Reviews

Iron Chef America: Supreme Cuisine (DS Version)

British writer Azmol Meah takes on the DS adaptation of an American take on the hit Japanese show.


Publisher: Destineer
Genres: Multimedia, Simulation
Subtitle: DS Version
Price: $19.99
Multimedia: Iron Chef America: Supreme Cuisine
Platforms: Nintendo DS
Number of players: 1-2
ESRB rating: Everyone 10+
Developer: Black Lantern
US release date: 2008-11-06
Website
Amazon
Developer website

I'm going to be completely honest with you here folks, I haven't got the first clue about Iron Chef. According to good ol' Wikipedia, it's based on a now defunct wacky Japanese cooking show of the same name. A pro goes up against a Joe, in some sort of cuisine cook-off. It's since been Americanised, in the cleverly titled Iron Chef America, which in itself is the second interpretation of the original programme following the failure that was Iron Chef USA. OK, so, now I know a little.

Apparently across the pond it's quite popular, in its sixth series and 92 episodes in at the time of writing and has made minor celebrities of the show's chefs. With such a hot property on their hands it was only a matter of time before the show hit the dual screen, in the form of Iron Chef America: Supreme Cuisine.

Of course, this continues to cement the DS as the lead format for all the mums, grannies, and metrosexual males who just can't get enough cooking/animal/brain/fitness games.

How does a TV cooking contest translate to the DS? I hear no one asking that question, but if they did, well, if I said Cooking Mama would that help?

Yes, as one would expect, the actual "cooking" translates to mini-games, i.e. lifting the stylus upwards when pouring water, slicing the screen in some given direction to slice something, or to fry this thing, or to chop such and such. All the "cooking" is done via actions on the touchscreen, and then you wait and see if it's been effective. In terms of gameplay that's as deep as we're going here.

You won't learn anything about real cooking or the origins and culture of the meal you're preparing, which seems like an obvious oversight to me. The whole edutainment genre is a big deal on the DS and a little more effort would have been greatly appreciated. More importantly, it would have built upon an area where its inspiration has consistently been lacking.

That's not to say that there hasn't been any effort put into this title, in fact quite the opposite. You choose your chef, track their progress in matches vs. the in-game characters or wirelessly against other budding chefs. There's a career mode vs. the TV chefs, you can win ribbons for accomplishing tasks and there are even performance based medals to achieve, which will bring out the perfectionist in us all.

Another welcome surprise is the sheer intensity of the experience. You're against the clock, as you race against your opponents to finish your dish first. Each individual's progress is charted by a bar, and there's always a sense of urgency, to either stay ahead or catch up.

Choosing perfection and patience is rewarded with praise, but can cost you in the overall race. You'll constantly find yourself in the tutorial option, sharpening up your skills against time. The tutorial is actually quite addictive in its own right, and strangely reminiscent of the score-based games of yesteryear where you needed lightning quick reactions to succeed.

That's not to say it's not without its flaws, either. It would have been extremely beneficial, for example, to know which dishes are tougher to prepare than others, and the touch controls haven't been nailed either. Some of your actions don't register, even though you swear you've done what's asked of you. Is this lazy development, or is the DS screen lacking? That's difficult to say, but other deeper games have nailed the controls perfectly with screen-only controls. Fortunately, these instances are not major enough to ruin the experience overall.

So maybe the metrosexual in me has been unearthed, but I did enjoy this. It's akin to liking a really cheesy pop song that you pray no one ever finds out about. It's easy to get really compulsive about adding the finishing touches to your dishes as you try your best to make everything pretty and presentable, and no, I'm not ashamed to admit that.

Ultimately, though, this is a basic game that won't entertain non-fans for long, but hey, it ain't aimed at people like me. Its followers will lap it up, it's got a visual style resembling the show, the Star Wars-like epic theme is intact, and it even has loads of ghastly caricatures of the show's chefs, which I'm sure all the mums and grannies will find amusing.

It's not taking itself too seriously, and ultimately just wants to entertain its audience, and well, what's wrong with that? I'm sure the hardcore will weep and moan, but they weep and moan about everything.

If it can improve upon the formula in the inevitable follow-up and really distinguish itself from its rivals, Destineer could have a nice little earner in their hands. And to be honest, any game that can get me fretting and sweating over where to place little green leaves so my meal can look the prettiest of them all can't be that bad.

5

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

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Music

The Best Dance Tracks of 2017

Photo: Murielle Victorine Scherre (Courtesy of Big Beat Press)

From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

In June of 2016, prolific producer Diplo lambasted the world of DJ's in an interview with Billboard, stating that EDM was dying. Coincidentally enough, the article's contents went viral and made their way into Vice Media's electronic music and culture channel Thump, which closed its doors after four years this summer amid company-wide layoffs. Months earlier, electronic music giant SFX Entertainment filed bankruptcy and reemerged as Lifestyle, Inc., shunning the term "EDM".

So here we are at the end of 2017, and the internet is still a flurry with articles declaring that Electronic Dance Music is rotting from the inside out and DJ culture is dying on the vine, devoured by corporate greed. That might all well be the case, but electronic music isn't disappearing into the night without a fight as witnessed by the endless parade of emerging artists on the scene, the rise of North America's first Electro Parade in Montréal, and the inaugural Electronic Music Awards in Los Angeles this past September.

For every insipid, automaton disc jockey-producer, there are innovative minds like Anna Lunoe, Four Tet, and the Black Madonna, whose eclectic, infectious sets display impeccable taste, a wealth of knowledge, and boundless creativity. Over the past few years, many underground artists have been thrust into the mainstream spotlight and lost the je ne sais quoi that made them unique. Regardless, there will always be new musicians, producers, singers, and visionaries to replace them, those who bring something novel to the table or tip a hat to their predecessors in a way that steps beyond homage and exhilarates as it did decades before.

