Have you ever played a hectic restaurant management sim, then played an isometric action roguelike, and wondered what it would be like if you mashed the two together? Probably not, but studio Battlebrew Productions decided to try this concept out, tying it together with the metaphorical bow of an adorable art style with cute character designs.
Honestly, I don’t think most people will go into this game expecting it to work very well. The concept sounds pretty far out there, and the fact it’s being attempted at all feels wild. But I can say that this fantastic brew of two shots of hectic and mildly stressful gameplay goes down like a dream with a funky aftertaste.
There’s quite a lot to discuss with Indie Game Culture’s Cuisineer review, so I think it’s high time we delve right into this insane combination that happens to have me hooked as of late. I’ll cover everything this game is about, showing off its high points, where the duality elevates everything, and the low times, where I feel more bored than anything.
On the Hotplate
I’d probably describe Cuisineer’s gameplay loop like “Persona, but with Rouglite dungeon crawling instead of RPG gameplay and a hectic cooking simulator instead of just social sim gameplay.” Of course, it’s pretty different, but how these incredibly different genres interact feels similar, mainly down to the currency and upgrades you can get.
Let’s start with the more exciting half, the roguelite gameplay, reminiscent of something like Hades. You travel through isometric, combat-focused areas, and you have a primary attack, secondary attack, and two specials, all of these being fully customizable, with tons of weapons and unlockables and excellent modifiers to find as you progress further and further down in each area, a boss on the third floor.
You must run your restaurant to fund the money for the weapons and armor you’ll need to succeed. This takes place in an Overcooked-style, overtly hectic restaurant management simulator, where you need to serve customers, cook their dishes, take into account different people’s needs, and at the end of the day, customize your restaurant and redo the layout a billion times for max efficiency.
These two interact through the money you gain from working in the restaurant and the ingredients you’ll scavenge by playing the roguelike. You need ingredients to make food and money to buy upgrades and weapons, with some pleasant social sim aspects in between. It works pretty well, and you’ll have to commit to one or the other daily.
I think implementing some light time pressure, similar to Persona’s system, could improve this. It feels like I have no incentive to do well in the roguelite mode since I have low inventory space by default, and having some actual time pressure might motivate me to go further; you could make the IRS man give me a time limit since I already have to give him my dosh—otherwise, incredibly designed gameplay loop and massive props for making this work.
Despite the gameplay working pretty well, your progress feels slightly off. I’ll say if you’re going to pick up this game, expect the first few hours to be quite dull; the restaurant doesn’t get chaotic for quite some time. In the initial stages, it flits between manageable and mindless, and since you don’t get to upgrade your inventory for a while, you’re incentivized to leave the roguelite sections as soon as you can’t pick anything up.
The kitchen does heat up after a few hours of gameplay, though, namely with patrons having specific qualities you need to take care of, like some of them trying to dine and dash without paying or the more regal folk needing you to serve them rather than getting up to get their food.
The roguelite progresses more normally, especially if you’re not too worried about inventory space and minmaxxing. You’ll travel through grassy plains, volcanic depths, and several other fabulous locations, getting more demanding as you dive deeper. Overall, progression could be a bit smoother. I’d love for the early game to be a bit more interesting, but the chaos of the late game is worth it.
The visuals and character designs in Cuisineer are adorable and wonderfully done, with the cel-shaded style supporting the cutesy, anime-esque portraits. Every environment takes a high-contrast, Kirby-like approach that makes everything pop, and I adore every bit of it; also, the characters look so cute. Alder is my favorite since he’s so tall he literally stands off-screen.
On top of refined visuals, the UI and general visual design are all stylized in a rustic, adorable way that strikes the best balance between practicality and flair. I have absolutely zero complaints about this style. If you’re looking for inspiration on how to design a game with style without sacrificing any readability or game design, this is it, folks.
The music in Cuisineer is quite pleasant, mainly utilizing woodwinds to create a silly, playful vibe. It’s also genuinely catchy, and I found myself humming a few tracks I had stuck in my head after playing, namely the town and restaurant themes. It’s all incredibly well done, and the soundtrack is worth a listen.
The sound design is excellent, too. Every hit feels satisfying, and I especially love the massive twang of hitting someone over the head with a frying pan that’s quadruple your size. Everything feels incredibly satisfying, and doing it all to a catchy and exciting soundtrack is a plus. This is a pleasant soundscape you won’t want to turn off.
