When you return home to visit your parents, you don’t expect them to leave you their restaurant and travel the world. That’s exactly the situation Pom finds herself in when she returns to her hometown of Paell. It’s up to her to restore her parents’ restaurant, repay their debts, and bring Paell to great heights.
Hunting for ingredients and managing the restaurant are two challenges you must balance. They are equally difficult, but you can take your time. This makes the experience enjoyable and allows you to focus on the parts that are fun. Some gameplay aspects aren’t properly explained, making the game slightly harder than necessary. But the gorgeous visuals and fun gameplay will draw you in for hours as you attempt to master both worlds.
Cuisineer is available on PC.
Story – Repaying Restaurant Debts
Cuisineer starts when Pom, a catgirl, returns to her home of Paell to visit her parents. Said parents have already left on a trip around the world. They shut down the family restaurant since it wasn’t doing too well. Pom decides to reopen the restaurant, getting ingredients from the surrounding areas. With help from her friend Biscotti, the restaurant slowly revives under Pom’s management.
Unfortunately, a local official arrives to collect debt payments that Pom’s parents have racked up in her absence. The official refuses to leave without collecting those payments, finding new ones as Pom pays them off. There isn’t any pressure to pay the debts immediately, allowing Pom to take her time and gather enough resources.
The story resembles Story of Seasons: A Wonderful Life as it involves bringing life back to an old town. You can take the story at your own pace, unlocking new areas and recipes as you like. It’s possible to progress the story without ever going past the first area. But exploring new areas and expanding Pom’s repertoire is appealing, even if you don’t have to do it.
It isn’t a powerful story and it only sets up the premise of the game. But it accomplishes its goal; motivating you to pay off Pom’s debts and see what lies next. You are also motivated to expand your recipe knowledge and see everything the game has to offer. The real strength of Cuisineer lies in its gameplay.
Gameplay – Mixing Dungeons & Restaurant Management
Similar to Silent Hope, you must balance dungeon crawling with town management. Cuisineer doesn’t need Paell’s income to run the town, but they do rely on customers to spread the word. Your restaurant requires ingredients from dungeons that are just around Paell. Gather those ingredients and cook them into recipes to serve at your restaurant. Open your restaurant to serve customers to gain the money to pay off your debts and finance your dungeon adventures.
Neither aspect is strong by itself; it’s the combination of the two that lets Cuisineer stand out. Your restaurant can only serve dishes that you can create. Even if you have advanced recipes, you can’t create them without high-level equipment. If you don’t explore the dungeon, you won’t have a source of funds to pay off your debts or explore dungeons.
The gameplay fundamentals are solid, with a combat system that encourages you to find your preferred playstyle. Managing your restaurant is challenging enough to keep you on your toes, but simple enough to help you learn the fundamentals. There is a lot of information to learn at the start, though you will grasp it after a few in-game days of practice.
One downside is that some pieces of information aren’t clearly explained. For example, you must find a journal section that talks about status effects. It’s not clearly explained what the status effects are or that you can read the journal for more information. This isn’t a big inconvenience but it would help if that information was clearly stated.
Combination – Dependent On Each Other
Cuisineer doesn’t tread new ground with its gameplay; dungeon exploration and restaurant management have been done before. It succeeds by making each aspect dependent on the other, forcing you to experience both worlds. While it does have its disadvantages, you won’t have a choice but to experience everything the game has to offer.
You must explore dungeons as it is your only source of ingredients for dishes and materials for upgrading. The restaurant supplies you with money that helps you get better equipment for your kitchen and weapon upgrades. Completing side quests around town is the only way to get more recipes which boosts your earning potential.
Your challenge is to find a balance that works for you, almost like a strategy game. Plan your trips into the dungeon, decide when you obtain ingredients over materials, and what customers to attract. Look at which dishes earn you the most profit and how you can get your customers to order more.
Cooking your way to victory isn’t easy and you must plan ahead. It’s a good way to stay engaged and understand the depth of the game. While nothing is inherently new, the gameplay aspects work together to create an enjoyable experience.
Audio & Visuals – Delicious Food & 3D Models
One of the best parts of Cuisineer is the images of food. There’s a lot of detail that goes into the recipes you receive, matching their real-life counterparts. Many recipes are inspired by Southeast Asian cuisine, though there are several dishes from other countries as well. The images retain their quality even when they are made into simple models served to customers.
The 3D models of the characters and enemies look great. It’s easy to tell them apart and the movement is smooth. If you are experiencing performance issues, it may be necessary to install the game on an SSD. Otherwise, the game runs smoothly whether you are in combat or managing the restaurant.
Compared to the visuals, the audio is simple. There aren’t many voiced lines within the game, with voices reserved for combat. Cooking noises are generic and there isn’t much audio when monsters are fighting either. But since the focus leans towards the visuals, it’s not a big concern.
Cuisineer was reviewed on Steam with a code provided by decibel-pr.