Few games come with the giggling delight I was immersed in while playing the quirky, shop-management sim and dungeon-crawler Cuisineer. From smacking chickens with a spatula to “inheriting” an emptied storefront, this cute game is quintessential cozy.
Cuisineer is the type of game I always want in my pocket, which is why one of my biggest frustrations with the game is PC-only access. I sincerely hope Pom’s adventures are brought to consoles like the Nintendo Switch in the future, as I would happily sink dozens of hours into decorating my storefront and collecting ingredients from my sofa.
- Developer – BattleBrew Productions
- Publisher – Marvelous/XSEED Games
- Platforms – PC via Steam
- Release Date – November 9, 2023
- Price – $24.99 USD
Whoops, You’re Now A Shop Owner
Cuisineer starts with a standard cozy premise. Playing as a cute cat girl named Pom, you return home to find your parents have gone and liquidated the family business to take the “trip of a lifetime”. They’ve asked you to take care of the family restaurant, but have left you with not even a few tables and chairs to keep things running.
With the help of Pom’s best friend Biscotti and the local townsfolk, players can get the restaurant up and running. However, hurdles like a grumpy tax collector will keep you on your toes as you get settled into the rhythm of cooking, crafting, and dungeon-crawling.
I love games that have a clear progression, however, I will say Cuisineer relies on tropes a bit too heavily, and I found it left the town of Paell and its food-named inhabitants a bit dry. I kept hoping to find the hidden charm within the town, similar to games like Moonlighter or Coral Island. However, this never seemed to happen. The game’s main story elements are predictable hurdles like debt, and even the named characters blend in with random townies, making it hard to remember who is important.
This is particularly frustrating when completing quests, as getting desired items to specific NPCs became a game of cat-and-mouse. I’d run up to a random character, hover over who they were, and then move on until the correct person was located. I never committed anyone to memory, viewing them instead as a means to my recipe-requiring end.
Shop Management Is The Animal Crossing of Cuisineer
If you like decorating, shop management, and cute upgrades, Cuisineer is the game for you. Right from the start, your restaurant is a blank slate waiting for a creative, culinary vision. Furniture designs are a bit limited at the beginning, but as you level up and discover new crafting materials, elegant options become available to craft at Alder’s shop.
I found decorating my restaurant to be one of the highlights of gameplay in Cuisineer. I enjoyed the edit interface, which makes dragging and dropping tables and chairs a breeze. The adorable designs of each furniture item make the space within the restaurant pop, and it is delightful to wrap up a design and watch the customers flood in.
However, there are quite a few items that you can craft that don’t serve any purpose other than as decorations. This is fine, but it made me wish there were style bonuses or some sort of way to know if your aesthetic choices were approved of by the noodle-slurping children that inundated my shop every day.
Either way, if you are a fan of Animal Crossing: New Horizons-style customization, Cuisineer does it right, and I happily rearranged my shop at regular intervals to take advantage of each different piece of furniture I crafted.
One Little, Two Little, Three Little Spatula-Slayed Chickens
When prepping to make some Spicy Noodle Soup, I don’t usually plan on beating chickens to death with the spatula to get the eggs. However, that is exactly how grocery shopping works in Cuisineer. Does a busy supermarket make you want to smack the bags of flour out of something? This game has you covered.
All materials needed for cooking are obtained via the handful of dungeons found outside the safety of Paell. With weapons like a spatula, Pom must track down dozens of enemies and whack them until eggs, flour, meat, and other ingredients fall out.
The dungeons of Cuisineer are fantastic and change up a bit each time you drop in. I had a hard time at first, with the enemies overwhelming my little dungeon-crawling cook and knocking her unconscious. However, once I figured out how to dodge around the dungeon maps, I was able to use the terrain to break up waves of irritable chickens and spicy lizard babies.
I love the dungeon-crawling in Cuisineer. It’s cute, it’s fun, it’s fast-paced, and enjoyable. I balanced the first half of my days in the restaurant, and the second half dungeon crawling just to see what else I could drag home and throw in a pot. I think this mash-up of gameplay is refreshing and fun, just like Moonlighter, and helps break up the potential monotony that some shop-keeping sims struggle with.
Cuisineer is just wonderful. It’s not as big as some shop-keeping titles, and it has limits as a dungeon-crawler, but the gameplay is enjoyable and addictive – and I kept wanting to go back for more. While it’s only available on PC, I know I’d grab it up in a heartbeat if it became available on the Nintendo Switch.
I can’t recommend this game enough for fans of low-impact cozy games with simple, pleasant storylines. There are no big surprises, and in a way, it makes this game all the more enjoyable. You know exactly what you are going to get, and with that, it is easy to get sucked into the gameplay loop without a single worry to hold you back or leave you emotionally vulnerable. It’s just fun, and that makes it completely worth investing time and money into.
8 / 10
|+ Cute art style and low-risk storyline|
|+ Dungeon crawling is addictive|
|+ You get to be a cat girl|
|– NPCs are forgettable|
|– Tropes hold the story back|
Gamepur team received a PC code for the purpose of this review.