‘What if we made Overcooked and Diner Dash but in VR?” That’s the question that must have occurred in Resolution Games‘ board meeting when pitching Cook-Out: A Sandwich Tale. It’s the closest and most clear comparisons that can be made in this VR foray. Making that link isn’t to the game’s detriment either. Instead, Cook-Out takes the formula of its inspiration and mixes them together, combining the novel interactivity of VR and creating some frantic fun.
If the allusion to Overcooked and name of the game itself wasn’t clear, Cook-Out is another entry in the now well-established frantic cooking games genre. Players must work to chop, assemble, cook and present a sandwich dish to customers in a timely and correct fashion. This time, it’s in VR with you standing (or sitting) stationary. Immediately in your vicinity is a fridge full of ingredients, complete with a cutting board and later utilised grill for you to prepare your dish. Quick decisions will need to be made on the fly to perform well. Good luck. Hungry customers are on the line, willing to criticise you for even the slightest error.
The best news here is that Cook-Out actually offers plenty of opportunities to, well, not be a terrible cook. Unlike single player in other cooking games, your companions become an A.I rather than another character you have to worry about controlling. A friendly robot chef is your teammate if you choose to go to it alone. Here, you’ll have your aid regularly adding ingredients to the dishes you’re forming. More often than not, these are ingredients you don’t have and so desperately need. Of course, the more daring can jump into the online co-operative multiplayer – be it with friends or strangers. Naturally, expect hilarious chaos to ensue.
I’m surprised Resolution Games managed to pull this off. Cook-Out really feels like a more approachable cooking game while also throwing in more challenges and elements as you progress. On the one hand, this is a game far less on the ‘juggling multiple tasks at once’ side of things. You’re stationary and don’t have the added pressure of running around between stoves and benches. Then on the other hand, you have the maintenance of dishes that grow in complexity and, uniquely, keeping your A.I robot companion powered up via a crank.
When I say this game is frantic, it’s no joke. Your kitchen’s guests will sit at a bench to the left of you, all with a line of specific ingredients required that must be followed in order to a tee to then have them satisfied. They also have a timer they need their food by. Your plates sit on a rotating circular platform sushi train style, making timing and accuracy all the more crucial. Then, a near insatiable werewolf will be your customer, with an even longer list of required ingredients on their sandwich. Better pause all the smaller orders and get that one out of the way, hey? Don’t even get us started on the fussy cats and the speedy rabbits.
“I’m surprised Resolution Games managed to pull this off. Cook-Out really feels like a more approachable cooking game while also throwing in more challenges and elements.”
So much of Cook-Out’s frantic and stressful nature is remedied by how novel it is to assemble sandwiches in VR. Maybe you’ll turn your Quest controller upside down and shake it ever so briefly, simulating adding pepper to a sandwich. Or, you’ll so neatly finish off a sandwich by softly lobbing the top loaf from a slight distance and then efficiently send it to the middle platform to be sent away.
That’s not to say Cook-Out won’t come without its challenges other than fast pace. Your robot companion can only do so many tasks before they run out of steam and are powered down. Have fun powering them back up with the crank while accurately squirting some mayo on a slice of bread with your spare hand. Hell, more often than not your friend will also become over-eager. I can’t count the times I was doing something like peppering some ham and they beat me to it and prematurely slapped a sandwich on the stack. Their want to aid you is hilarious. They only have so many ingredients after all, they just want to do their best.
However, with these challenges comes both incentives and methods of making your life easier. Pretty knives, cutting boards and the likes can all be unlocked via earning of money and progression through the game’s (light on story) campaign. If all else fails, there’s special potions that make things simpler such as one that makes everything you cut only require one efficient slice, rather than a series of chops. I’ll throw to Luke who spent a lot of time playing this as a multiplayer experience.
Capturing the chaotic nature of Overcooked in a stationary VR game with your friends, Cook-Out is absolutely best experienced with two or three mates by your side. All of a sudden, you don’t have the somewhat-reliable AI robot helping you, but rather your incompetent friends who are just as likely to make mistakes and create a mess as you are. Communication becomes key, as you try to establish who is the head chef, yelling out upcoming orders from the line and trying to coordinate who is up next. With only four ingredients each, you absolutely must work together, and it makes for a hectic time. Thankfully, much like the games Cook-Out is trying to capture the essence of, victory is triumphant but failure is still hilarious. My pals and I may not make the prettiest sandwiches, but we’re a bloody fun kitchen brigade to cook alongside. Cook-Out is an essential addition to your library if you have friends to play with. – Luke.
Cook-Out doesn’t have the most unique or mind blowing art style going for it, but it does well when combined with its kooky nature. All of your esteemed guests at your kitchen are anthropomorphic, be it a Christmas-y reindeer, mice or the aforementioned werewolf. They’re quite cuddly and cute in their own regard. The colouring of the kitchen and the outside world you get a glimpse of are also designed and coloured quite well. Then you get to the robot. Oh god, the robot.
Your robotic friend looks quite cute on the surface if you don’t look at them too long. Examine further and while remaining metallic, they have these very fleshy and unnerving eyelids. Just what’s going on with that carrot apron? Who is this agent of chaos I’m working with? What’s their story? I must know. Plus, it’s a lot of fun seeing your friends Oculus avatars across from you, frantically throwing orders together in unison.
In good jest, the colouring and animations of squirting and throwing ingredients around is oh so satisfying. With a ketchup and mayo bottle at your disposal, you can make quite the mess of your kitchen. Spray some sauce around, see how it lands in gooey patterns. Squirt them at your mates. It’s fun hell raising, I promise you.
All in all, Cook-Out is my favourite game I’ve got to experience in our VR Corner feature thus far. I enjoy this game far more than someone whose day job is in hospitality should. This game does away with the tedium that can come with playing games of this genre in single-player. While considerably harder than Overcooked before it, it offers wonderful and approachable gameplay in other respects. Really, Cook-Out is a game that is good bang for buck and will provide some excellent frantic fun.
Now that that’s out of the way, someone form up a kitchen dream team with me. Anyone. I’m begging you.
Cook-Out: A Sandwich Tale is available now for Oculus Quest – check it out.