Order Up! (Zoo)Written by Michael Siebenaler | | firstname.lastname@example.org
This virtual kitchen simulator features a chef (male or female) working up the professional ladder in the island setting of Port Abello. This Wii exclusive single player game has great sound and appealing graphics, plus four save slots for a medium length experience (experienced gamers could conquer the game in single digit hours). The story stuffs you with several animated characters including the predictable food critic and health inspector. The eclectic customers and available chef assistants for hire (just check the daily paper) spice up the proceedings, though they often talk over each other, so players might miss some funny one-liners or clues into a character’s personality.
Players begin at their training site, Burger Face, then quickly acquire a local diner called the Gravy Chug. Progression to El Fuego, Stuffolini’s and finally Chez Haute follows at a fairly steady pace. The fast paced kitchen area lets players run free as they choose preparation and cooking steps from the ordering tickets. Players also control which customers to serve and expedite food orders when finished.
Multitasking masters have a definite advantage here as players progress their coin tallies to purchase upgrades, menu items, ingredients, and other special items. Routine and creative variety supply the bulk of the gameplay. The daily newspaper (where you might get a good review from the food critic), daily time constraints, regular food deliveries and trips to the market all provide steady gameplay, Daily tips in the phone booth and at the basic marketplace give players helpful hints.
The quick play mode lets players work with four different meals (expanded options unlockable in the main single player game mode). Occasional event activities like quelling kitchen fire and sharpening knives keep things from getting too dull. Some story related mini games include batting away rats and a surprise visit from the health inspector where players must demonstrate their dishwashing ability.
Primary action stems from the remote, though players can navigate with the optional nunchuk, which works for navigation movement. The learning curve can be medium for younger players when using the motions controls, primarily the remote, but the remote motions incorporate actual cooking actions like stirring, flipping and cutting so well that most players won’t have many issues. Other actions include shaking the remote to grate cheese…and occasionally wake up sleeping assistants (a nice touch). Colorful visual cues also give players guidance to succeed at each action (e.g. keeping a steady hand with straight vertical up and down motions when cutting).
Individual successes are great, but players really see results when each action combines into a perfect score. The element of spice enhances the game with creative combinations that can provide satisfying bonuses and amusing negative reactions. Players can access the spice menu using the – button on the remote (Z button on the nunchuck) and check off an order ticket at the top right in certain instances. Be sure to cater to each customer and check for feedback in the ending tip tally. Developers further incorporate the characters into the game through this element.
The game has an impressive amount of voice acting though they talk over each other often, so sometimes you miss some funny one-liners. Navigation is great except for the top center, which gets a bit crowded at times. Overall the clever dialogue, entertaining characters, high quality, variety, and unique design put this title at the top of the casual game heap. Maybe a multiplayer cooking contest, freestyle recipe creations (possibly incorporating customers as the judges), more social interactions, or a speed round might appear in the next installment. (***1/2, rated E for comic mischief)