When it comes to real-world occupations that double as compelling experiences in gaming, the list is pretty short. Soldier, of course. Taxi driver. City planner. And, surprisingly enough, restaurant manager. Order Up!! isn't the first game to tap into that particular well of gainful employment, but it certainly is one of the best.
Order Up!! serves as a sort of ambassador for full-length retail titles being released through the eShop, and we'd be hard pressed to ask for anything more. It gets off to a bit of a slow start, but once things really get cooking (so to speak...) it's a fun experience that's genuinely difficult to put down.
You play a chef who is understandably underwhelmed by his — or her; you choose the gender — new job at the Burger Face fast-food restaurant. It's here that you learn the ropes in a repetitive but fitting tutorial, and afterward you end up buying a run-down restaurant of your own. It's your job not only to make it profitable, but to improve it, hire help, expand its menu, keep the health inspector happy and impress a discriminating restaurant critic. Oh, and then you get to purchase another restaurant in addition to your first — as well as more after that — and do it all over again.
The game is controlled primarily with the touch screen, and the largest amount of in-game time will be spent cooking. There are other things to do — many of which are mentioned above, in addition to scattered mini-games, shopping trips and other varied diversions — but your main duty is to keep the customers satisfied.
You do this by tapping tables in order to get your waiter or waitress to take their order. Once you have the order, you not only need to prepare the meals for that table, but to do it accurately, taking into account dietary preferences of your individual customers, and to do it quickly enough that the food is still hot when it gets to them. The game will certainly have you juggling a lot of things at once, but it ramps up the difficulty gradually, and it's rare that you'll ever feel truly unprepared to deal with the task ahead of you.
Meals are assembled piece by piece, with each individual ingredient requiring a different approach. For instance, carrots may have to be sliced, chicken may have to be fried, a meat patty may have to be grilled, an avocado might have to be mashed and so on. You do all of this with the touch screen by following prompts that represent the actions you need to take. At first it's a lot to learn, but once you get going you'll be flicking, dragging and circling your stylus by instinct.
The visuals are simple, but full of charm. Characters are decidedly stereotypical, but that doesn't prevent their dialogue from being funny. In fact, the humorous approach to the game is one of the things Order Up!! gets just right. Instead of bombarding you with relentless streams of banter like Kid Icarus: Uprising, Order Up!! keeps it quick, keeps it clever and doesn't attempt to overwhelm the task at hand.
The music is also quite good, and it evolves as you progress through the game and unlock restaurants that cater to different types of regional cuisine. There's very little, overall, to complain about in terms of the presentation here.
There are, however, a few issues. For starters, moving between stations can sometimes feel a bit clunky and unresponsive, causing you to overshoot the boiling pot you were attempting to reach before it caught fire. There is also a celebratory graphic each time you complete a meal, which can pop up at inopportune times and prevent you from reaching another ingredient to prevent it from overcooking. This is surprising as the rest of the controls are great, but in this case it's just a fly in an otherwise delightful bowl of soup.
The difficulty can also feel to be a bit on the low side. While there's always a task — or several — to keep you occupied, it takes a while before you can start to feel overwhelmed. Of course, returning to a previous restaurant of yours will show that its five-star rating has attracted bigger and hungrier crowds, so anyone who truly feels like they need a challenge can revisit them and put their culinary skills to a much more frenzied test.
And we haven't even scratched the surface. There is so much to do in Order Up!! and so many recipes to unlock and discover that a review twice as long would struggle to mention everything. It's a fun experience and unquestionably one of the deepest and most addictive on the eShop, so don't let its higher price tag turn you away: this experience is super-sized.
As the first full-length retail title to come to be distributed through the eShop, Order Up!! could have gone either way. Fortunately though it has an excellent blend of the best of both worlds: the length of a retail game, and the addictiveness and replayability of a mobile one. Some minor issues do mar the experience a bit, but overall there's very little to complain about. It's frantic, fun, humorous and contains a massive amount of content. If this were a burger order, it'd be well done.