- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 24, 2008

Culinary entrepreneurs virtually hone cooking skills while managing restaurants in Order Up! (Zoo Games and SuperVillain Studios, for Wii, $39.99).

As a budding chef, the player is airdropped onto the mythical island of Port Abello and works his way up from fast food flunky to an “Iron Chef”-style superstar. The adventure begins at Burger Face, a grease pit that allows the player to learn the fundamentals of virtual cooking.

Of course with the Wii, the wireless, motion-sensing Wiimote is the chef’s universal tool. He can slice, dice, mix and chop with the appropriate movement of the controller.

For example, to prepare a simple hamburger plate, he’ll need to fry and flip a patty (the “B” trigger pulls up a spatula that requires a sharp tug upward), tear lettuce (point, tug and swipe to the right), cut up a tomato (quick up and down motion while holding a virtual knife) and drop and retrieve french fries from a deep fryer (use “B” again to grab the handle and drop or pull up).

With an understanding of the basics, the chef moves on to open his own establishment, the Gravy Chug, featuring fine American diner cuisine.

Of course, as a fledgling restaurateur and chef, life gets infinitely more difficult. In addition to the increased complexity of food preparation, from country-fried steak to French onion soup, the player now must cater to finicky customers and simultaneously prepare multiple dishes.

As he completes orders and waiters deliver the food to hungry patrons, cash is amassed, especially with help from tips, which are larger for quick service and perfectly prepared dishes.

With money in hand, the player can hire assistants (each offers a different level of skill sets), buy better equipment and more exotic food items, and clean up his establishment.

All action in the kitchen is timed or graded and is clearly monitored with meters, so chefs don’t want to overcook a steak (he can throw it out and start over) or let a finished dish sit out for pickup until it gets cold.

Accomplishments lead to opening better restaurants including Italian, Mexican and fine dining at its highest level with access to more than 80 recipes.

Patrons can be a finicky lot. A host of humorous regulars such as Maria Papita Rosita and Count Steakula visit and appreciate the use of spices (bought at the local farmer’s market) or specially cooked items.

On the spice front, chefs have six types (from salt to onion powder) they can apply to food elements and are richly rewarded for adding the correct combinations in the custom dishes.

The list of chores, at points, seems endless. Reading comment cards, dealing with the health inspector (he watches you clean dishes in a minigame), pleasing the dreaded food critic and keeping the staff alert and busy, to name a few.

Although catering to the same patrons and the creation of the same dishes can get repetitive at times, I say welcome to the real world, bud. How many times in any given day does a real chef have to make up a batch of calamari or another bowl of chili?

Overall, Order Ups’ cartoony presentation is packed with kooky characters and enough gastronomical goodness for the player to gleefully consume.

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