Order Up!

Review

posted 9/5/2008 by Dave Gamble
other articles by Dave Gamble
I enjoy cooking. There, I said it. Ridicule my manliness if you will, but I like the slicing and dicing, the logic behind the ordering of the various tasks to allow for a degree of parallel processing, and the satisfaction of having all of the diverse elements of a meal coalesce at roughly the same time. Even for something as simple as the weekend breakfast, limited resources (only one microwave oven, for example) have to be balanced against various cooking times (bacon = very slow, eggs = very fast) to keep some of the ingredients from getting cold or coagulated while the others are still being prepared.

As is common with amateurs such as myself, I like watching the professionals do it too. If you ever have the opportunity to visit a Waffle House restaurant on a busy weekend morning, pay attention to the frantic activity in the kitchen. The waitresses call out the orders using a standardized lingo (“scattered, smothered well...”) and the cooks work from memory. They don't get a copy of the order to work from; the waitress calls it out, they have to remember it all while they prepare it. Eggs, breakfast meats, various forms of bread, and waffle batter fly around in a highly synchronized ballet of breakfast. I've often thought about taking a job there when I retire just to learn how it all works. I'm fascinated by it.

“Uh, not to be rude, Dude, but so what? Why are you telling me this?” Well, mostly to explain why an old guy approaching the big five-oh got such a kick out of Order Up! for the Wii. In Order Up!, you (somewhat incongruously) start out as a new and untested chef parachuting out of an airplane to start your career as a restaurant owner/chief cook/dishwasher. As I did when I was a teen, you start out at minimum wage being managed by a pimple-faced youth and making just enough money to net out negative after taxes and other costs. You learn the ropes of food preparation and kitchen equipment under his weaselly tutelage, but soon quit in disgust. Faced with bleak prospects, you consider ending it all with a large butchers knife (ok, not really – I'm embellishing) but happen across an old diner that's for sale. Seeing it as a fixer-upper, you buy it and open your first business, Gravy Chug.

Your menu here will consist mostly of burgers and fries, but you will also be making breakfast dishes. As you gain skill, though, you will expand your menu and even start expressing your creativity with Chef's Specials. You will learn how to use the Wii remote to slice tomatoes, strip lettuce, and flip burgers. These are all fairly intuitive motions and are easy to learn, although some of them are more particular than others. Flipping a burger is easy, but working with lettuce was something I could never grasp, so to speak. More often than not, I'd pass that job along to my assistant chef. Later in my career when I had moved up to a Mexican restaurant, I also found that folding up a burrito was something I preferred to delegate. But grating cheese? I am the MASTER of grating cheese!

Speaking of delegation, you have one assistant chef that inexplicably works for free, but whines constantly and even falls asleep on the job now and then. You can also hire an additional assistant from a group of specialists once you have saved up some “coin.” Coin is the currency used to buy supplies such as spices, and to pay taxes. The game doesn't use the word 'tax,' of course, but there are items (new recipes for Chef's Specials, for example) that you are required to buy in order to move to the next level. Just like Social Security, you can call it whatever you want, but if I have no choice other than paying it, it is a tax. Spices, on the other hand, are optional, but they sell at a hefty mark up so it's a good idea to buy them.

As your restaurant starts attracting more customers, you will soon gather a set of regular customers. Some are more desirable that others; one has an apparently incurable flatulence problem and another bears a striking resemblance to a vampire. Each has their own quirks with regards to how they like their food prepared, and they tip well if you get it right. These preferences take the form of using the appropriate type of spice (hot, salty, sweet, aromatic, etc.) or the degree that the food is cooked. The vampire guy likes everything raw.


As your restaurant becomes more popular, the number of simultaneous orders you are cooking will increase. When four orders start coming to you at the same time, you have to be efficient in your use of resources. You have one cutting board, one deep fryer, two burners, and a griddle. Boiling, sauteing, and frying are relatively slow, but you do have to keep an eye on them or you will, as I did on my very first order, burn your restaurant to the ground. Grating, dicing, and slicing are fast, so you can do them while the other ingredients are cooking. The worst sets of orders are those that have a lot of deep frying to be done – you have just the one fryer, so you have to plan accordingly. Your assistant chef can also fry for you, though, and he's very good at it. If you can stand his constant harping and whining, you can offload some work to him.

As you progress through your career, you will work with Mexican, Italian, and snobby gourmet food. As such, you will soon be working with a couple of dozen different spices and cooking techniques. The management aspects of restaurant ownership will remain pretty constant, though, and they are pretty simplistic. That's not a criticism, by the way: if the most onerous thing I have to do as the restaurant owner is keep the spice shelf well stocked or wash some dishes to prove to the Board of Health that I know how to do it, that's just fine with me. Coin management is also pretty straightforward. Buy what you need to buy one you've earned enough coin, then move up to the next restaurant. Nothing to it, really.

Once you've succeeded in growing the reputation of your gourmet restaurant to the five star level, you will be recognized as the premier chef that you are, and will be entered into my favorite part of the career: an invitation to compete on The Fortified Chef Show, an entertaining version of the Japanese Campy Cooking Classic, The Iron Chef. If you win that, your career is over. All told, it only takes about six hours to complete your career. At this point, the question of replayability rears its unattractive head. Without the goal of progressing through a career to drive you, will you ever come back to play Order Up! Again? This is still an open question for me. What would make it a much easier decision would be the ability to play The Fortified Chef in a two-player mode. Unfortunately, there is no two-player mode, which seems like quite a missed opportunity.

All in all, Order Up! was very entertaining. I found it both approachable and fun. The repetitive statements of some of the characters can be somewhat grating (heh!) on older folks, and even the 14 year old tester that I employed for a second opinion was soon looking for the options menu to shut them up. The biggest weakness in my opinion, though, is the lack of a multiplayer challenge mode. Even so, Order Up! scores a solid B+.




B+
Order Up! will be entertaining and easy to learn for all ages. At an average of six hours to complete, though, it suffers from the lack of a multiplayer challenge mode.