already there.
Such flaws can be overlooked if you're in the right mood, but they're still disappointing. Another few restaurants and three or four times the distinct patrons could have made Order Up! really special, but that's all stuff that we'll have to put on our wish list for a possible sequel. In the meantime, what we got this time around is a fun game if you play it for an hour or two at a time and then let it sit for awhile. If you're okay with that, its strengths warrant a possible purchase. Otherwise, look for it the next time you're ready to rent.
Staff review by Jason Venter (August 01, 2008)
Jason Venter has been playing games for 30 years, since discovering the Apple IIe version of Mario Bros. in his elementary school days. Now he writes about them, here at HonestGamers and also at other sites that agree to pay him for his words.
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