If you're anything like the rest of us, your idea of "cooking" probably involves dumping whatever leftovers you have from the take-out you ordered last night onto a plate, nuking it in the microwave until it's no longer refrigerator-temperature, and then drowning it all in an entire bottle of hot sauce. Sometimes, you'll even use a plate that isn't made of paper if you're feeling particularly fancy or, you know, your mom is coming to visit. But never fear; even if we are less than classically trained chefs in our everyday lives, it doesn't mean we can't rule the virtual world of cuisine and experience the exciting, fast-paced realm of restaurant management with no risk of burning our eyebrows off or poisoning loved ones! In Order Up!! To Go, the popular Wii time management and cooking sim has been adapted by Chillingo for use on your iOS device, and the result is so addictively good, it must contain MSG.
You start out as every aspiring chef does; flipping burgers at the local fast food joint. This plate functions as a tutorial of sorts to show off the basic controls of the game and can also be returned to at any point later as a means to pocket some extra cash. Start by pulling down on an order note to see the list of steps required to prepare a particular meal and select which ingredient you'd like to tackle with a tap of a finger. You can slap a frozen burger on a grill, watch it cook to perfection, and once the first side is done, flip to the other with a flick. While that's sizzling, you can also drop some French fries into the fryer, prepare the veggie toppings, or fill up four different drinks at the same time at the soda fountain. Multitasking is key; scroll between work stations by dragging your finger across the bottom of the screen while keeping an eye on the gradients that appear next to each of them. Customers not only pay for how quickly their food arrives and how hot it is when it gets to them, but also for the quality of the food. Don't expect a big tip if, say, their bacon is underdone or their fries are burned. And heaven help you should you slice their tomatoes unevenly! If you feel any portion of a meal isn't up to snuff, you can tap on the trash can in the upper right of the screen to dump it and try again. Aiming for a perfect score on every step may take a bit longer, but the extra coinage and the warm feeling of accomplishment make it all worth it.
Once you've mastered the basics and feel you're ready to tackle the tough world of restaurant management, you can buy your own greasy diner (complete with a sassy big haired gum-snapping waitress). Click the board outside of your restaurant to plan your menu according to each entrée's popularity, ordering enough of each to make it through the day but not too many that it becomes unprofitable and wasteful. It becomes difficult to predict what will be ordered the most on a given day and if you run out of an item someone really wants, they'll order the cheapest thing they can. If you find yourself with coin to spare, you can also unlock extra entrées, specials and spices from this menu to lure even more customers. Certain customers pay extra for the right spices and have a strong dislike for others; it's up to you to learn who likes what and ensure you have it in stock to achieve maximum profit!
At the end of each day, you'll also be able to view your restaurant's "Yarp" rating, which tracks you on several stats ranging from cleanliness to menu planning to efficiency. Let your establishment go a few days without hiring a cleaning service from the newspaper and you may get a visit from the health inspector (or some equally unwelcome guests of the vermin variety). Generate enough buzz around your restaurant and a food critic may visit to give you a bump in patronage with a rave review (provided you serve them food worth raving about). Upgrading your kitchen from the newspaper is a good, albeit pricey, way to increase your "Yarp" rating as well.
Order Up!! also offers an assortment of achievements to strive for, such as serving four perfect meals to one table or successfully dousing a kitchen fire. Each achievement grants a valuable golden coin, and therefore are not only fun to go after but become almost necessary as you'll need a lot of coins should you hope to unlock every entrée, spice, and restaurant. The more you unlock, the more costly items become.
Analysis: Order Up!! To Go is a superb example of what casual gaming on the iPhone should be. The controls are nearly flawless, reacting accurately to every touch and featuring a wide variety of motions as you quickly slice onions, grate cheese, flip omelets, or carve deli meats. It's also incredibly addictive; once you know the basics, there's an easy pick-up-and-play style that will compel you to sneak a few days' work in between classes, during lunch breaks, before bed, whenever.
There are quite a few ads to contend with since the app is free, but they can be removed completely by upgrading via a tiny in-app purchase. You also have the option to speed up play by purchasing gold coins in order to quickly unlock meals and new restaurants and avoid grinding your way to the top. When played without this extra boost, the game can feel a little repetitive after extended play and it can take a very long time to be able to purchase another restaurant or complete an entire menu board.
The stylized cartoon graphics are a treat, though, as is the surprisingly enjoyable and well-done voice acting. The game also features a unique brand of humor, from the memorable special customers in exercise clothing requesting gravy on their pancakes because it "looks healthy" to the actual restaurant names. Burger Face, anyone?