A cooking simulator with a dark and quirky theme, Ravenous Devils is an engaging if bug ridden title. The Finger Guns Review.
By in large, cooking simulators are happy, colourful games. Sure, the multiplayer titles like Overcooked or Bake ‘n Switch can get tense and may tests the strength of your friendships but they’re almost exclusively family friendly experiences. Only Cannibal Cuisine has really challenged that status quo by adding a more mature element to the formula. That solitary outlier has now been joined by ‘Ravenous Devils’ from Bad Vices Games. A blend of cooking simulator, resource manager and a black comedy, this game utilises a penny dreadful vibe by using the cannibalistic murderer Sweeney Todd as inspiration.
In this game, you play as a pair of characters called Hildred and Percival during an Industrial Revolution-esque time period. Having moved to town recently, they come across as a hardworking, loving couple. Beneath the surface though, they have a stomach churning, criminal secret.
A skilled tailor, Percival has set up shop on the first floor of a fancy building. The quality of his wares attracts an impressive clientele – but not every patron makes it back to the street. Those who enter the back room to get measured run the risk of meeting the pointy end of Percival’s scissors and an untimely, gruesome end.
How does Percival get away with murder? Why does no one find the bodies of the people he kills? Here comes the Demon Barber of Fleet Street inspiration. At the back of his workshop is a chute. This leads to the basement level of his building and the kitchen that his wife Hildred works from. Percival will scoop up bodies and dump them down the chute where Hildred will pick them up. From here, she can turn them into meaty treats that she can sell from her ground floor shop cum restaurant. It’s a unique thematic approach to the genre that leans into the grim yet darkly humorous thought of serving up people pies to their neighbours and charging them for the pleasure of doing so.
How The Sausage Gets Made
You control Percival and Hildred in a point-and-click manor using a cursor that can be moved along the floor on each floor of the building. You can’t control both characters at the same time however. Unless in a cutscene, Percival and Hildred are confined to their own portion of the building. The former works in the top two floors of the building – the tailor shop and a loft garden – while the latter works in the lower two floors – the restaurant and kitchen. You can switch between floors with the shoulder buttons quickly to give each character instructions. You point the cursor at a location or interactive item, click on it and they’ll get to work, often with a little soundbite for added effect.
While killing and cooking are the core themes of Ravenous Devils, there’s a tycoon simulator core to this game. As such, process and money making are a big part of the experience. The game is broken down into days that last around 10 minutes. During that time, people will come in and buy up your wares or put in orders for food. It’s your aim to keep the whole process moving, keeping your stock up and ensuring people get what’s coming to them. Food or murder. Either way. At the end of each day, you’re given an unlimited time period to sort out your shops before starting the next.
In essence, every day is the same. Kill people with Percival. Clean up the scene. Drop the corpse down to Hildred. Put the bodies through a piece of machinery to turn them into mince/sausage/steak. Plate them up. Add ingredients if necessary. Carry it to the cooker. Wait for it to finish cooking. Deliver them to the table or put them on the self-service counter. Sell them. Profit? Meanwhile, Percival will have to use the clothing he strips from his victims to craft clothing for his own stream of clients. It’s hardly a taxing experience but it’s quite engaging as you switch between the pair of playable characters to keep them busy, to ensure every customer leaves satisfied or as part of a delicious dish.
Yelp all you like
Customers to both the tailor and restaurant will influence the popularity rank of the stores. If they receive good service, receiving what they ordered quickly without much of a wait, they’ll leave you a good, green smiley face review. If they wait for a while, or even get so impatient that they leave empty handed, they’ll leave a bad, red frowny face review. As you might expect, this will negatively influence your rating. The higher the ranking of your establishments, the more customers you’ll have coming through and the more products you can create.
meet meat the ever increasing customer demand, you can reinvest the money you earn. Improvements can be purchased to existing machinery, offering greater efficiencies. For example, upgrade the sausage maker and you’ll get more bangers out of each dead body you feed into it. You can also unlock new ingredients. At the start of the game, you’ll simply have flour and a mince meat maker. Later, you can unlock vegetables grown by Percival in the loft which enable better, more exotic recipes which offer a higher profit when sold. The kicker is that they need fertiliser made from dead bodies that might disturb your meat supply.
