I hate reality TV, but I love Gordon Ramsey. Perhaps it’s better to say I like the character that Gordon Ramsey plays, as I understand that he’s not actually that caustic in person. He talks to people like I talk to Ninja Gaiden on the NES; nothing but derision.
Recipe for Disaster is definitely feeding off Kitchen Nightmares. During its early access period, it seemed to highlight that you were hiring a bunch of unique personalities and throwing them into a stew. You’re thrust into a series of struggling restaurants with the intent of rescuing them from their terrible owners. The question is: does Recipe for Disaster deliver on this tantalizing concept? The biggest question is: can Recipe for Disaster convince me not to just reinstall Pizza Connection 2?
Recipe for Disaster (PC)
Developer: Dapper Penguin Studios
Publisher: Kasedo Games
Released: August 5, 2022
I’m a bit of a sucker for management games, and Recipe for Disaster is instantly familiar. Hire your staff, slap down your appliances, build a menu, and decorate the place; it’s all there. Employees have a variety of stats, mostly relating to individual parts of the kitchen. They can be a virtuoso with the deep fryer but be completely lost when it comes to putting a salad together.
You get a pool of employees to hire each day, but their individuality is pretty lacking. They have traits, as well as likes and dislikes, but the worst you’re going to get is someone that annoys everyone else or shows up to work late. I think the first part of Recipe for Disaster that really disappointed me was how oversold your interactions with employees really is. Sure, some of them hate cleaning, but they put that on their resume. If you’re looking for someone to keep the place tidy, don’t hire a person who hates cleaning.
I keep telling myself that it’s maybe for the best that employees just listen without question. It might not be fun if they actually tell you to screw off when the toilet needs plunging. But it could be fun. Why not? Sims from The Sims complain a lot. Send them to the time-out box.
Deep fry it. Everything.
The one place they won’t listen to you is when they get overly stressed out. If you let them get bummed out enough, they’ll have a breakdown and stomp their way through the dining area screaming incoherently. Or just curl up on the floor in the fetal position. If they have a breakdown too often, they’ll quit.
That’s neat and all, but employees quitting on your because they’re unhappy is nothing new to the management genre. Each employee has their happiness bar posted beside their portrait on the cluttered interface. As long as you notice when someone is unhappy and address their problems before they hit crisis mode, then there isn’t an issue. And if unhappy diners cause too many problems, you can throw the breaker and just close the restaurant early. It’s not a very impactful part of game, as long as you pay attention.
On top of that, a lot of problems with employees can be negated by applying new traits that they obtain by leveling up. You can even remove their dislikes. Strange.
Get out of my kitchen
The cooking is probably the most robust part of Recipe for Disaster. You can build your own recipes from a bunch of ingredients and cooking methods. However, the novelty wears off kind of fast. Different patrons have different tastes, and they’ll often let you know when something they want isn’t on your menu. You can then take these recipes and customize them however you want. I figured out that you can just throw a bunch of stuff on top of them, maybe incorporate another appliance, and they’ll be perfectly happy.
Maybe the system is deeper than I could figure out, but if it is, it’s not necessary. It’s mostly about suiting the tastes of your patrons, but that’s usually easy within a certain restaurant. No one balks when I put my various deep-fried cheeses on the menu in a Japanese restaurant.
It’s maybe more to do with customization, but I feel Recipe for Disaster doesn’t give you much room for specialization. There’s a freeplay mode, sure, but the options you have for crafting your dream restaurant are sparse. At some point, you have to bend to the customer’s will. Then you’re just like every other eatery on the block but with more cheese.
Fooling the repo guys
The actual flow of gameplay is pretty lacking, as well. You’re usually given a paltry sum of money to build a restaurant with. I’d often go into debt quickly at the beginning, but the game only has one caveat when it comes to running out of money: don’t be in the negatives when the day ends. You can continue to spend to your heart’s desire and pay your employees with negative cash, but you need to get back up above the threshold before the day ends. So, I usually just kept selling the fridges after close and rebuying them in the morning. A loan system probably would have been a better fit.
Sometimes you’re not allowed to go into debt for even a second, so that strategy doesn’t always work, but you won’t believe how far it can get you.
None of the objectives are particularly interesting, either. Gain so many five-star reviews, make a certain amount of money in a single day, have a specific number of tables seated at the same time. There will be hints that problems are going to be more common on some maps. There was one stage that suggested a rat infestation was a misstep away, and one never materialized. In fact, I still only know of infestations through hearsay, as I never let my cleanliness slip low enough to see one. Maybe I’m just that good.
I’m not sure this fire is supposed to be here
You sometimes need to deal with things like critics and health inspectors, both of which can boost or tank your restaurant pretty quickly. They’re typically not difficult if you’re running efficiently. However, one time, a fire broke out just as the health inspector arrived, and I got a fine. Listen, yes, fire is a health hazard and doesn’t belong in a restaurant. But it’s not illegal unless I started it myself, right? On purpose, I mean.
It’s a stunning lack of imagination that hobbles Recipe for Disaster. It offers absolutely nothing that I haven’t seen before in a management game. It doesn’t really succeed at reaching its own vision, and doesn’t offer anything unique in exchange for that. It’s a functional restaurant management game, and that’s it. Did it give me a reason why I shouldn’t just reinstall Pizza Connection 2? No. So I guess I’m doing that now.
[This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]