Cuisineer - PC Review

Cuisineer by developer BattleBrew Productions and publisher Marvelous Europe, XSEED GamesPC(Steam) review written by Richard with a copy provided by the publisher.
Estimated reading time: 7 minutes
Well now everyone, I've got a new title here that's cooking up a storm! Or at least beating the ingredients into submission. An action roguelike restaurant management title called Cuisineer is ready to serve you up some fun.

In Cuisineer we are introduced to Pom, an explorer out on her own who gets a letter from her parents, asking her to come home one last time before they're gone...on a cruise around the world! By the time you get home, they're already gone, and the restaurant they've run for many years is in a bit of a sorry state. So Pom decides to pick up the mantle and run the shop! Oh, and she has to pay off those massive debts her parents left her...yeah...

Cuisineer is an interesting title, because you start out needing to find ingredients for your restaurant, which you have to go into a roguelike action based dungeon, beat up some monsters, and harvest their drops. Then you can return home, set up the furniture and layout of your restaurant, and then open up!  Now you have to get food cooking, wait on tables, take payment from customers, or stop those who try to skip out, all while working within the limits of how long your customers are willing to wait.

Once you've managed to get your business running a little, you'll manage to save up some funds. This cash will then promptly fly away as you need to improve the state of your building, the quality of your cooking implements, your adventuring gear, purchasing new furniture, buying store accessories, or improving weapons and armour for your next delves. Oh, and don't forget to do sidequests from townsfolk in order to learn new recipes!

Now, that may seem like a lot, and honestly, it kinda is, but you'll get used to managing it fairly quickly, focusing on what you need to. On a plus side, I don't believe there is a deadline on paying off the debts. Or if there is, I never saw one. This means you don't have to feel super pressed on to try and blow straight through the debt right away. Like I did. And now my restaurant is still almost basic level and it feels bad man.

So, let's talk about things in order! Your first step in running a successful restaurant is to gather the ingredients. So off you go to a dungeon in order to collect them! You will now be fighting against cute looking vegetables and animals in order to collect your ingredients! Pom, as a seasoned adventurer, carries around a melee and ranged weapon, and can short-dash away from enemies and over small gaps in terrain. She can also use a special move with her equipped weapons, although it takes some time for them to be usable again.

So Pom must beat up monsters, after which they will usually drop materials to stack in her annoyingly limited inventory. Once you've collected what you're comfortable with, you can leave before you get knocked out and lose 95% of what you've gathered. If you're worried about your health, you can always bring some Boba Tea with you to heal, although you do have limited inventory spaces, so keep that in mind.

Now that you've returned to town, it's late, so go deposit what you want in your storage and go to bed. Now it's morning, and time for your next step: getting your restaurant set up! After purchasing some furniture from Alder, the local craftsman, you can set up your furniture layout how you want. Now it's time to open the restaurant!

Once you open up, customers start pouring in! The customers will come in, sit down, think for a bit, then give you an order. If there are no seats available, you don't have the ingredients for the food they want, or take too long, they will leave. Once the customer orders, you can start the cooking on one of the available cooking furniture items, more of which can be installed as you upgrade your shop. These furniture items can also be upgraded to have more items available to queue, as well as make higher quality dishes. Once the food is ready, it gets deposited on the counter. Most guests will get their food themselves, but you can also pick it up and hand it to them. When done, they go to pay, which you have to collect, and then off they go.

Fairly standard sounding stuff, yeah? Well, don't forget to also take a look around town, as the villagers may have side-quests for you. These are generally picking up a number of ingredients or making a number of certain dishes for them. Items can be turned in as parts as well, so you don't need to worry too hard about having everything all at once. These quests will be where you will start earning new recipes from, so it's a good idea to check in with the villagers. Additionally, the Boba tea shop is your healing items in the dungeon, which can be researched and upgraded, and there are other vendors that it would be a good idea to check in on, like the tailor that can increase your item bag size.

All of your quest and villager info is kept track of in your handy journal, which also pauses time while open. Yup, it's really handy for checking what items you need for what quests, anything required for specific recipes, as well as what enemies drop what food items. On that note, there aren't really a whole lot of food items to collect. This definitely isn't a bad thing though, as it means you can collect a large variety from any dungeon, and don't need to visit three or four places just to get the materials for one dish you want to make.

Now, let's talk a bit about how the dungeons function. Each floor is randomly generated with a series of different "rooms" or segments attached together in different ways. These aren't actually "rooms" in the traditional sense, as each floor is one whole exploration area, but sort of like different "islands" interconnected. These islands have different directions that can attach to other islands, either by you dashing across gaps or just walking. Your goal is, largely, to simply find ingredients by killing the inhabitants. There are, however, bosses and arena style encounters as you progress further into a dungeon.

Combat is active, where you have a combo for the melee weapon and a set amount of ammo on the ranged weapon. The ranged weapon can be recovered whenever you want, and you also have a special move available for both the ranged and melee weapons that work on purely a cooldown. There are a couple different weapons available, such as a spatula or Smackeral for melee, or throwing dishes as a ranged weapon, and they do function differently, both in terms of combo moves and special attacks.

So, now it comes to the part of the review where I tell you what my biggest frustrations were: Load times. Yup, they're super long. More often than not, I had something open on the side that I would swap over to while waiting for the loading screen, and then swap back when I heard the music change. Yeah, they're really bad, no it's not exactly a game breaker, but it certainly did kill my enthusiasm a bit. Thankfully, loading isn't really done "in area", just between. Opening the restaurant for instance just starts right up, but loading the interior of the restaurant might take a while. There are a few other small issues, like an option to set aside items and not use them for cooking if you want to save them for a sidequest that you haven't turned in, but want to open the restaurant. Also, adding an item description for some of the furniture, such as which cooking implement allows what dishes, would be kind of handy, or if it does exist, a better implemented introduction so I wouldn't be confused.

Overall, Cuisineer is a really interesting action roguelike restaurant simulator, a combination of genres I haven't heard anything similar to in quite a while. The cute art style and aesthetic side of renovating your restaurant, coupled with the action elements during the dungeon crawling are a surprisingly good mix. Add to this that the title isn't nearly as stressful due to time constraints as other similar stylized games have, and it turns into a weird "relaxingly stressful" time. While the two primary genres may not overlap often, it mixes really well for Cuisineer, and is well put together in terms of functionality as well as goals set for you by the game.

Score: 8 / 10