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Cooking Dash 3: Thrills and Spills

Score: 92%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: PlayFirst
Developer: Aliasworlds Entertainment
Media: Download/1
Players: 1
Genre: Action/ Puzzle/ Strategy

Graphics & Sound:

Cooking Dash 3: Thrills and Spills is the next Dash game in a family of great time management casual titles. Here, a teenaged Flo is working at a failing theme park owned by a young Mr. Big and her stand is the only one turning a profit. So Mr. Big has her work at different venues in the park, sprucing them up and getting them filled with customers. Flo will begin her trials in a pirate ship themed restaurant called the Jelly Roger and then moves on to the Log Jam with a water flume theme, then The Spooky Shack, a submarine called The Deep Dive, a also tree house called The Tree Top. Finally, there's also a bonus area called the Big Gold Rush. All of the areas are really cute and colorful and each conveys an appropriate vibe for its setting. There's even a drive-thru window where Flo will service customers who stop by while on a roller coaster ride and when a customer isn't in the line, you'll see people screaming on a roller coaster in the distance. My hands-down favorite was the guy who drives up to the window in a coffin at the Spooky Shack. Love it!

All of the right sound effects are on parade as well. Sure, you'll hear a younger Granny cooking up a storm, but you'll also hear the din of the punk rockers who like to chat constantly, the clank of dishes, the questioning sounds of diners who want their photo snapped with a celeb customer and so on. Pleasant theme music plays in the background for each location and there are tons of different types of customers who frequent the park. Everything from business women to students to bookworms to seniors and even punkers and celebs hang out at Flo's eateries. The customers look similar to what we've come to expect from a Dash game, but they have a little added panache here. Maybe it's because they are all a few years younger?


Gameplay:

PlayFirst never fails to come up with new twists to the Dash universe and Cooking Dash 3: Thrills and Spills is the latest creation. It's very Diner Dash, but with the added quirk of having to put food items together to create dishes which are then served to your guests. There are also mini-games that are sprinkled in between the main levels that allow you the opportunity to pre-make food dishes to be served to your customers during the main level. This is a huge timesaver in the long run.

You'll begin a typical level with customers to be seated and fed. Each customer will have a series of hearts above them, with 5 being the happiest possible that they can be and 1 being a sure sign they are about to head to greener pastures. The longer they stand in line waiting to be seated or sit at their chair unattended or waiting on their food, the more the hearts deplete. More hearts equal a better tip, which brings you closer to your goal amount, so you want the customers happy. First, you'll take their order. They might want a battered or grilled fish, some fries, a steak sandwich, a ham sub or even an orange smoothie. Granny will have her prep station for making things like salads or soups at some locations, smoothies at another. She only makes two types of food items at any given venue and the rest is up to you. You may need to make a soft drink, with or without ice, or bring over a dessert. A customer may want a sandwich that simply requires putting on the ham and dressing it (or not) or they may need something actually cooked. When cooking, you'll need to watch that the food doesn't burn and sometimes you'll need to flip meats on the grill or add in spices. Once the meal is ready, you serve it to the customer, preferably chaining items to earn more money.

The mini-games I mentioned earlier aren't merely time killers, but they have a purpose. They range from a hidden object screen filled with various items and a list of items you need to locate; to a game where you have a selection of overturned plates on the board and the game will randomly flip several of them and it's up to you to rapidly click on the correct food item or series of items to create the desired food dish; or they may even involve Flo running back and forth across the screen, Kaboom style, catching food items and avoiding bombs, forks and boots. To be more specific, in the Memory styled game, you may need to create a loose meat sandwich with sauce, so you'll click on the special bread, the meat and finally the sauce. Ideally, you'd be able to click on all three within one "reveal" of the plates, but it doesn't always happen. When you successfully "build" the loose meat sandwich, you then earn one for the next round. Each item you create or catch or locate, depending on the type of mini-game, earns you food for the next level. Then when you go into the next round, you may have a surplus of already prepared steak sandwiches, for instance, and all you need to do is dress them if applicable and serve them up. It saves a great deal of time, but can make the mini-games very stressful.

