For several years, I worked as a cook, and one of the things I enjoyed about the job was that each order was a unique challenge. Making several different items at once, putting them all together correctly and timing it so everything comes out hot is a real skill. Order Up!! on the PlayStation 3 presents that challenge in a fun way with a cute, appealing visual style. Unfortunately, while the single player game is flawed but fun, the multiplayer has major issues, resulting in a game that is not as good as it should have been.
Order Up!! begins as you choose your chef (male or female) and drop out of a plane into the town of Port Abello. When you start, you’ll learn the basics of cooking at the local fast food chain; each food item comes on a ticket listing the steps necessary to prepare it. Your performance on each step is graded from poor to perfect based on the quality and speed of your work, and all of those grades come together as your total mark for that food item.
After receiving your first paycheck, you decide to open a diner and go into business for yourself. Cooking in the diner adds some new challenges, and new rewards. Since you can only work on one table’s order at a time, you need to get the food out fast, or you’ll wind up with unhappy customers. Happy customers leave better tips, though, so it’s worth the effort. As your business grows you can spend money to unlock new menu items, and gain access to the Farmer’s Market, where you can buy spices and Chef’s Special recipes. The specials will always require some sort of spice, but as you get to know your clientele you will learn that some customers prefer certain spices regardless of what they are eating.
Spicing food correctly gives you a bonus on top of your regular tip for an item. A growing business also means more customers, which increases the challenge – regulars will begin bringing friends, and soon, instead of single orders, you’ll be cooking for a table of four. You can tackle this challenge by hiring some assistant cooks, each with unique skills. Your goal is to eventually become a five star restaurant, and you earn stars by completing goals like unlocking all of the menu items and impressing the food critic.
Earning the stars unlocks new restaurants that you can buy to cook new styles of food and earn more money. The single player game is surprisingly fun, but comes with some irritating issues. Purchasing a chef special unlocks it so customers can order it, but it doesn’t actually give you the recipe, leaving you to figure it out for yourself. When it’s something like “Black Pepper Chicken” it’s easy enough to work out, but “Spicy Mac & Cheese” isn’t so straightforward. Also, when you have several different varieties of the same dish, they are not ordered by name and the images are the same. When the food critic ordered the burger special I had no way of telling which of my three special burgers he actually wanted, and had to guess.
Order Up!! was originally released for the Wii in 2008, and it supports the Playstation Move and the Dual Shock 3. When using the Dual Shock (like I was), the on-screen hand that would be controlled with your Move wand is mapped to the left analog stick. Using the X button you open a ticket, and then hold X to drag an ingredient off of the ticket and on to the correct cooking area. The game can be finicky about where you need to place the ingredient, and sometimes I would drag it to the cooking area only to have it pop back to the ticket because I didn’t have it in exactly the right place.
Once positioned correctly, you hold O and move the left stick to perform activities like slicing a tomato or flipping a burger. Motions match up to the action – pushing the stick down will drop a basket of fries into the fryer, and pushing it up will pull them back out. After each ingredient is cooked, you can either drag it to the plate or the trash, depending on whether you are happy with your grade. While the controls work generally well, it’s clear that the game wasn’t designed with a regular controller in mind. The stick and button controls are mostly fine, but in some instances movement of the analog stick is ignored, or the game can’t keep up because you’re moving too quickly. Sometimes the written instructions don’t match the image, which is confusing. You can also perform all of the cooking motions by moving the Dual Shock 3 in the appropriate direction to mimic what you are doing onscreen, but controlling that way was very laggy, and quickly reduced to me waving the controller wildly and hoping for the best. Some of the mini games are especially tough with the Dual Shock 3, which quickly becomes frustrating.
Visually, the game is very cartoonish, and the chef, wait staff and customers have a fun, whimsical design. The restaurants and farmer’s market have the same feel, and the shopkeepers have good personality and some funny lines of dialog. The dialog in the game is humorous, but there aren’t very many lines, so they start to repeat pretty quickly. The sounds of food cooking and the register bringing in money are nice, and the music fits the mood and doesn’t get in the way. One VERY notable exception is the music in the Competition mode, which is 15-20 seconds looped continuously and enough to drive you mad.
Order Up!! looks and feels like a game that would be great to play with kids, so I found myself a kid and started up a 2 player game. Unfortunately, in multiplayer the game really falls on its face. We played three cooperative games and each time the game froze, forcing me to manually restart the PS3. Twice it locked up while we were playing, and the third time we paused to get a snack and came back to find the system unresponsive.
When we were playing, it was more frustrating than fun. The screen splits vertically, with both players working together to cook the food. You’re both still working on the same set of kitchen equipment though, so you need to be doing two different things at once. If one person is viewing a ticket the other player can’t open it and take an item to work on, which is a real nuisance. Likewise, if the other player completes an item on a ticket that you have open it doesn’t automatically update, meaning you’ll need to close and reopen the ticket in order to proceed on with the next step. After each food item is completed, you see the grade that it received, which also zooms the camera all the way out, forcing you to zoom back in each time. You can move the camera back and forth across the cooking stations to work on multiple items, but more than once, one of us got into a loop where the camera would go directly from one end to the other, skipping all of the middle stations. In a few of our competition games, Player 2 had a serving dish mysteriously appear on their cutting board, making it impossible to see the work they were doing at that station.
More than once in this console generation, games have been ported to the Wii with poorly implemented motion controls slapped on. Order Up!! is actually the reverse; a game that started on the Wii and was ported to the PS3, with regular controller support added. The game holds up decently in that regard, but falls short in a lot of others. If you’re only going to play alone and can live with some design issues it’s a fun game, but if you want something to play with other people then look somewhere else.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.