Manitas Kitchen Review – Undercooked, Yet Also Burnt

Dinosaurs making pizza is a premise so ingenious that Manitas Kitchen instantly became one of my most anticipated games of 2023. The trailers feature this jolly music and clips of the tyrannosaurus moving the pizza on their head between the stations because obviously, their tiny arms are of no use. I hoped this would be the game to carry my spirits through the winter. Unfortunately, with the state it is in right now, it cannot even hold its T-Rex’s head up.

From softlocks to minor annoyances, as of now, the game is simply riddled with bugs. Manitas Kitchen is a restaurant management sim that takes place entirely on one screen, with an occasional cutscene overlaying the level in the background. I know this because if one is played during the day, a night shift will always overlay the screen with the same cutscene, without fail.

A dark room with torches lighting it up. The T-Rex in a black chef's hat sits on a stool, resting, as the orders keep flooding
Writing negative things about a game you expected great things out of makes me feel like this: sad and stressed as I sit on my little chair

Though Manitas Kitchen is relatively simple and small in scale and based on performing repetitive activities, this sort of unintended repetition is what defines the experience. There are so many triggers for actions that are completely broken, events happen out of place, and even the pacing between story beats always seems so off that I am failing to grasp whether anything in the current experience is intentional. No mechanic is safe.

It does feel that about the first two to three hours of Manitas Kitchen are paced well. I grew attached to Trexito, the main character, who starts the day by opening up the restaurant, kneading the dough by smashing it with their head, then saucing it up with their tail, cutting ingredients, putting it in the oven by flipping it onto a peel from the top of their head, and then delivering it to a tube. Repeat this around ten times a day and a shift is complete, unless Trexito falls down due to too much stress, be that due to being too slow or failing too much, but it is quite hard to reach that state past the first day.

Trexito's head is abnormally large as they knead dough
Trexito’s head growing to abnormally large sizes as they knead dough is one of many silly animations the game puts forward

The story presents a mystery, seemingly someone is blackmailing the owner of the restaurant, Alpadino (I guess I should have seen it coming given the pun in this name), but what grabbed me was the adorable voice acting. The grumblings and tiny dino roars during dialogue, which sound not only cute but also surprisingly expressive, gave me a good chuckle and put me in the best of moods right off the bat.

Furthermore, it is worth highlighting just how great the music is. Though I tend to get tired of listening to the same one or two songs in games based around repetition, I cannot deny just how fantastic the few tracks here are. They are exceptionally dynamic, changing up the instruments, surprising with the sudden bursts of sound, and perfectly eliciting the prehistoric feel. My appreciation for it only grew as time went by.

Trexito holding up a cooking diploma while hugging Alpadino
Trust me when I say that you cannot be prepared for where this story of a supportive friend and a cute T-Rex chef goes

The time went by very slowly, as Manitas Kitchen’s pacing continued to deteriorate. So many conversations and scenes could have been coupled together, but instead, they get split up by three workdays, which are no different from one another. The game is painfully slow, totaling at above 10 hours of playtime. The story should have been twice as short, if the player wants more of the gameplay and not the dino personalities, then there should be an arcade mode or level select waiting for them instead—a staple of these kinds of games.

This frustration only grows more intense with each reset caused by a softlock. Though sometimes the character animations bug out and you can control them earlier than expected, acting in such a state may permanently freeze Trexito in place for the rest of the day. When going through the motions, it is easy to slip up and press a button too early though.

T-Rexito cutting ingredients with a pizza smoking in the oven
At a risk of an unfunny pun, the game really needed more time in the oven

If that does not screw you over, a perfect day may be ruined in many other ways. As each dino you unlock throughout Manitas Kitchen has special abilities to help you speed up the process (which allows a total of three extra pizzas served a day by the end of the game, how exciting) so does Trexito, and theirs is just flat-out broken. They have to perform the animation, which renders them immobile for a second or two, twice for no reason. There is a way to delay it if the player moves fast enough, but this can screw with other animations, and in turn, lead to a softlock.

There is also no way of really choosing which order to work at any one time, which is important to said power, as it cuts all the ingredients for the first pizza with the given sauce on the order. This is an issue when you want to use it on the next pizza while the first is already in the oven, but if you do, it will just cut the ingredients for the first, yet unserved pizza. Not to mention that other powers sometimes just straight up do not work in the way they are described.

A floating pizza pie, and the Triceratops character talking about some secretive measures that are being taken
Shoutout to the floating pizza bug, gotta be one of my favorites

Sometimes one dino’s ability uniquely interacts with another, such as lowering its cooldown. But the timers on this are inconsistent, sometimes going down by twenty, or by more than that, or by ten, or by less. Other powers, in theory, have a chance to activate something, but one straight-up did not occur once during my entire playthrough, and another is bugged so that it can be activated endlessly.

But even though the game was generally such a mess, I still wanted to be positive about it. I mean, it still is dinosaurs making pizza, which appeals to me greatly. It is sad then that with each story revealing my good will faded away more and more, as Manitas Kitchen goes into territory it really should not have, with tons of major spelling mistakes that really should not have made it in, and ends with an equivalent of a wet noodle slap. Not to mention that some events played out of order, probably to make sure that even the narrative does not escape the bugs.

A reward screen. 13 pizzas were made in a day.
If you think the game will get any harder by the end: nope. Only difference is you get to make a few more pizzas per day.

The excruciating sameness of each day in a game where I have hit the skill ceiling about five hours prior, combined with a lack of new mechanics meant that the last two hours were just sapping away at me. The cheerful music and the happy voice acting turned into a form of dark comedy considering what was happening in other avenues of the game. Whole mechanics just disappeared within four in-game days of being introduced, but at that point, I did not care anymore.

The amount of changes I would want Manitas Kitchen to make is so great that it would be a whole new game by the end of it, and as such it is hard for me to say when, or if it will be something I can ever feel positive about. Its redeemable qualities, which are frankly fantastic, are all tucked away well before the halfway mark. Unfortunately, it is one of my biggest disappointments in all of 2023.

Mateusz played Manitas Kitchen on PC with a review code.

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