Cooking Dash 3: Thrills and Spills
Flo and Grandma return for another food-serving challenge in Cooking Dash 3: Thrills and Spills. This time you will get a glimpse into their past, as a teenaged Flo helps Mr. Big with the rundown restaurants at his theme park. With just the right amount of new material, this sequel proves to be one of the top time management releases this year thanks to amazing production values, a polished presentation, and last but not least, exquisite gameplay and pace.
Cooking Dash 3: Thrills and Spills features 50 levels that take place in five extraordinary locations, such as the Deep Dive, the Tree Tops, or the Log Jam. Each restaurant features unique characteristics, and you can customize the appearance in numerous ways. Besides the story mode, you can also put your time management skills to the test in the expert mode, which easily doubles the playtime, and is a nice change from the usual endless shift normally included in Dash-style games. You will also find the typical awards which can be earned by finishing levels with expert scores, completing every mode, or reaching a specific score. The Collector’s Edition even features a sixth location called Big Gold Rush, which offers another ten levels in both story and expert mode, increasing playtime by roughly 1.5 hours.
Your basic tasks consist of preparing, cooking, and serving a variety of dishes, desserts and drinks. The food differs at each location, and while some of it such as cookies or rolls only need to be picked up, others take careful preparation involving several steps. Fries have to be fried (obviously!), beans have to be cooked by Grandma, smoothies have to be mixed, and all of these meals should be served fresh to get a perfect cooking bonus. Cooking meals also includes stirring or turning, and some customers will even order meals consisting of rolls, sauce, beans, and maybe a fourth part, which not only requires very good memory skills, but also perfect pacing and a good overview.
At the end of each level you are able to upgrade your equipment and the decoration of the restaurant. According to your preference you can increase Flo’s speed, enable her to throw dirty dishes away to clean tables, purchase a sauce that will make customers eat faster, or buy a music player to increase patience of customers waiting in line.
The upgrades are varied, and which one you purchase strongly influences the course of the following level. However, the upgrades on offer in Cooking Dash 3 really don’t differ from the ones in previous games, which is a bit disappointing.
You can also try your hand at various mini-games, which will offer you a number of prepared meals for the next level depending on your performance. The mini-games are not too hard and blend in superbly with the game, requiring you to find objects in a scene, click a certain meal as quickly as possible, or catch falling food while avoiding bombs and forks. If mini-games are just not your thing, though, they can be skipped.
One change that might sound not important at first, but turns out to improve the game immensely, is the difference in seating. Instead of placing customers at the bar as in the two previous games, Cooking Dash 3 implements the tables system that experienced players will recognize immediately from the Diner Dash series. In our opinion, this change improves the game notably because it feels more natural, and the new perspective combines cooking and serving more convincingly. Seating customers also includes the well-known color-matching, which even increases the challenge. Apart from that you will also have to serve customers at the drive-in, who are announced by a ringing bell.
Cooking Dash 3 hits on the perfect balance of complexity and fast pace while avoiding becoming too overwhelming. Preparing meals, color-matching, different customer behaviors (like the punk who annoys people next to him, or the starlet who increases patience), Dash-Thru customers, and the upgrades present a large variety of strategies and impressive replay value. The only downsides are some minor problems with the clicks registering and the lack of any fresh upgrades.
In the end, it seems as if Cooking Dash 3: Thrills and Spills might be the pinnacle of the series. The best features of the predecessors have been kept, while minor annoyances have been removed. Combined with wonderful production values, the always charming characters of DinerTown, and some new improvements, the game should be a total blast for time management fans. Put on your apron, concentrate, and enjoy the gastronomic atmosphere at Mr. Big’s theme park.