To give Ravenous Devils the credit it deserves, the tycoon-like upgrade system and the way progress is handled is really moreish. I’ve found myself loosing hours to this game without really noticing and feeling pretty satisfied with the progress speed. There’s an argument to be made that the game is perhaps shorter than you’d expect but that’s offset by how quickly you can unlock things. This constantly gives you something new to consider.
A mysterious admirer, An ugly side
While the tycoon and cooking act as their own hook for Ravenous Devils, where this game stands out from the crowd is its narrative. Whether it’s via an occasional cutscene or via paragraphs of text in the guise of a letter, there’s a story that weaves its way through the daily grind here. At the fore of that is a mysterious admirer, “Mr J”, that knows exactly when Percival and Hildred are up to. This mysterious figure directs the couple to kill some prominent figures from the community. Meanwhile, a small cast of returning peripheral characters make way for the main pair of Ravenous Devils to develop something of a character arc. These developments are not deep or meaningful but there is more to them than meets the eye.
It’s a shame then that Ravenous Devils is beset with so many small but irritating issues then. On PlayStation 5 at least. While none of them are game breaking, they do enough to really dampen the experience.
For example: On 3 occasions during my time with this game, the cursor got stuck on the incorrect building floor. Pressing the R1 or R2 button would change the floor I was looking at and should change the active floor you’re working on. Only on these instances, the cursor simply stayed on the previous floor either above or below. I could still move it around and instruct a character to do something – but not on the floor I wanted them too. When you’ve got customers waiting for food and you can’t instruct Hildred to deliver it because the cursor is glitching out, it’s quite frustrating.
There were 2 occasions when the character simply disappeared too. This seemed to occur when instructed to change floors. The character would use a door to move down or upstairs and then simply not appear on the next floor. This was quickly fixed by flicking back to the original floor and instructing them to do something, but it was annoying nonetheless.
Missing Mystery Meat
What’s even more frustrating is the way that cutscenes have a habit of destroying your progress or undoing an action you’ve started. These cut scenes are always triggered at the end of a day shift but there’s no notice that they’re going to happen. If either of your characters are carrying something or are in the middle of doing something when these trigger, don’t expect those resources to be still there when the cutscene ends. I lost count of the number of times a dead body had disappeared because Hildred was carrying it or chopping it up into Steak when a cutscene started and it was never not infuriating. Especially towards the end game when you’ve got tables of customers begging for diverse orders of food and you can’t fulfil the request because your meat mysteriously disappeared.
I couldn’t help but feel like Ravenous Devils is a bit of a missed opportunity too. In a game when you’re committing such illicit crimes, I expected there to be an element of evasion involved. I thought you’d be attempting to keep your activities secret and to have to cover things up. That’s not actually an aspect of this title at all. At no point will someone attempt to enter the kitchen. At no point will a new customer walk in on Percival cutting into his clients – instead, this simply prevents more customers arriving. While I appreciate the way Ravenous Devils leans into a morbid, dark comedy theme, it’s mechanically the same as any number of tycoon games you can play Roblox about managing hotels or running a hospital.
More entertaining than your average tycoon game, Ravenous Devils leverages a famous penny dreadful theme, namely Sweeney Todd, to give it a unique, dark tone. It’s a shame that this long pig pie is part-baked with a number of frustrating glitches that upsets its flavour. It also fails to turn its theme into anything mechanically interesting. Still, you’ll easily lose a few evenings to this game before its recipe becomes stale.
Ravenous Devils is available now on PS5 (review platform), PS4, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, Xbox Series S/X and PC.
Developer: Bad Vices Games
Publisher: Troglobytes Games / Hound Picked Games/ Bad Vices Games
Disclaimer: In order to complete this review, we were provided with a promotional copy of the game. For our full review policy, please go here.
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