Platforms: Steam, Nintendo Switch
Release Date: July 23, 2019
Welcome to the Indie Highlight, fleshy food consumer! Today I’ll be your guide through the mechanical menagerie of Automachef, a game about putting together the most efficient kitchen you can with a bevy of machinery at your disposal. Dispensers spit out ingredients, robotic arms pick up food off of grills, and assemblers smash everything together to create a finished product. Sounds easy enough, yes?
Burgers, Hot Dogs, and Fries, Oh My!
It is easy, at first. Your early production lines will be of simple design, making plain burgers that only require a cooked patty and a bun. Then you add cheese slices, which requires a larger piece of cheese to be run through a food processor, so make room for that. Now you need to add tomato slices — do you move your machines around to run the tomatoes through the same food processor or do you stick the dispenser and a new processor elsewhere? Soon after you’ll be needing to set up one kitchen to make multiple food items.
The time required to spend on each level increases quickly as you move on from the first few early kitchens, which may take ten minutes tops. The more complex kitchens, especially ones adding in new machines and recipes, may start to take upwards of 20, even 30 minutes to find a pattern of machinations that is quick, efficient, and not a budget-buster. You may even have to contend with different objectives or restrictions besides just sending out orders. In one location you may have to deal with a lunch rush, and everyone wants that one item that takes ridiculously long to make. In another location, if you use too much power at once, your kitchen will suffer a blackout, so you’ll have to be even more power-conscious than usual!
The Machines Are Your Friends
It’s not all bad news as the game progresses, however. As mentioned previously, new recipes are always being tossed your way, but you’re often given new machines and parts to help deal with the new challenges that come with them. Since you were warned about a lunch rush somewhere in the level, why not use a storage unit to keep a few extra items on standby? Use that new long robot arm to stretch across a conveyor belt, letting you have just a little extra breathing room.
The game itself is designed so that you, the player, are fully in charge of how the kitchen is designed. The only constriction in how you build your machine is how much space a given building has. Some of them can be cramped, but otherwise the place is empty, meaning you have every right to scrunch those hard-working bots all in a pile together for the sake of efficiency.
There is no time limit, so take as long as you need to build the kitchen of your dreams. You can go over budget while building, then take out a few machines here and there where you spot flaws in your design. Even little things on each machine is designed to be helpful; assemblers can be set to fast production/high power or slow production/low power, an order reader gives specific instructions to any other machine, and robotic arms can be toggled to drop off items forward, to their left, or their right (you have no idea how much of a godsend this particular option is).
More Kitchens, More Food, More Modes
While the main campaign mode of Automachef progresses you through levels that drip feed you new content and challenges, the new modes that come after are what may keep some chefs cooking in the kitchen. Technically accessible at any time, Contracts Mode, a different playable option in the game, feels like it should be tackled after the campaign is good and finished, otherwise the player may be left somewhat overwhelmed.
Contracts Mode tasks the player with taking, as you may have guessed, contracts. Contracts function as randomized levels that you take on in whatever order you choose, always able to pick from a few options. As you complete levels you’ll gain funds with which you can purchase more machines to use for future use, though players have to be careful as they use that same money to buy machines to be used in the actual levels.
It can be a bit much for a new player, thrown into levels that tell you to make food when you may not even have an optimized machine setup for the job, meaning you have to spend more money in the level to make things work, which in turn means that your profits are lower. It can also be daunting trying to choose which new machine to purchase first; new robot arms or a faster dispenser? Best leave these kitchens to the professionals.
There are other things to enjoy as well, such as making your own levels in the Scenario Editor, using mods created by other players, and even a Test Site that lets you build kitchens as you please, a veritable sand(wich)box mode.
If You Can’t Stand the Heat, Try Another Kitchen!
Automachef is a great blend of simulation and resource management that lets players tackle challenges at their own pace and with little to no stumbling blocks that get in the way of how they might envision that perfect kitchen setup. You aren’t punished if your machine isn’t the most efficient, as long as you finish the basics of the level, you pass! The other restrictions are usually there for those that really want to push themselves and find that perfect production line of machines. If you enjoy the satisfaction of working long and hard at an idea and watching everything fall into place at the end, then give Automachef a shot. It’s the perfect brain food for a hard-working mind!
If you’ve played Automachef or the free demo, let me know what you thought of it in the comments! Was it too easy/hard, or was the level of challenge a perfect fit for you? Let us know, and look forward to more Indie Highlights in the future!