Following the Recipe
The story in Cuisineer is short and, for the most part, pretty underplayed and out of the way. It’s one of those games that doesn’t need a story, so it doesn’t seem interested in shoving it in your face or making it a big part of the game. It’s essentially a comedic tale about your parents burdening you with all their responsibilities as they go on a vacation, but you’ll soon put that to the back of your mind in favor of optimizing table layouts and nabbing ingredients on your adventures.
It’s fun and mostly only shows up when you get a letter from your parents or assistant mentioning something about them. That is to say, if you’re looking for the most profound story of all time, look elsewhere, but it’s lighthearted and exciting enough to make you want to keep going without intruding on the simplistic game design.
Unfortunately, the technical aspects of Cuisineer leave a lot to be desired. It has my new, most hated trend with recent indie games. It has the most minimal graphics settings possible, only allowing you to lower the resolution and not letting you change anything in terms of performance. Why have so many indies recently done this? It’s genuinely stupid; adding graphics settings should be one of the first things you think to do.
Nonetheless, the game mostly performed well, outside of the initial load time, occasionally being long. That is, unless you wanted to stream this game on Discord, then for some reason, it’ll drop a ton of frames, getting into the barely playable range and increasing load times. I have no clue why this happens; it’s actually baffling, and I’ve never seen a game do that before, but yeah, be wary.
Replaying Cuisineer takes some of the benefits you’d expect out of a roguelite. Still, given it’s a cooking game played entirely in a story mode, you’ll see some diminishing returns compared to other games in the genre. It still means plenty of customizing your build and min-maxing if you go back, but it’ll get stale.
There are plenty of achievements to keep you busy if you try it over again, though, 67 in total. This game will probably run you about 20 hours if you’re rushing through it the first time, but if you want to go back and be a completionist, it can easily take longer and be an incredible bang for your buck.
There isn’t going to be any genre-mixing combo that’s quite the same as Cuisineer; it’s unique in what it does, so I’ll just be recommending some great, hectic games that might sate a similar roguelite desire that you could be coming to Cuisineer for.
- Hades brings a similar isometric roguelite experience with a well-done anime-esque art style, an in-depth story, fantastic music, and super intense gameplay. You can’t run a restaurant but you can certainly take the heat.
- Cult of the Lamb brings you another cutesy game with a demonic twist, where you summon members into your cult to help you with that action-roguelite gameplay and have some fun base building and decoration to go with it.
- PlateUp! somehow feels incredibly similar and like the exact opposite of Cuisineer. It’s purely a cooking, restaurant management sim, this time with some chaotic multiplayer, but it adds roguelite progression onto that cooking gameplay but has absolutely no combat focus.
The Verdict – 8/10
I didn’t expect this game to score as highly as it does for me, but it surprised me with how high quality it consistently managed to be. Yeah, it has issues. I hate the lack of graphics options, and the slow-going gameplay bored me at first, but once you work past that, you’ll dig into what is really an incredible game.
Hopefully, those pacing issues get cleaned up by adding more things to do during the restaurant portions and making the inventory upgrades more accessible. Then we’ve got a 9/10 on our hands. Regardless, though, you should try Cuisineer if the concept has you even mildly interested since it’s executed really well.
I don’t know if this concept could achieve a perfect, awe-inspiring game simply because the combination doesn’t work perfectly. Combining a social simulator and an RPG works because they have a lot in common, but cooking games and roguelites don’t share much DNA. It works well, for what it’s worth, but sometimes I wish I was playing a combination that worked as well as peanut butter and jelly.
- Fun Rougelite and Cooking gameplay that intertwine wonderfully.
- Adorable art style with cute character designs.
- Very catchy and silly-sounding soundtrack.
- Weird technical issues on PC, including no graphics settings and long loads.
- Simplistic story, not bad, but maybe not what you’re looking for.
- Incredibly slow-going progression for the first few hours; it gets a bit boring.
Questions and Answers
Question: What platforms is Cuisineer on?
Answer: Currently, Cuisineer is PC-exclusive, and no other console releases have been announced.
Question: What is Cuisineer?
Answer: Cuisineer combines action roguelite combat and hectic cooking simulators, where you scavenge ingredients and then use them to cook meals for your patrons.
Question: Does Cuisineer work on the Steam Deck?
Answer: Cuisineer will run perfectly on the Steam Deck by default.
I played Cuisineer for around 12 hours on PC, getting through quite a bit of the extensive roguelite areas and enjoying customizing my restaurant. I also played quite a bit on my Steam Deck, and it’s enjoyable on there, working well out of the box.
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