Also On: PC
Publisher: Adult Swim Games
Developer: Trinket Studios
If my memory serves me correctly, once upon a time…before culinary television landscape was filled with flame t-shirt wearing men and guys with a queer eye, we were treated to something more refined and foreign. Takeshi Kaga was a man who spent his fortune building a Kitchen Stadium, seeking to test chefs from around the world to create delicacies never seen before. The men who would do battle on his behalf were the Iron Chefs (The American iteration would be more progressive and include women). The world got to see the inner workings of the Gourmet Academy for over 5 years and even saw satellite locations open outside of Japan.
So why did I spend half a paragraph waxing about an old television show, you may ask? Well the reason is, it is safe to assume that the people at Trinket Studios also have a fondness for this series and it shows in their biggest release to date, Battle Chef Brigade.
Originally a project which appeared on Kickstarter in 2014, it raised more than 2.5x times the funds they were seeking. Some of the early art showed the main character dicing up animals to collect their parts and cooking meat using fire generated by what seems to be her chi (Similar to scenes from Stephen Chau?s film The God of Cookery). Along the way, the game was picked up by Adult Swim Games, and given their track record of publishing quirky games this felt like a combination which goes well, like Peanut Butter and Jelly. The game found itself on the convention circuit which is where I was privileged enough to try it in an early state. Having a small taste, this was a title I was looking forward to having a full course. That moment finally arrived in late November of 2017.
Battle Chef Brigade takes place in the fictional land of Victusia. A land where brave men and women defend the citizenry from the wild monsters, by hunting them and using them as ingredients for their cuisine. We meet our protagonist In a quaint village, her name Mina Han, she?s like your average teenager, she doesn?t want to wake up in the morning, she begrudgingly gets along with her parents and older sister and she has dreams and aspirations of joining the ranks of Battle Chef Brigade. In typical fashion, her parents feel her place is in their podunk village running the family restaurant. Mina takes hate fate into her own hands and runs off to the capital city to chase her dreams. Along the way she meets a bevy of interesting characters, participates in a series of Chef Battles, as well as uncovering a conspiracy which could shake the land of Victusia to its core.
Much of the gameplay takes place in Kitchen Colosseum. Presiding over most battles is Kamin, he is there to introduce the contestants with the judges who will score the battle as well as the theme ingredient. Once the judges declare the flavor profile they are seeking, the contestants are sent to prepare dishes. Contestants can bring some ingredients into Kitchen Colosseum, but the battle?s theme ingredients are out in the wild, the battle chefs will need to hunt creatures to scavenge their parts. Once the chef?s satchel is full, they will need to return to kitchen to place their finds in the pantry…do they start cooking or do they hunt for more ingredients. The game forces you to make prioritize your actions and every second counts. The cooking component of the game is a match 3 game on a 4×4 grid. The color gems that you match don?t necessarily disappear, but rather they can level up and it increases their point value. So as you make matches, you have less room in your playing field to drop additional ingredients. Elements such as bones and poison get introduced during the course of the game to throw a wrench into your dishes. Cookware can be customized so that the cooking process can be sped up, but the inability to swap them on the fly felt like a strange decision on the dev team?s part.
Combat is very fluid and the controls are great. Each playable character has unique special moves and stats. It?s rare for you to get knocked out by the wildlife, and the only ramification is you lose everything in your satchel the loss of time, which is a precious commodity in these chef battles. Your abilities can be supplemented with up to 3 add-ons which can be purchased in the in-game store. Each playable character also has elemental magic, but enemies aren?t too difficult that you?ll need to rely on it. From my experience as long as you have a double jump and a sizeable satchel it will ensure you have enough to cook with.
When you are not competing, you will find yourself wandering brigade town taking up jobs which will have you solving culinary puzzles, hunting specific beasts, and quickly matching patterns on dishes so they can be served to waiting patrons. There is a store which you can purchase cooking wares and fighting moves which can assist your battles. The town is also full of colorful characters, both pedestrians and fellow battle chef candidates. These candidates are a colorful and interesting lot, you get acquainted with a couple of them, but some of the more interesting ones have very minor interactions with the main character (I certainly wanted to know more about the robot which one accompanies one of these candidates).
Unfortunately despite the amazing plating and fine mouthfeel of this title, there are some minor issues that prevent this from being the perfect dish. The title doesn?t really warrant revisiting once you are done with the story mode. While there three modes which exist independent of the story mode, One which have you breaking plates (similar to the target breaking mini game from Smash Brothers), another mimics the restaurant mini game found in the story mode and the final is a daily chef battle. All these modes have an online leaderboard and competing in them do not bring any rewards into the single player mode, which gives no incentive for one to play it repeatedly. The lack of a multiplayer mode is sorely missed; imagine taking on your friend in a competition to cook the best dishes using a hydra…I certainly wished that was a feature. Another minor point of contention is the lack of button remapping in the title. While I understand how the default mapping mirrors a lot of motions done in cooking, some of it is unwieldy (especially when you need to ?chop? up unwanted taste gems) and I found myself fumbling around while cooking early on, losing many precious seconds because the controls were not something my muscle memory had taken to. However it should be noted a patch will be released down the line which will correct this.
Despite these minor shortcomings, people looking for a short romp to fit in between major titles will definitely enjoy Battle Chef Brigade. Some players might find the modes outside of the story mode something they can come back to. Hopefully if a sequel were to come to fruition, the studio will be able to implement some of the features which were missing from this title. They have a solid entree; they just need a couple more appetizers to make this the ultimate meal.
Note: Adult Swim Games provided us with a Battle Chef Brigade Nintendo Switch code for review purposes.