Developer: BattleBrew Productions
Release Date: November 9, 2023
Reviewed On: PC
Publisher: XSEED Games
If, like me, you have a soft spot for bright graphics, a cozy ambiance, and cute characters, then Cuisineer is guaranteed to catch your eye. Singaporean developer BattleBrew Productions is back with an adorable title that promises to blend roguelike mechanics with restaurant management. Cusineer made our recent list of “10 Exciting Games Launching In November 2023” thanks to its interesting gameplay loop and cute appearance – so did the full release live up to our expectations?
A simple story sets the framework for Cuisineer
Cuisineer begins as protagonist Pom, a cute cat girl reminiscent of The Little Red Riding Hood, receives an ominous letter from her parents. We find out that Pom left her hometown, Paell, several years ago to go adventuring and is now rushing home at her family’s behest. Upon her arrival, she finds out from her best friend, Biscotti, that her parents have decided to leave on a long holiday and now want Pom to run the restaurant. However, they have also sold off pretty much everything within said restaurant and have left Pom saddled with a huge debt she needs to repay.
While this would be quite a distressing situation for anyone to find themselves in, Pom takes it all in stride and quickly gets to work, gathering ingredients, running the restaurant, as well as helping the various citizens of Paell in exchange for their recipes to expand her menu.
The story is not the main focus of Cuisineer, and so it is rather simple and oftentimes very much in the background of the action.
For example, not paying the debt doesn’t actually have any negative consequences for Pom despite the tax office’s threats, and so the player is free to spend their time focusing on other quests until they want to advance the story.
I found myself forgetting about the main quest on several occasions, especially as quests don’t show up on the main screen, and the player needs to click through the menu to find them. It would have been nice to be able to pin a few to have a better overview or have a way marker to remind the player of where to go.
A charming cast of characters brimming with personality
From the second you boot up the game, you are greeted with one of the many gorgeous illustrations this title has to offer, accompanied by an energetic background track promising the start of a fun adventure. The graphics are standout – not only are they beautiful to look at, but they also fit the cozy vibe that BattleBrew is known for.
The colors are bright and cheery, and everything is a pleasure to look at – especially the food looks incredibly appealing and made my stomach rumble more than once.
I also loved the variety in the characters, both named NPCs as well as customers visiting your restaurant. Cuisineer really sticks to its culinary theme, and so all the characters are named after food. My favorite part was how much personality everyone had and how this came across within just a few lines of dialogue and illustrations. I loved going around and meeting characters such as the big hulking wolf named Alder, the local carpenter, who often does not even fit within the frame of the game, Biscotti, the family friend who is helping you rebuild the restaurant, or the mysterious but mischievous owner of the brewery, Ankhiluun.
I also liked how the patrons of your restaurant each had their own personality types. They are never stated explicitly, but after a few cycles, you will notice how the children are very impatient and start throwing a tantrum if made to wait too long but will devour their food, whilst elderly patrons are willing to wait all day but will also move at a much slower pace. All of this is supported by a really strong soundtrack and sound design, which make exploring the town a real treat.
Using a frying pan as a weapon has never been more fun: A solid culinary-themed rogue-lite
The first half of Cuisineer’s gameplay loop consists of heading out to gather ingredients for your restaurant. You are given the choice between different locations, each with a different set of enemies and loot to be found. I really liked Cuisineer’s rogue-lite aspects: Each time you re-enter a dungeon, you will start from scratch and be faced with a new procedurally generated level. To advance, you need to find the stairs to the next floor and clear challenges such as boss fights. However, between each run, you can level your equipment and change your weapons to better prepare for your next try.
I had tons of fun with the combat. To advance through the dungeons, you need to gather resources and defeat enemies while avoiding the many traps sprinkled throughout the level. The enemy designs fit the rest of the game and are very cutesy, but don’t be fooled – the combat quickly becomes quite frantic and had me running for my life from a hoard of chickens more than once.
True to the theme, all weapons and skills are food-based, and so I quickly found myself slashing away at fire spitting chili peppers, and charging boars with my spatula.
It should be noted that it will always be nighttime when you return from an excursion, no matter how long you actually spend in the dungeon – so make sure to get any other errands done before you head out!
Even in a game, working in hospitality will test your patience…
Once your fridge is well stocked, you are ready to open up your restaurant, the Potato Palace. I love restaurant management games and have spent way too many hours on the likes of Overcooked, Plate-Up, or Diner Dash, so seeing this aspect blended with a rogue-lite was something I was very much looking forward to.
Unfortunately, I found the restaurant management to be by far the weakest aspect of Cuisineer. The cooking and serving mechanics are very simplistic: Customers will walk in, seat themselves at any free table, and order a dish. Preparing the dish only requires the player to walk to the right cooking station and queue the production with a simple button press. The game will also only show whichever dishes have currently been ordered, so the player will be spared the effort of looking for it in the menu. Once the dish is ready, customers will fetch it themselves, and all left for the player to do is to collect the payment with another button press.
This process is incredibly slow, and most of my time was spent standing in place, watching customers eat and waiting for them to leave.
If you leave your restaurant open all day, this means 10 real-time minutes of waiting, with only the occasional button prompt. You do have the option to close your restaurant early if you get bored. However, serving customers is the only way to make money and progress the story.
One mechanic I would have loved to see added would have been the option to determine the dishes available for each day, enabling me to manage my ingredients accordingly. See, to expand your menu and add complexity to the gameplay; you need to fulfill side quests, mostly in the form of gathering a number of certain ingredients. However, since there is no way to stop customers from ordering dishes with said ingredients or to remove them from the restaurant, this will lead to them taking up one of your tables, waiting, until their patience meter runs out. With particularly patient customers, this can take up almost the entire in-game day, and so I found myself having to shut my restaurant early almost every day as I was unable to fulfill their orders without setting back my progress on other quests.
It should be said that as you progress, you can add more tables and various cooking equipment to your restaurant for a more complex experience. Additionally, more customer types get added, such as dine and dashers or noble customers who refuse to fetch their own food, and so the game does notably pick up. However, this took around 3 hours of playtime, and should players not enjoy the very slow beginning, they might be unwilling to wait this long to start enjoying half of the gameplay loop.
Cuisineer is brimming with personality through and through. Every corner, from its character design to the cheery music and cute enemies, is incredibly charming and will delight anyone looking for a cozy experience. I loved the combat and found myself fighting my way through the dungeons for hours on end. However, the restaurant management starts off incredibly slow and could really use additional layers of complexity to keep players engaged right from the start.
This post may contain Amazon affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate Noisy Pixel earns from qualifying purchases.