Order Up! Hands-On Preview

Our preview of this fun little cooking game for the Nintendo Wii is ready for the pass.

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You've got a four-top that's been waiting far too long, three tickets on the rack, and rats invading your kitchen. On top of all that, you're running low on spices and your sous chef just fell asleep on the job. Welcome to the hectic world of Order Up, an upcoming cooking game for the Nintendo Wii from developer SuperVillain Studios. While the immediate comparison to the Cooking Mama series is obvious, Order Up takes the idea of virtual cooking to the next level: Here, you're not just preparing meals, you're running a restaurant. We've had a chance to spend the last couple of days with this lighthearted look at the food business to see how it's coming along ahead of its July release.

Cooking requires fresh ingredients, delicate timing, and a little spice to top it off in Order Up.
Cooking requires fresh ingredients, delicate timing, and a little spice to top it off in Order Up.

You play an up-and-coming chef in Order Up, looking to make your name in Port Abello, an island town that is home to a bunch of foodies. Your ultimate aim in the game is to win the "Fortified Chef Competition," the ultimate contest for local chefs that takes place on a cruise ship and serves as the game's final stage. Before you get there, however, you'll walk the long, uphill road toward establishing yourself in the business. Your first stop will be at a fast food joint called Burger Face, which serves as the game's tutorial.

A pimply-faced kid with a puberty-broken voice serves as your host (and boss) at Burger Face, teaching you the basics of cooking such simple meals as a hamburger. As you might expect from a Wii game, all of the cooking in Order Up is controlled by specific motions with the Wii Remote. For example, when peeling lettuce for the burger, you'll need to grab the head of the lettuce with the B button then peel the leaves back individually. To chop the tomatoes, you simply make a chopping motion with the controller. To cook the fries, you dump the fries in the fryer, grab the basket with the B button, and make a downward motion to put them in the grease. Once they're done, you pull them out of the grease and then serve them up. Cooking the burger requires you to place the beef patty on the grill then pay attention to a heat meter that will tell you when your burger is ready to serve. If you wait too long, you might overcook the meat (though, as you'll discover later in the game, some customers will prefer to have their meal slightly overcooked).

After you've finished the tutorial, you'll move on to your very own first restaurant, Gravy Chug, an old-fashioned, straightforward diner. The menu will open up a bit, with everything from the aforementioned burgers to country fried steak and French onion soup to steak and eggs. You'll be able to unlock new menu items as you go; the game will have a total of 80 recipes available to you across the five restaurants that you can unlock.

All of these recipes will require different motions of the Wii Remote, and all of them are relatively simple--though we had trouble folding burritos for some reason. The challenge in Order Up comes from balancing multiple meal tickets at the same time. As your day's service begins, customers will begin to file into your restaurant and choose a table. You can only work on four tickets at a time (the maximum number of patrons that can sit at a table in the game), but you'll quickly discover that four tickets requires some delicate balancing to get everything out at the same time. After all, if the food sits on the staging area too long, it will gradually cool off, which means less money for you once the food is delivered.

Once the tickets come into the kitchen, you start on the basic ingredients, making sure to pay attention to any special requests for spices from regular customers. If you get those spice requests correct, you'll earn a larger tip once the food is served. As the tickets pile up, you'll be thankful for your assistant chefs, who can help you with almost any task in the kitchen. To pass off a task to your assistant, you just drag the ingredient to the top of the assistant you wish to help you. You start off with a single assistant but can hire a second chef, as well as replace any assistant you wish. Different assistant chefs have different skills; one might be skilled with a knife, while another might be adept at serving the specials to customers. With some experience, you'll have your kitchen running like a well-tuned sports car.

And then, inevitably, disaster will strike. Whether it's a health inspector who unexpectedly shows up, a rat infestation, or one of your chefs falling asleep behind the grill, you'll need to take special action to make sure these problems don't bring your restaurant down. To do so, you'll have to take part in some minigames, such as washing dishes to prove to the health inspector you run a tidy ship, flicking scurrying rats off of your kitchen equipment, or shaking your employee to wake him up.

Pleasing your oddly shaped customers is job number one in the town of Port Abello.
Pleasing your oddly shaped customers is job number one in the town of Port Abello.

To get ahead in Order Up, you'll want to open up additional restaurants in Port Abello. To do so, you'll first need to turn your current gig into a five-star restaurant by completing a number of preset requirements, such as unlocking your entire menu or pleasing the local food critic. When cooking for the critic, you'll want to make sure you handle all of the steps yourself because while your assistants might be fast, they're not always that accurate. In order to ensure that the food is as perfectly prepared as possible, it's best to handle each step yourself.

Though the majority of the game is spent in the kitchen, Order Up will also let you take the occasional trip to the market to replenish your stock of spices or purchase special recipes for each of your restaurants. There are five total restaurants to unlock, featuring a variety of cuisines, such as Mexican, Italian, and French.

So far, Order Up is proving to be a fun little twist on the traditional cooking game. We haven't gotten very far in the game, but we figure the heat will only turn up in the kitchen the further along you get in your Port Abello career. The game is due for release on July 22, and we'll have more on the game in the coming weeks.

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