Naturally, different customers have different attitudes and they can be patient or demanding, happy to sit next to anyone or particular in who they are near. You'll also want to color match the customers' outfit to the chair they sit in for extra money. You can go for the standard goal or the expert goal and the money you make can be used to buy functional upgrades for your restaurant or aesthetic ones to improve the décor.


Difficulty:

At first, you'll only have access to Play Casual, but once you beat the first restaurant, you'll be able to Play Expert. Casual has a nice and steady ramping up of difficulty, to a point. I did find that towards the end of the second restaurant, I got completely stuck and couldn't progress for a while. This game is more like a puzzle than it appears because there is a solution, whether it be purchasing the specific order of upgrades to get through the level or not serving some customers their requested dessert to get them out the door quicker. The answer is always there; sometimes it's just really hard to figure out. Once I barreled through that portion, I found the third restaurant, Spooky Shack, to be super easy and I quickly rolled through it. Oh, but the submarine restaurant was tough, with all of the annoying punk rockers and demanding and impatient students! The game does provide you with a great tutorial that takes you through all of the information you need to know on prepping food and keeping customers happy. I was thinking since I was a Dash veteran, I'd skip it, but sometimes it's not always obvious what you need to do to fix a food item, so you'd be wise to go through the tutorial regardless.

So then I tried Expert and found it lots of fun. It was hard, sure, but definitely not impossible. I played through a number of levels on Expert and found it to be a great challenge, but one that is totally approachable by Dash lovers. When I get frustrated and stumped on a later level in Casual, I jump onto Expert and get beaten down a little by a more familiar and approachable challenge.


Game Mechanics:

While you wouldn't ever want mice in the kitchen, your mouse will be your kitchen's best friend in Cooking Dash 3: Thrills and Spills. Click and drag a customer to their seat, then click the food ingredients once you know what their order is. Click to flip meat and fish or to add spices to soups. Click on the bread, then click on the meat to put them together, add the toppings or side sauces, then deliver the item. Once they've finished, click to remove the plates and cash them out, then click to drop off the dirty dishes. Voila! Lather, rinse, repeat. Now, once you get the opportunity to purchase upgrades, the first one you need to invest in is the ability for Flo to throw the dirty dishes into the receptacle. This means less back and forth for Flo. Other worthy upgrades are a speed boost for Flo or Granny, additional ovens or prep stations, faster soft drink spigots, etc. You can also get things like a stereo system to make people in line happier and in later levels, in the entire restuarant, a pot of coffee to brighten the attitude of customers at tables or even some chili sauce to make them eat quicker. Great for punk rockers you want outta there fast! Aesthetic upgrades are really nice, but are best purchased after you've purchased the functional upgrades. Décor upgrades can be wall art or a cool floor and things of that nature.

I did experience some frustration when I would go to click on the tomatoes and then move on to click something else only to discover the game had dressed the sandwich with lettuce instead. That means the sandwich must be set aside on the food holder (assuming you've purchased that upgrade already) and hopefully someone will buy the item later. This happened more often than I wanted and if I did it too many times in a particular level, I'd get mad enough to turn the level off. Cooking Dash 3 is a game of speed and precision and too many mistakes in one level leads to failure. It wasn't a constant thing, but in some levels, the collision detection seemed off, for lack of a better explanation.

Finally, for the completist, you can earn levels for each restuarant you complete in both Casual and Expert, plus others, that are on display in a Trophy Room.

Overall, Cooking Dash 3: Thrills and Spills is great fun and any fan of the Dash series of games should definitely check it out. While I am stuck in the middle of the bonus area, Gold Rush, it is a testament to Cooking Dash that I keep coming back for more, determined to get past that level. If you have any doubts, check out the demo and you'll be hooked.


-Psibabe, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ashley Perkins

Minimum System Requirements:



Windows XP/Vista, 1.2 GHz or Faster Processor, 1024 MB RAM, 93 MB Free Hard Disk Space, DirectX 9.0 or Higher
 

Test System:



Windows Vista, 2 GHz AMD Phenom 9500 Quad-Core Processor, 8GB RAM, Realtek High Definition Audio On-Board Sound, NVIDIA GeForce 8300

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