Way back at PAX East 2023, I sat down with publisher Xseed Games to try out this little upcoming game called Cuisineer, all about a girl named Pom who came back from adventuring across the world to open her parents’ restaurant. Loving the demo, I eagerly awaited being about to play the full release and was able to convince my editor to let me write the Cuisineer review. But does the whole game live up to its promise?
Cuisineer Review - Back to Basics
Cuisineer tells the story of Pom, a young catgirl(?) who returns to her hometown of Paell (named after the dish Paella) to run Potato Palace, her parents’ restaurant, after they have decided to take a trip around the world. She then has to contend with her parents’ debts, the business of running a restaurant, and gathering all her ingredients, as well as a plethora of sidequests for villagers in order to unlock more recipes.
The setup of Cuisineer is cute, and running a café while gathering ingredients is a solid concept that’s been done well before (see Little Dragon’s Café). Unfortunately, while Cuisineer puts a lot of attention into small details like the proliferation of pan-Asian cuisine, the theming of weapons and effects, and character design, it fails to nail the big stuff.
Running the café is tedious, but you must be there to serve customers as there is no way to run it on autopilot, unfortunately. There’s no skill needed for cooking, but you’re constantly running around the café taking tips from customers and cooking dishes, so much so that it started to feel like Diner Dash at one point.
The café is also oddly shaped, which just throws a further wrench in when you’re trying to set up cooking stations and tables. And, if you’re trying to save certain ingredients to the side because you’re looking to fulfill a sidequest, tough nuggets. There’s no way to really refuse a customer’s request, but if you don’t serve them they get angry and leave, after taking up table space for someone who might actually be paying.
Dungeon Delving Difficulty
Fighting in the dungeons is how Pom gathers food ingredients to serve at the café. For example, chicken enemies will drop eggs and pale meat. Unfortunately, enemy proliferation is unbalanced and it becomes a case of just grinding dungeons for days on end to get rare ingredients from rare enemies.
Fighting is also oddly in the favour of the enemies, rather than Pom. Your weapon starts off with 10 attack and after you put significant money and resources into it, you get… a weapon with 11 attack. Accessories like gloves and boots only give you an additional 5HP apiece, and again it takes an inordinate amount of money and resources to level any of these up, meaning it’s easy to get overwhelmed when you’re facing a horde of enemies, armed only with a spatula and 110HP.
You also can’t level up Pom herself, and her inventory storage is extremely limited. You can carry three healing items with you in the dungeon at most, and you start only being able to carry one. Healing items are actually Boba tea, which is a cute gimmick and a nod to the food theme, but once again you need an overly large amount of resources to unlock teas that heal more than 35HP at a time.
You’ll need to deliver certain cooked dishes to unlock different teas, but that necessitates upgrading your shop several times to have the space for your cooking equipment, not to mention grinding for ingredients, as well as going on sidequests to unlock recipes. All of this also requires the money put in to unlock space for more healing items as well as more backpack space for ingredients. It’s a pain in the butt to even unlock ONE more Boba tea, never mind all of them.
On the positive side, Cuisineer is a very cute game. The artwork is adorable, the character designs are fresh and the monsters are diverse. There are plenty of decorating options for your restaurant, but there’s not really any point to them. The various townsfolk that Pom meets and interacts with all have their own designs, but they lack any sort of verdant personalities.
Really, Cuisineer is a study in wasted potential. From the food-themed villagers to naming the battle system effects after flavors like Sweet and Spicy, there’s a lot that Cuisineer could have taken and run within its design and setup. Unfortunately, the tedious Diner Dash-esque café running, unbalanced battle system, and intense drain of resources that upgrading almost anything requires puts a quick dampener on even the most hardcore foodie’s enthusiasm. While I would hesitate to call Cuisineer an out-and-out “bad” game, I was left with the bitter taste of disappointment in my mouth.
Cuisineer was reviewed on PC with a copy provided by the publisher over the course of 8 hours of gameplay - all screenshots were taken during the process of review.
- Cute art style
- Proliferation of the food theme
- Unbalanced dungeon combat
- Boring Cafe management
- Poor setup and design overall