Cuisineer – Review
Follow Genre: Restaurant simulator, roguelike dungeon crawler
Developer: Battlebrew Productions
Publisher: Marvelous, XSEED
Platform: PC, Xbox Series X|S
Tested on: PC

Cuisineer – Review

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Good: Adorable aesthetics
Bad: Early-game pacing issues hurt dungeon crawling appeal
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We recently took a look at Fashion Dreamer on the Nintendo Switch, but that game isn’t the only title that publisher Marvelous is dropping in 2023’s end-of-year tsunami of video games. Last month, they also released Cuisineer, a cutesy restaurant-sim-meets-dungeon-crawler game, on PC and Xbox. It certainly sounds like an interesting affair, but is this a delicious adventure worth lining up for or should you look elsewhere to satisfy your hunger?


Our protagonist is Pom, a young catgirl who is your typical JRPG adventurer. She returns to her hometown to visit her parents, who run a small restaurant there, called Potato Palace. Upon arriving there, however, Pom finds said restaurant in complete chaos. Her parents have packed their bags and have parted on a trip around the world. Potato Palace is now under the management of their well-meaning but unprepared staff member Biscotti. To make matters worse, debt has piled up and the tax man wants his money, so Pom has no choice but to take on managing duties and turn her parents’ establishment back around. There isn’t any more meat to Cuisineer’s story, so if you were hoping for an actual narrative arc involving the NPCs, you’ll end up disappointed. Even so, Cuisineer’s premise is fine for what it wants to be, even if it isn’t fleshed out to its full potential.


A lot of work has gone into making Cuisineer visually appealing, and with great success. The anime-inspired art style works wonders here, from the food-inspired monster designs to the cutesy-looking Pom and the NPCs that inhabit the village. And of course, the dishes that are served up at Potato Palace look mouth-wateringly delicious. This is one game you don’t want to play if you’re hungry. The dungeons are varied too, offering everything from ruins in the forest to lava-filled environments. Cuisineer is a visual delight, yet thanks to the simple top-down presentation, it retains a smooth performance with no framerate issues to speak of.


Although the overworld music fits the overall cozy and cutesy atmosphere that Cuisineer conveys, the soundtrack could have benefited from a little more variety, as it starts to feel repetitive after a while. This flows slightly better as the tunes pick up some pace during combat but ultimately, the music is quite forgettable. The sound effects are decent, especially when on-screen elemental effects like fire or lightning are involved. Voice acting sadly isn’t present here.


Publisher Marvelous has a well-established track record when it comes to games that combine the lifestyle sim genre with more action-oriented gameplay. We’ve seen farming sims combined with classic JRPG-style dungeon crawling in Rune Factory and with platforming action in Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin for example. Cuisineer fits perfectly in this design philosophy, as here you’ll combine managing your restaurant with roguelike top-down dungeon-crawling action. The core gameplay loop is refreshingly simple and straightforward: taking control of Pom, you visit a variety of dungeon-like locations to collect ingredients and materials during the day. At night, you open Potato Palace and create dishes using the stuff you’ve gathered. This, in turn, earns you money, which is then used to pay off debt as well as get better dungeon-crawling equipment. Said equipment then allows you to grind for ingredients more efficiently, which lets you create more elaborate dishes… You can see where we’re going with this. In this regard, Cuisineer is a fairly simplistic game but it does introduce a handful of gameplay elements that prevent things from feeling too run-of-the-mill, such as having Pom’s stamina (or ‘life points’) in the dungeon depend on how tiring her restaurant shift was. Finding the right balance is key.

Managing Potato Palace isn’t complicated in theory, but there is more depth here than our initial impressions led us to believe. Customers will come to your eatery and order a dish from the menu. All you need to do is select the ingredients at the correct cooking device and the food appears prepared after a few seconds. Just serve the dish to the customer and watch the money roll in. Simple, right? Well, not quite. As your restaurant grows, you’ll have to deal with preparing food on multiple stoves while also keeping an eye on your patrons. Customers who will have to wait too long on their dishes will grow impatient and become dissatisfied, and others may insist on getting a dish you don’t have the ingredients for. Some customers will even try to leave without paying! If this sounds overwhelming, rest assured that Cuisineer eases you into things and lets you play the game at your own pace. Your ultimate goal is to pay off your debts and fully build out your restaurant but there is no time limit, so the game is very forgiving in this regard.

Running Potato Palace isn’t just done from the eatery itself, but also by visiting the neighbouring village. Here you’ll find a plethora of useful shops, from a furniture store that allows you to customize your restaurant, to a blacksmith that gives you access to better weapons. You’ll also find NPCs here that task you with simple fetch quests, which will reward you with new recipes and other goodies. You can keep track of these using your handy journal, which proved to be an invaluable tool. Some quests cannot be completed without having specific upgrades at your restaurant first, and there is always something to work toward. Thanks to your journal, you always have an idea of what to do next. In addition, a handy calendar lets you keep track of events such as NPC birthdays and the like.

In contrast with the management aspect is the dungeon-crawling half of Cuisineer, which feels half-baked, especially early on. Dungeons are randomly generated, so a bit of luck is required if you are going to get a good haul. Ingredients are earned by fighting monsters, but fights are tedious and repetitive affairs that go on a little too long to our liking. Levelling up Pom is a drawn-out process and there isn’t a real sense of progress as the benefits gained from improving our heroine feel too minimal for the amount of effort that goes into gaining these. Add to this that it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the sheer amount of enemies, and you’ll quickly find that venturing into dungeons simply isn’t fun or satisfying. This is something that becomes less of a problem over time, as Pom eventually does become stronger, but the beginning stages of Cuisineer are needlessly punishing. This is a shining example of pacing done wrong and stands in stark contrast with the managing aspect, which takes on a far more relaxed approach.

It’s a bit of a shame because the combat mechanics do have potential, even if they aren’t anything special. Fighting is done in real-time, with Pom having a ranged attack, a melee weapon, and a special move that requires recharging. Controls are snappy and responsive, and there are glimpses of a great roguelike dungeon crawler here during boss battles or arena fights, but ultimately, the whole experience is dragged down as a whole by pacing issues. Add to this that the game suffers from inexplicably long load times, and you’ve got a game that simply doesn’t capitalize on its potential, more often than not feeling like a slow and sluggish experience rather than the quick pick-up-and-play style title that it should be.


It’s clear that Cuisineer has potential, but the game doesn’t fully reach the heights it could have. Uneven pacing, especially while dungeon crawling, and the lack of a fleshed-out story hurt the game’s overall appeal. The restaurant mechanics and fantastic aesthetics do a lot of heavy lifting but not enough to really push Cuisineer to the same heights as other Marvelous offerings like Sakuna or Rune Factory.

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