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Diner Bros – Indie Cooking Spotlight

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I know they’re not exactly cool, but I love cooking games. Any game that focuses on cooking and time management really hits a kind of psychological sweet spot that is just so satisfying. However, most cooking games are missing one big thing: physicality. Almost all of them revolve around cooking via menus or selecting items through a certain mechanism. This is generally necessary, but it really hurts the feeling that you’re actually in the kitchen and doing something a lot of the time. How does Diner Bros get around this?

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To be clear, Diner Bros completely borrows most of its controls and general movement and aesthetic from the Overcooked games. Personally, I’m not a fan of those, as they’re party games and tend to focus on level gimmicks more than anything else. But Diner Bros takes these attributes and mixes them with more traditional restaurant and cooking games. Think a combination of Overcooked, Cook, Serve, Delicious, and Diner Dash – that will likely give you the right idea.

But that’s enough of mentioning Diner Bros‘ inspirations for now. The setup is very simple. You’re a cook at a diner. Your job is to prepare all of the food items by walking through your kitchen and then plating the food to take it to the customer. You do get some wait staff after a short amount of time, but the fact that you can run a restaurant solo and have that level of control is really cool to me. I can’t think of another game like this that pulls it off.

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Having Ingredients Prepped Beforehand Is Essential

If you’ve never played a game like this, it’s all about managing your time and getting the customer their food. For instance, you’re likely to be selling a lot of burgers. Therefore, you need to make sure that you have burgers cooked and vegetables chopped. This lets you get your customers’ food without making it as soon as it’s ordered. If you wait like that, you will frequently run out of time and watch as the customers scurry off in a huff.

As previously mentioned, this isn’t new stuff. But actually moving my character around, picking up items myself, and managing the physical space around the kitchen makes Diner Bros a more hands-on restaurant game experience than I’ve ever seen before. It’s really easy to find your kitchen counters completely covered in ingredients that you have to juggle, all the while making sure to put new orders together in a timely manner.

As you make money, upgrades unlock that give you new food items, more waitstaff, additional powerups, and more space to work with. In order to increase your profits, you’ll want to seat more customers. But more customers means more orders, so you’ll need more grills and more waitstaff. It becomes extremely chaotic, but in a much more frantic way than I’m used to. It’s one thing when I’m switching between prepping orders with a push of a button. But actually making my little chef run around the kitchen in an attempt to desperately make an order in time makes it that much more hectic.

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Although There Aren’t Many Recipes, It’s Definitely Enough

Truthfully, there aren’t a whole lot of recipes in Diner Bros. But there are certainly enough of them. The default campaign has burgers, lettuce, tomatoes, fries, chicken strips, and ice cream. But customers will want these in different permutations, of course. Some want both fries and chicken tenders, or chicken tenders with lettuce, or just a tomato and lettuce salad. And drinks. Anything can come with a drink. Even with just these ingredients, managing your kitchen can take every ounce of your attention. Strangely, though, you can’t put cheese on the burgers.

However, a recent update, which definitely made me need to play Diner Bros, is the Pizza Bros campaign. As the name suggests, it’s a separate restaurant campaign that’s focused on pizza. Now, I can’t eat pizza, but I love it, and being able to make it in this game basically gives me the pizza game I’ve always wanted. Making a pizza is simple and has all the steps you’d imagine. Whereas burgers just require you to throw a patty on the grill and then put it on a bun at a bare minimum, pizza is a bit more complicated.

First, you need to flatten out your dough. Then you need to cut up your cheese and make your tomato sauce. Then you put them on the dough. You then have to throw it in the oven. Many people will order pizza with pepperoni as well, meaning you’ll need to basically always have two different pizzas on hand. Thankfully, customers order pizza by the slice, so every pizza you bake will be good for serving four different customers.

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Pizza Bros Adds Another Great Incentive To Keep Playing

But that’s not all that’s different. The Pizza Bros campaign also has bread as a side that has to be baked. Additionally, because you now have cheese, you can serve your customers some cheesy fries. The gameplay is mostly identical in this campaign, but the focus on pizza really does make a big enough difference to warrant playing both.

On top of the regular restaurant mode, there’s also an infinite mode that lets you cook as long as you want. This is a feature I wish most of these games had, as it really contributes to the feel of a long shift. There are also challenges that task you with serving a certain amount of people across different maps, which makes the game more like Overcooked, for those who want that.

And since every game needs zombies for some reason, there’s even a zombie mode. In this mode, there’s an endless horde of the undead surrounding you to eat. . . regular human food. Each zombie has a thought bubble with the food they want, and they will follow you around the map until you give them what they want. You need to keep feeding them, or else the map will be completely overrun and you’ll get trapped and lose. And I haven’t even mentioned the co-op! You can play anything here with another person.

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I really can’t recommend Diner Bros enough to anyone who likes cooking games. It might be extremely derivative, but it combines its inspirations in a way that makes it easily stand out amongst the genre’s other offerings. Anyone who likes the idea of a restaurant sim where you’ve actually got a character you need to move around in order to do anything will almost certainly enjoy this extremely fun game as much as I do.

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Andrew Farrell
Andrew Farrell has an extreme hearing sensitivity called hyperacusis that keeps him away from all loud noises.  Please do not throw rocks at his window.  That is rude.  He loves action and rpg games, whether they be AAA or indie.  He does not like sports games unless the sport is BASEketball. He will not respond to Journey psych-outs.