As electronic music continues to evolve and its endless sub-genres continue to expand, so do fickle tastes, and preferences become more and more subjective with a seemingly endless list of artists to sift through. With so much music to digest, its no wonder that many artists remain under the radar. This list hopes to remedy that injustice and celebrate tracks both indie and mainstream. From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

10. Moullinex - “Work It Out (feat. Fritz Helder)”

Taken from Portuguese producer, DJ, and multi-instrumentalist Luis Clara Gomes' third album Hypersex, "Work It Out" like all of its surrounding companions is a self-proclaimed, "collective love letter to club culture, and a celebration of love, inclusion and difference." Dance music has always seemingly been a safe haven for "misfits" standing on the edge of the mainstream, and while EDM manufactured sheen might have taken the piss out of the scene, Hypersex still revels in that defiant, yet warm and inviting attitude.

Like a cheeky homage to Rick James and the late, great High Priest of Pop, Prince, this delectably filthy, sexually charged track with its nasty, funk-drenched bass line, couldn't have found a more flawless messenger than former Azari & III member Fritz Helder. As the radiant, gender-fluid artist sings, "you better work your shit out", this album highlight becomes an anthem for all those who refuse to bow down to BS. Without any accompanying visuals, the track is electro-funk perfection, but the video, with its ruby-red, penile glitter canon, kicks the whole thing up a notch.

9. Touch Sensitive - “Veronica”

The neon-streaked days of roller rinks and turtlenecks, leg warmers and popped polo collars have come and gone, but you wouldn't think so listening to Michael "Touch Sensitive" Di Francesco's dazzling debut Visions. The Sydney-based DJ/producer's long-awaited LP and its lead single "Lay Down", which shot to the top of the Hype Machine charts, are as retro-gazing as they are distinctly modern, with nods to everything from nu disco to slo-mo house.

Featuring a sample lifted from 90s DJ and producer Paul Johnson's "So Much (So Much Mix)," the New Jack-kissed "Veronica" owns the dance floor. While the conversational interplay between the sexed-up couple is anything but profound, there is no denying its charms, however laughably awkward. While not everything on Visions is as instantly arresting, it is a testament to Di Francesco's talents that everything old sounds so damn fresh again.

8. Gourmet - “Delicious”

Neither Gourmet's defiantly eccentric, nine-track debut Cashmere, nor its subsequent singles, "There You Go" or "Yellow" gave any indication that the South African purveyor of "spaghetti pop" would drop one of the year's sassiest club tracks, but there you have it. The Cape Town-based artist, part of oil-slick, independent label 1991's diminutive roster, flagrantly disregards expectation on his latest outing, channeling the Scissor Sisters at their most gloriously bitchy best, Ratchet-era Shamir, and the shimmering dance-pop of UK singer-producer Joe Flory, aka Amateur Best.

With an amusingly detached delivery that rivals Ben Stein's droning roll call in Ferris Bueller's Day Off , he sings "I just want to dance, and fuck, and fly, and try, and fail, and try again…hold up," against a squelchy bass line and stabbing synths. When the percussive noise of what sounds like a triangle dinner bell appears within the mix, one can't help but think that Gourmet is simply winking at his audience, as if to say, "dinner is served."

7. Pouvoir Magique - “Chalawan”

Like a psychoactive ayahuasca brew, the intoxicating "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique's LP Disparition, is an exhilarating trip into unfamiliar territory. Formed in November of 2011, "Magic Power" is the musical project of Clément Vincent and Bertrand Cerruti, who over the years, have cleverly merged several millennia of songs from around the world with 21st-century beats and widescreen electro textures. Lest ye be worried, this is anything but Deep Forest.

In the spring of 2013, Pouvoir Magique co-founded the "Mawimbi" collective, a project designed to unite African musical heritage with contemporary soundscapes, and released two EPs. Within days of launching their label Musiques de Sphères, the duo's studio was burglarized and a hard drive with six years of painstakingly curated material had vanished. After tracking down demos they shared with friends before their final stages of completion, Clément and Bertrand reconstructed an album of 12 tracks.

Unfinished though they might be, each song is a marvelous thing to behold. Their stunning 2016 single "Eclipse," with its cinematic video, might have been one of the most immediate songs on the record, but it's the pulsing "Chalawan," with its guttural howls, fluttering flute-like passages, and driving, hypnotic beats that truly mesmerizes.

6. Purple Disco Machine - “Body Funk” & “Devil In Me” (TIE)

Whenever a bevy of guest artists appears on a debut record, it's often best to approach the project with caution. 85% of the time, the collaborative partners either overshadow the proceedings or detract from the vision of the musician whose name is emblazoned across the top of the LP. There are, however, pleasant exceptions to the rule and Tino Piontek's Soulmatic is one of the year's most delightfully cohesive offerings. The Dresden-born Deep Funk innovator, aka Purple Disco Machine, has risen to international status since 2009, releasing one spectacular track and remix after another. It should go without saying that this long-awaited collection, featuring everyone from Kool Keith to Faithless and Boris D'lugosch, is ripe with memorable highlights.

The saucy, soaring "Mistress" shines a spotlight on the stellar pipes of "UK soul hurricane" Hannah Williams. While it might be a crowning moment within the set, its the strutting discofied "Body Funk", and the album's first single, "Devil In Me", that linger long after the record has stopped spinning. The former track with its camptastic fusion of '80s Sylvester gone 1940s military march, and the latter anthem, a soulful stunner that samples the 1968 Stax hit "Private Number", and features the vocal talents of Duane Harden and Joe Killington, feels like an unearthed classic. Without a doubt, the German DJ's debut is one of the best dance records of the year.

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