Aspiring young chefs would do well to heed the important lessons that Fast Food Panic inadvertently delivers like a swift smack upside the head. If you don't know how to cook the meals you're asked to prepare or how to properly wield the tools needed to do so, you're bound to produce more than a few steaming plates full of burnt, awful-tasting rubbish. Even after you complete some quick tutorials, struggling with the confusing and imprecise controls during the first few minutes behind the grill in Fast Food Panic feels like trying to wrestle a greased ox--not something you want to be doing when you've got a dining room full of hungry customers. And just when you've finally tamed that beast, the game viciously pulls the rug out from under you with a few other unpleasant surprises.
I said hold the pickle! Hold the pickle!
Fast Food Panic aims to tap into the same foodie gaming audience that typically flocks to titles like Cooking Mama and Order Up. Though it lacks a substantive storyline, the game stars a nameless male and female chef duo seeking to kick off a new restaurant and skyrocket their culinary careers. You start out with a meager eatery that expands to larger digs as you progress through the early stages of the game. Successfully beefing up your restaurant eventually culminates in a globe-trotting trek to serve meals to fussy foreigners in distant countries. Much of the gameplay is a high-speed juggling act that has you balancing your attention between slaving over the hot grill to whip up some tasty grub and trying to placate grumbling customers armed with short fuses and picky tastes.
The two main characters graciously split the dining room and kitchen duties. However, you can directly control only one of them at a time, leaving the game's inept artificial intelligence to take over your partner's job. You can switch back and forth between them with a tap of the Z button, but attempting to micromanage all aspects of your operation is a futile task. Despite their stupidity, computer-controlled characters seem to be slightly more proficient at handling the customer service end of things. Stick them in the kitchen, and they'll plod away at a snail's pace, haphazardly slapping together meals that will make your clientele want to puke. It serves you well to stay in the kitchen where the real action is, not only because the AI is a lousy chef but also because other duties like greeting customers, taking orders, and serving food feel more like half-baked afterthoughts than legitimate gameplay options.
Several orders typically come in at once, and you can multitask and hop between dishes you're preparing by flicking the nunchuk's thumbstick. For example, you might throw some burgers and buns on the grill and then switch over to rolling out pizza dough while the burgers cook. Queuing up additional orders simultaneously gives you a bonus score and keeps you from falling too far behind. Sending the food quickly is as important as preparing it correctly, and doing a good job adds to your customer happiness meter. This overall score is tracked by a bar at the top of the screen. If the time meter fills completely before your score meter maxes out, you have to start the level over.