Cooking Simulator is at its best as a chaotic piece of messy comedy gaming, but the fun doesn't last outside of short, sharp, bursts of play.
Games that fall under the 'simulator' moniker can come in a broad range of styles. From the bizarre open world Goat Simulator and the abstract card game of Cultist Simulator through to the more serious tone of Microsoft Flight Simulator, gamers can find different tones depending on what they are looking for. When it's Cooking Simulator, it means throwing players off the deep end to see how they fare as a professional cook.
The goal of Cooking Simulator is simple. As a chef in a kitchen, the player needs to make a variety of different dishes with degrees of complexity. This means chopping the vegetables, seasoning the dishes, and cooking thoroughly, all to a strict timeframe as hungry punters wait on their meals.
Getting it right is easier said than done. Cooking Simulator misses the absolute minefield that is Surgeon Simulator, but it still relies on the gaming world's inability to truly match the complexity of cooking in a realistic manner. This isn't Cooking Mama or the cartoonish co-op fun of Overcooked, and instead Cooking Simulator finds plenty of comedy in players attempting to become celebrity chefs without the required dexterity.
For starters, the recipes available are relatively straightforward, with small lists of ingredients that are easy to put together in good order. Even so, the time limits involved could find players struggling to get them created in time. The recipes become more complex as the game progresses, and players may find themselves failing to make meals to their own standards, let alone those of the customers waiting at the other side of the window.
For perfectionists, this might make Cooking Simulator something of a frustrating experience, particularly in Career Mode. However, for those who want some pure fun then there's something to find here, much like with games such as Farming Simulator and Thief Simulator. When taken as a little bit of chaos, where the quality of the final product is not taken as the be-all and end-all of the experience, there's plenty of joy to be had.
Instead, players will likely find their best experience by exploring just how badly things can go wrong. The kitchen can be set on fire, gas canisters can explode, food can - and will - routinely end up on the floor with plates smashed. And even here, the would-be chefs will serve it up and hope for the best.
With this in mind, Cooking Simulator can find some love. Thinking that a meal has been ruined only to end up with a decent score when served is a great feeling, and it's satisfying to see the disaster scene that can be left behind after a particularly busy shift. It's a good game to throw off the shackles for, and see just how messy things can truly get when let loose with a little too much freedom.
This does come with drawbacks. Cooking Simulator is great in short bursts, but if a virtual chef is looking for longer runs of play it's found wanting and quickly becomes a bit of a chore. There's only so long that level of intensity can be kept up, and when a player's patience is gone that glee found in failure doesn't last long.
Cooking Simulator is therefore limited but fun while it lasts. Slicing, blending, and frying is a lot of fun, although not quite as much as causing enough trouble to make Gordon Ramsey wince. Great to pick up and play to let off some steam, but don't expect that appetite to last.
Cooking Simulator is out now for PC. Screen Rant was provided with a PC download code for the purposes of this review.