When I first saw Taco Master, I didn’t know what to think; I had seen PlayStation Prophet Greg Miller putting tons of attention on it, but I wasn’t sure if it was worthy of the praise he and many others were giving the game – it very much was worthy.
Taco Master has you taking on the role of a Mexican man who is learning to run the ultimate taco stand from the ultimate taquero. The game works like this: orders are served up to you, each with a time limit to fulfill it, and then you make the corresponding tacos. Sounds easy – it’s not. Using the Vita’s touchscreen, you put the appropriate ingredients on the taco and serve them up. Where it gets complex is when you have multiple ingredients on different tacos all while customers are breathing down your neck and more keep giving you their order. However, that’s what I loved so much about Taco Master; you develop a rhythm, a cadence, when playing the game, and you just get into a zone where you’re doing everything perfectly and have no errors – you become one with the game. And that’s just at the beginning.
When starting off, the game can be pretty slow; you’re learning your basic tutorials and the orders are minimal and simple. It’s not until later into the 30-mission Classic Career that everything picks up and things become more difficult, and that’s where I became addicted. I loved that sense of rhythm and gratification of fulfilling 25 orders and getting a perfect score. Thankfully, that’s not where the game left off.
After reaching certain benchmarks, you unlock several other modes, which is actually the meat of Taco Master. These modes are what made the game the most enjoyable; they add even more ingredients and elements like attacking zombies and crab that you must shoo away, both keeping you on your toes and adding to the insane pace you must keep. My favorite mode was Tropical Fury – the on with the crabs. All the additional modes add roughly 20 to 30 levels, and while they still maintain a tutorial in the early levels, it quickens the pace and starts giving you more orders than you’d usually tackle and crazier tacos to fulfill. My only complaint with the additional mode is the time attack mode, where you have to do so many orders trying to break your record. It stays with the simple career mode aesthetic; I really wanted the zombie or fish levels because they were more chaotic and challenging. On top of that, I wish it wasn’t just fulfilling an order for a single taco, but multiple orders for multiple items. The time attack mode makes it feel out of place from the rest of the game because of that single-taco order rhythm.
I did find one major problem with Taco Master: the frame rate. As I mentioned, the fish and zombie levels were my favorite because there was so many thing going on at once: orders, ingredients, batting away pests, hard-to-read orders. However, what would end up happening is that my actions, like placing shrimp on a taco, would lag behind, resulting in the action never even occurring. This would often disrupt my concentration, and also could result in failed orders because everything would be delayed by that lag; have this happen a few times a round, and you end up failing solely because of that. For all intents and purposes, Taco Master is a rhythm game. Anything that takes away from that rhythm and pace, including technical difficulties, make the game very unenjoyable. I often found myself having to put down my Vita because of this – not because of the game’s difficulty – because it really isn’t.
Besides that, I really enjoyed the game; so much that I even Platinumed it, and it’s a very easy and straightforward one. The game has a stunning visual palette, with many colors jumping out at you and just looking very nice on the OLED screen. The music, while not as good as the visuals, is pretty good, and it sets a good mood for creating tacos when your first start. However, I quickly found it repetitive and muting the game’s audio.
All in all, Taco Master is great. It’s a game that you’ll be confused why others praise it when starting off, but once you put it down, you’ll clearly understand why: it’s fun. It isn’t bogged down with unnecessary stuff, like an attempt at a story to make it make sense, and despite its rather short length – only about 4 hours to Platinum – you’ll be satisfied. The game’s technical difficulties are unfortunate, however; they aren’t big enough that they make the game unplayable, but they are noticeable and do impede on progress most of the time. Simply, the lag is the only detractor. Taco Master is the game for anyone who wants to become a taquero, kill time, or just enjoys a very solid experience.