As someone who managed to never work a single day in a fast food establishment growing up, I find it totally ironic and a bit demoralizing that here I am after 57 years on this planet slinging burgers, baking pizzas, frying nachos, and preparing sushi rolls all in the name of “entertainment”. While I could easily see Clash of Chefs VR being used as an immersive training tool for each of these respective restaurants I found very little actual “fun” waiting to be had, as I plodded through lengthy mission checklists; 80 in all spread across the four cuisines. In a world where we can’t even get people to work at McDonalds or Burger King for $15 an hour, Flatt Hill Games thinks people will pay $20 to do the same thing at home.
I will admit I did have a few minutes of fun with each of the four styles of cuisine. Flipping burgers – although you don’t actually flip them – was fun enough trying to match the increasingly difficult orders of single and doubles, cheese or no cheese or maybe double cheese and the proper application of condiments. Baking pizzas was perhaps my favorite part of the game, as you pound the dough flat, ladle on the sauce, shred the cheese, and then apply the requested toppings. I find even the thought of sushi disgusting, so I spent very little time in that part of the game, but I did have fun with the Mexican food preparing nachos and tacos with all the assorted toppings.
Clash of Chefs VR lets you choose any of the four styles of food from the start then presents you with a lengthy series of challenges that grow increasingly more complex. You’ll be inside your horseshoe food prep station that can be raised or lowered to the perfect comfort level while your fully customizable server will wait on the various people who enter your establishment. A visual list of entrée flashcards will start to fill-up allowing you to prep for the current and future tickets, and a timer will constantly be creeping from happy to mad if you take too long or mess up an order. And of course, you are scored for your efforts and ranked on leaderboards.
Ultimately, I had more fun figuring out how to “cheat” the game; thankfully the board of health wasn’t inspecting us. I would start prepping burgers before the first customer even came in and have them lying around on plated buns on the empty portions of my counter. Same with pizza, as during the first few missions they only order ham, mushroom, or pepperoni so you could get one or two of those prepped long before they were requested and just have them lying around. Apparently the game doesn’t track freshness or hot food. Looking at the completion times for the top leaderboard scores it seems others have found even more advanced ways to cheat.
There are also a few bugs lurking about the kitchen; no, not cockroaches but weird random stuff like dropping a ladle and having it vanish for the rest of the game forcing me to use the nacho cheese ladle to dip salsa. I appreciated the authenticity of the bell to let my server know when an order was ready, but it was never necessary; they were always there to just take the food. There were also a few minor issues with reliably grabbing plates and other items off the counter and some really annoying instances of my server telling me an order was incorrect when it clearly was – perhaps a scripting issue where the server was stuck on a previous order. Whatever it was, this error forced me to have to restart the current stage at least three times out of the 20+ stages I played. Considering this game was in Early Access for almost three years I was a bit surprised by some of the issues that remained in the final release.
Clash of Chefs VR offers up an all-you-can-eat buffet of content with the aforementioned 80 stages of single-player gaming along with some real-time and asynchronous competitive cook-offs. The single-player stages start off easy enough, but all too soon the entrees get more complex with sides and drinks and ingredients that need to be sliced up or prepared separately. It all seems very realistic in theory with fun controls that mimic these activities in real-life, yet shies away from ultra-realism when you are grabbing burgers off the grill with your bare hands or removing a pizza from the oven with no gloves or giant spatula. I think one missed opportunity would have been to have some Yelp-style reviews posted after each stage and an ongoing restaurant review score that carried through all the stages.
I played Clash of Chefs VR on both the Vive and the Rift S and found no discernable differences between the two other than my preference for the Oculus Touch, which in this case felt much more secure in my hands than the Vive wands when whipping around hastily preparing food orders. The graphics are simple and totally charming with easily identifiable food items that match up nicely with the illustrated flashcard order system. There is a nice ambiance for each of the four restaurants with charming décor and fun animations for the server and patrons, including emoji’s showing their current satisfaction.
Despite the few hours of “fun” I managed to have exploring the early stages of each of the cuisines in Clash of Chefs VR, once things got too busy and the orders started getting too complex I turned in my chef’s hat and checked out. I play games to relax when I’m not working; not simulate working at actual jobs I managed to avoid my entire life. I’m not saying you won’t have fun with Clash of Chefs VR, but it just wasn’t something I found to my taste in games.