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Posted by GG Goblin On July - 30 - 2019

Revolutionising the restaurant industry and putting burger flippers out of work.

Hermes Interactive and Team17 obviously have their minds set on a world where everyone can play video games all day every day and no one has to go to work flipping burgers or taking drunken orders late on a Friday night. They are lofty aspirations, and it all begins with their latest title, Automachef. Here, players will learn how to make those automated kitchens of the future, passing out burgers without a drop of humanity. Players will also learn just how mind-meltingly complicated this whole process can be, and may well decide to keep on the minimum wage workforce after all.

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Automachef is a puzzle game at heart. It’s the sort of game that gradually keeps adding more and more aspects and rules, until the player finds themselves crying in the corner of the room. Or maybe that is just me. Either way, the main goal in Automachef is to lay down machines and conveyor belts, usually in a limited space, that will allow meals to be constructed and then served to the public without the need for a single blue-gloved human hand. There are restrictions that the player will have to take into account, such as food waste, power usage and, of course, budget, all while they make sure that all of the ingredients head towards the serving hatch as a completed meal.

The game comes with a few different modes, but the most important is the campaign as it also includes tutorials, and I can imagine the huge pile of raw patties that would result without the tutorials. In the campaign, the player has just started working for a robot with plans to take over the world. Why these plans begin with making automated restaurants, I couldn’t tell you. Anyway, presented with a grid-based kitchen layout, the player will begin with a simple burger. Checking the recipe, it involves a raw patty that will need to be grilled, and a bun. In the automated world, this means a machine each to spit out a bun and a raw patty, onto a conveyor belt. Then a robot arm to lift the patty onto the grill, and a more clever arm to take it off again once it is cooked. Then, through the magic of conveyor belts and robot arms, the ingredients are put into a machine and come out the other side as an assembled dish. Hurrah!

The learning doesn’t stop there though. Cheeseburgers are thrown into the mix, along with the discovery that the robot is really tight and wants to keep costs to a minimum, forcing the player to create rules that mean ingredients are only dispensed when an order comes in, and the grill is only turned on when it is needed. By the time the first real restaurant is tackled, the player should know everything they need to knock out burgers and cheeseburgers without breaking the bank. Well, that’s the plan.

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The thing is, even these most basic of dishes will have some players heads spinning, and it is only going to get more complex from there. New recipes will bring with them new machines and new rules to follow, all while keeping within the restraints of budget, power usage and food waste. While the campaign does a great job of slowly ramping up the difficulty and explaining as it goes along, it doesn’t take long to get completely out of control.

But that is going to be the appeal for some players, and they are going to love the contracts mode in which the player can design an automated kitchen to specification and then get paid for their trouble, giving access to more complex equipment and bigger contracts. This mode tends to hit the ground running, and as such is probably more suited to those who have at least made their way through some of the campaign. Aside from the campaign and contracts modes, there are some community-led areas where the player can check out levels made by others, and mod support suggests that there could be some interesting tweaks to the gameplay down the line.

Visually, the game is certainly passable. It is nice to look at, but won’t win any awards, but then does it really need to as it is only dealing with an automated kitchen. The UI is somewhat bland, and not seeing the customers ever actually walk off with their food is a real shame. Also, with more complex recipes and more machines, the screen does become very chaotic quickly, but that is more down to the type of game. At the end of the day, this type of production line management game doesn’t really need all of the pretty bells and whistles, just some devilish complexity, and Automachef has that in spades.

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There are a fair few production line games available on Steam, so fans of the genre have plenty to choose from. While Automachef may not bring anything especially new, it is well thought out and has a great difficulty curve, taking players from tricky to “please stop now” in less time than it takes to cook a burger. Those who wish to support the robot revolution and want to turn their brains into mush by trying to automate the fast food industry should check out Automachef right away. A tricky yet entertaining puzzle game.




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