Have You Played PlateUp!?
As you might know from some of my older articles on video games, every few months I come together with three of my old friends for a weekend full of old school gaming, talking trash, drinking beer, and just all around enjoying ourselves like we were still 19 and not 39... By now, we obviously have our all time favorites that still get launched every single session, so it gets increasingly harder for a new game to enter our rotation for more than a single session. On of these rare occasions turned out to be PlateUp!, a game that we thoroughly enjoyed the last few times we met and that hopefully will keep us entertained for quite a while.
At first sight, it's easy to mistake PlateUp! for a simple Overcooked clone. Up to 4 chefs work together to cook and serve food to increasingly demanding customers, wash the dishes, and take care of all kinds of other random stuff. There's a lot more to the game, though, and after you've gotten to know it a little, it feels more like the logical next step for the genre than like an actual clone. Where Overcooked has isolated scenarios that you play through one after the other, PlateUp! makes you the manager of an actual restaurant that you build up between rounds. But I'm getting ahead of myself, lets look at the basics first:
In PlateUp! you work together with up to 3 other players to run (and later upgrade) your restaurant. Each run starts by selecting the layout for your restaurant, the first meal you want to serve, and, optionally, selecting a franchise and additional bonuses you want to bring with you. I'll get into the franchise part later, but first discuss the general gameplay more.
After you set up shop, you are looking at a mostly empty building with only a couple of tables for your guests and everything you need in order to prepare your first meal. You can freely position all items wherever you want in your rooms and once you are satisfied, you can start the day. During each round, more and more customers will enter your restaurant. They will pick a seat themselves but after that, it's all up to you to keep them entertained. You need to ask them what they want to eat, prepare and serve the meal, wait for them to finish, clean up the mess they left, wash the dished, and prepare the table for the next guests. If you take to long with any of that they will run out of patience and leave your restaurant. The moment that happens it's game over and you have to start from scratch. That part was really surprising to us as it means that even a minor mistake can bring your game to an end rather quickly. Once you get used to it, though, it gets a lot more fun because you become really invested with what you are doing.
Every satisfied customer will pay the meal and leave a tip. That money is gathered during the day and once the last customer leaves your restaurant, you get back to the planning stage where you can spend that money to upgrade your store. There are tons of different available upgrades and you always get presented with a random selection of some. These upgrades range from a simple counter where you can prepare your food all the way to a fully automated cleaning robot, conveyor belts, and what not. That's not all, though. As you progress through the days and improve your restaurant, you are also presented with additional challenges. Every few day, a new rule card is added to the mix that will shake up how the game is played. These again range from simple effects like reducing customers patience a bit to more major things like customers changing their order midway or the average group size of customers increasing. If you don't want to add a new rule, you can sometimes also add a new meal to the menu, obviously also increasing the complexity moving forward.
Difficulty is ramping up significantly in between rounds and it took us some attempts before we really figured out how to efficiently run our business. A lot of the available upgrades also only have a very brief description, so it's up to you to figure out what they exactly do and how to best make use of them. Once we got the initial stress behind us, we really enjoyed ourselves playing the game. It's really fun to scream at each other, hectically trying to get everything done in time. After some different approaches, we settled with everybody having their set roles and everybody only focusing on their part of the job. We had one person prepare the meals, one taking orders and serving, one cleaning up, and one washing the dishes. The latter two jobs were a little less stressful, so they were also tasked with doing all the other random stuff that occasionally pops up.
A playthrough has no set end and you can keep going for as long as you want or better for as long as you don't fail to serve a customer in time. Nevertheless, the goal is to reach a 5 star rating and after that, the difficulty for each additional round grows exponentially until you eventually fail. If you beat the game, though, you get to create a franchise out of your business. That means that you lock in the meal(s) you are offering and save 3 of your currently active rulesets. When you start a new game, you can select to play with one of your saves franchises, thus increasing the complexity (and the difficulty) for that round from the start. That way every new game feels fresh while also allowing for some progression between rounds.
Talking of progression - the game also has an experience system where you unlock new meals, new upgrades, new locations, and so on every time you make a level. With all these things in mind, there are countless hours of entertainment to be had from the game. As indicated above, PlateUp! can be played by 1 to 4 players. Once you progress through the game, though, you realize that you really only should be playing it with exactly 4 players present. The game is build to scale according to the number of players, so the less players you have the more patience your customers have. That's working okayish, but it gets rather hectic and annoying the further you progress through the game. Also, it's just way more fun if you have 3 other guys sitting next to you that you get to scream at and blame if you fail an round.
PlateUp! is on sale on Steam right now and sold for as little as 12€ or something like $13. You will need to get 4 copies in total to enjoy it with friends but in my opinion, it's well worth the price they are asking. It's sitting at 96% positive reviews with more than 7000 votes cast already, so that should tell you something as well. If you are looking for a great party game that will provide countless hours of entertaining for you and your friends, you really can't go wrong with this one!
And that's all from me for today, thank you all for reading and see you next time!