In these days of Iron Chef, Hell’s Kitchen, and other shows of the ilk it is no surprise that there is a plethora of cooking games on every device a person could play on. However, only a few stand up to more than a couple of tries without getting boring. Bistro Cook, therefore, surprised the heck out of me with it’s seductive combination of simple yet challenging gameplay. Is it the best game ever? No, but it will entertain you well when you just want to play something quick and distracting.
When you enter the game for the first time you should start with “Casual Gameplay” and go through the tutorial, which is fairly quick and explains everything adequately to begin. The rules are very simple, just look at the list of ingredients under the plate and fill the order. Most items need to be fried on one of the four frying pans on your stovetop while a few just need to be placed on the plate. You move ingredients around by tapping on the item you want (in the pantry area or frying pan) and then the plate, frying pan, or (if you burn something) the garbage can. While ingredients are frying there is a bar showing how cooked they are as well as cute animation of it growing from raw to cooked. For example, the egg whites on the egg start out translucent and grow white. The look of the whole game is very cute and casual but with nice touches like that. Another favorite is that the fish looks like a fish in the pantry then turns to a breaded filet when you put it in the pan. The rest I will leave for you to find out, if you are a fan of clever details you should enjoy discovering them.
In this mode, the aim is simply to fill the orders as quickly and accurately-fried as possible. Each plate is graded as a percentage of perfect and your final score is the number of orders you fill multiplied by the average quality percentage, multiplied by 10. The game ends when you have five orders in the cue and another one is placed (you can see how much time you have left until the next order by a yellow bar in the upper left corner).
“Easy” starts out with one-ingredient orders and eventually grows to two-ingredients then on to three after a long time and many dishes. “Medium” also starts with one-ingredient orders but the items increase more rapidly as does the speed the orders come in. “Hard” takes it to a whole new level with two-ingredient plates to start, three-ingredient plates soon after, and higher speeds still.
When you feel like you have mastered “Casual Gameplay” you may want to move onto “Adventure Mode”. Again, check out the tutorial for an overview of the differences in this mode. You are still trying to fill orders as quickly as you can but this time there are dollar values assigned to each order according to the ingredients’ values. Now, the percentage points you are awarded earn you that percentage of the money for the dish. Your score is the money you earn before the round ends in the same way as in “Casual Gameplay”.
What can you do with that money? One of the first things you may notice in this mode is you start with only one frying pan. At the bottom of the stove is a button that takes you into the store, where you can buy up to three more frying pans and upgrade each pan’s frying speed up to 4x. The high speeds obviously allow you to fill orders faster but they also make items burn at the same higher rate once they are past perfectly cooked. Even at double speed you may be surprised at how much more quickly they burn! If you are getting swamped you can also pay to have an order (or a few) removed from your queue.
This is why Bistro Cook is well worth a download. Picking it up enough to enjoy it takes only minutes or even seconds but mastering “Adventure Mode” is a serious finger-tapping challenge.
This is not to say that there aren’t imperfections. One is a big pet-peeve of mine, it defaults to having the sounds on every single time you load it, even if you had sounds off the last time around. All this means is you need to click the “SFX Off” button but that makes a clicking sound, so it’s not an app to open when absolute silence is necessary. If you can leave them on, though, they are actually rather cute and the bell that rings when a new order comes in is handy.
Another problem is the back button on your phone does absolutely nothing in this game, so you can’t go back up a menu or exit a round using it. While in a round you can use the pause menu to go back to the main menu but if you want to get back to the main menu from the mode menu you have to enter the game and use the pause menu method. It’s annoying.
The biggest problem with it, though, is the game doesn’t allow for multitasking. Every time you leave the game, whether using another app or receiving a phone call, it will reload as if you just opened it for the first time. This means that if you are in the middle of a round and get a call you can’t continue where you left off, which can be frustrating if you are doing well. This happened once when I was on-track to get my highest score at the time.
Overall, this may not be one of the best games ever made but it’s a reliable time-waster for the moments you need one and rises well above most of the free games in the Android Market. It also fills a very popular but oddly-ignored-on-Android niche of casual gaming, time-management, which I am very grateful for. As Bistro Cook appears to be the debut game from Quasar Studios I look forward to seeing what they come up with next.