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