Many, many years ago as a young gamer, I stumbled upon a strange Japanese game on a PS1 demo disc. Presumably made to show off the recently released Dual Shock controller, the game had you using the analog sticks to do all sorts of cooking related tasks. Pouring drinks, stirring pots, washing dishes, ect. I absolutely fell in love with this game, despite only being able to play one stage (you know, demo disc and all). The game's name, I later found out, was Ore no Ryori. For the longest time, I hoped that it would get released in the US. But alas, the PS1's time came and went, and Ore no Ryori never appeared in the US. But I never forgot about Ore no Ryori. As the years went by, I tried out every cooking game that surfaced in the US, hoping to find a worthy successor to the game I loved so much. Alas, I never did.
And then came Order Up.
Make no mistake about it, Order Up is in no way directly related to Ore no Ryori. But those of you who have played Ore no Ryori would probably think otherwise at first. Developed by American developer Supervillain Studios, Order Up takes cooking games like Cooking Mama one step further. Instead of small minigames based on cooking, Order Up takes a different approach by tasking you with preparing multiple dishes simultaneously. You could have a pot of macaroni boiling while a burger cooks on the grill and french fries are frying in the deep fryer. If you forget about something that's cooking, however, it can burn and possibly even start a fire in your kitchen. Undoubtedly, Order Up can be a far more stressful game than Cooking Mama and the like.
When you start the game, you're merely a lowly chef who buys himself (or herself) an old, run down diner. However, as you progress through the game, you'll eventually be able to buy and run three more restaurants. Each restaurant has sixteen base dishes to unlock and prepare, plus eight "Chef's Special" dishes (which are really nothing more than base dishes with certain spices added). As you chop, slice, fry, and boil your way through the game, you'll earn COIN (yes, COIN), which can be used to buy new menu items, new restaurants, upgrades to your kitchen, and even hire assistant chefs. The assistant chefs actually add another layer of strategy to the game, as each one is proficient in a different cooking skill. While one may be a master at the grill, another may be a virtuoso with a knife and cutting board.
Being the owner of a restaurant, of course the most important thing for you to remember is that the customer must be satisfied. And Order Up is no different. You'll have various different zany characters as patrons in your different eating establishments, each with their own favorite spices or ways they like their food prepared. There's a sailor who likes his food salty, a kid who likes his dishes sweetened up a bit, and even a cowboy who likes his meat burned to a crisp. These customers are an excellent addition to the game, as they change things up a bit, and keep cooking from getting repetitive.
Of course, being a Wii game, the biggest feature of Order Up is the controls. You're not just pushing buttons in Order Up. Virtually all of the dishes you're going to be preparing use the Wii Remote's motion sensing capabilities in one way or another. Whether it be flipping the Wii Remote upwards to flip an omelet, twisting it to flip a pancake or burger, or making a chopping motion to cut vegetables, you'll be doing quite a bit of movement while playing Order Up. And for the most part, all of these motions are recognized well, with the possible exception of the back and forth cutting motion, which gave me trouble every now and then.
It's not all perfect in Order Up, however. Firstly, you're going to be doing a LOT of cooking. Of course, as this is the game's draw, it's not really a bad thing. But since it costs so much to purchase new restaurants, you're going to be cooking a lot of the same dishes over and over in the beginning of the game just to earn enough cash to move up to the next venue. Also, the game really could have used a multiplayer mode, in the vein of the Iron Chef-style stage that serves as the game's finale. The random cleaning minigames, while obviously taken straight out of Ore no Ryori, seem just as tacked on and needless as they did back in that game. And to finish up my list of grievances with the game, the sound design could have been better. While the sounds of food cooking and the voice over work are all great, the music is pretty plain. It's not bad, per se, but it really could have been better.
For many, many years now I've been searching for a successor to Ore no Ryori. And I believe I've found one in Order Up. Order Up is really so similar that I don't believe there's any way that at least one member of Supervillain Studios hasn't played Ore no Ryori. It really is a spiritual successor to the game I loved so much so long ago. While the $40 price point may seem a bit steep to some gamers, believe me when I say that it's totally worth it. Order Up is an original IP that really delivers the fun that so many other original IP's on the system seem to miss the mark on. It's really perfect for those like me who loved Ore no Ryori, those who were disappointed with Cooking Mama's lack of depth, or those who are simply looking for a really good cooking game on the Wii.
Plus, it comes with a free paper line cook's hat. How can you argue with that?
Images courtesy of Zoo Digital.