Two things about me: I love logic puzzles, and I love automation. I’m also a programmer. So when I heard about Automachef, describing itself as a programmatic puzzler, I had to pull the trigger. Of course, seeing Team17’s name on the title also put my support behind it. That being said, it’s no surprise that on launch day, I pulled the trigger and grabbed a copy, eager to build some fast food generating machines!
The world of Automachef is quite simple, as each level has three central goals: serving all the requested customer orders, staying under a certain budget, and staying within an acceptable window of electricity and power usage. Each level gets progressively more difficult, as more complex pieces of machinery are introduced to your arsenal, and as the options scale, so too do the difficulty of requirements to complete.
Each level has a different narrative, if you could call it that – an example would be that the restaurant you are contacted to work on is built on an old power grid that will fail if power usage goes too high. While building your machine, you will have to bear in mind power usage, as too many machines running concurrently will overload the breaker and shut down the system. It’s a delicate tightrope to walk – sharing equipment and ingredients beyond 2 or more recipes goes from a fun little optimization to an outright requirement. Controlling whether or not certain power-sucking machines are turned on becomes a part of normal gameplay. Trying to simplify no longer becomes an option, as you need to cram together as many machines as possible for maximum efficiency.
Maximum efficiency!!!! These two words will start to repeat in your head every time you turn the game off. It will creep into your subconscious and make you think about the perfect way to optimize everything. You’ll get right up the last dish during a production run, and end up going over the power usage by a fraction of a second, only to have to revisit the entire board and find even the slightest tweak to save your entire machine.
The game quickly ramps up and there isn’t a whole lot in terms of tutorials. Particularly for how the machines work, this can be an issue. I recall the first time I saw an Ingredient Gate – in fact it was several in-game hours ago. I still haven’t used it – I have no idea what it does and still have to look up a YouTube tutorial.
In fact, when you play this game, you might find yourself using unofficial tutorials quite frequently, as some of the levels can get a little maddening otherwise.
If you were to ask me if you should personally buy this game, I’d have the following questions to offer:
- are you a computer programmer, or are you interested in the field?
- do you like playing video games that are the antithesis of relaxation?
If you’ve answered a resounding yes to both of these questions, you will undoubtedly enjoy this game. At least up until the point that I did. Speaking of which, I have decided to officially tap out at level 13. I simply cannot bring myself to play it anymore, as I realized the game now stresses me out at the same level as work does.
After all, for 8 hours a day I solve computer programming problems. Spending more time doing this in the after-hours doesn’t seem like much fun, does it? So then, it may leave you wondering where the satisfaction lay with Automachef.
Simply put, seeing your hard work result in a well-oiled machine is extraordinarily satisfying to see unfold before your very eyes. Some of these machines can take literal hours to put together, after all. It really is quite incredible, and you’ll amaze yourself at what you’re able to pull of despite the challenging conditions each level throws at you.
Speaking of the levels, there are 45 total, or at least that’s what I’m told, and despite the fact that I’m giving myself a great big Time Out from the game for the foreseeable future, it is worth mentioning that there is a whole lot of content packed into this $14.99 (at the time of writing) title.
I finally drew the line when the computers were introduced. Being that there were no tutorials (at least in the point in the game where they were added to the available tools), I was left to figure out how to program them – yes, you actually program the computers using BASIC. That’s where I had to draw the line!
Automachef is very easy to recommend to an extremely specific crowd. I think the hobbyist programmers, or even folks with a vague interest in learning computer programming, would enjoy this far more than actual programmers would. While doing something on the side can be very entetaining, it can feel like work when you get really dialed into a solution, only to have it fail.
The first day I played Automachef, I got so wrapped up in one of my solutions that I was literally dreaming about the damn thing. I kept waking up, with visions of
sugar plums double bacon cheeseburger-building machinery dancing in my head. That’s a sign of a great game, in my opinion, but also, a mentally taxing one. Whether or not you want something like that in your portable gaming arsenal, well, that’s up to you!