There are few things more frustrating than playing a broken game: perhaps only playing a broken game with a promising premise. Food Truck Simulator, from the title alone, seems as if it should be a riot. Other cooking-themed titles such as Overcooked, or the long running Cooking Mama series, have a high-paced spirit, undercut with silliness or charm. Food Truck Simulator, however, before it even presents us with glitchy technical issues, has a strangely heavy tone.
Our protagonist inherits the titular food truck after the death of his father, and receives guidance from an almost-maternal figure called Carol, who talks you through a long and humorless introduction. Coupled with the realistic graphics – which had the potential to be impressive – it’s a little like running a burger truck in some unnamed drag of Grand Theft Auto’s Los Santos. The driving of the truck from location to location is unsteady and occasionally jarringly glitches: with a little more polish this could have been a delightful mechanic.
The cooking is very procedural, but not satisfying: the first-person burger, pizza, sushi assembly is sloppy. There is not only ingredient management to be taken into account, there are expiration dates and storage solutions. There are temperature issues to be taken into consideration. All of this could have led to delightful chaos, but instead everything feels labored and sluggish. Now, arguably, because this isn’t a work of delightful escapism but a realistic simulator, the frustrating movement issues could be considered part of the challenge. But it really needs to feel like play, instead of work – and therein lies the risk of the real world simulator. To be effective, simulation needs to capture delight as well as frustration.
The food you struggle to put together should be the reward for this fussy, slow procedure – however, it does not look delicious. The truck interior where you work in the first stretches of the game is not just scrappy and in want of a little improvement, it is dark and depressing, made more so by the grim narration. Some of this darkness could be attributed to the fact that I had no idea there was a light switch to be turned on inside the truck, nor did the benevolent Carol ever direct me to do so, while I was fixed on trying to cut tomatoes which kept disappearing from my grip, glitching into nothing.
There’s potential depth here, certainly: a legacy food truck owner with a local rival, the struggle for success, the passion for food – but it all falls flat. All of these design ingredients have been used successfully in titles such as Power Wash Simulator and Gas Station Simulator – but these games proved there’s more to a job sim than a kooky premise and a leveling up mechanic.
With a little more time in the oven, Food Truck Simulator could have been something really tasty. Unfortunately, in its current form, it will surely leave players feeling a little sick instead.