|System: DS||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Atari||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Keen Games||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Oct. 21, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
Moving on to the cooking game aspect, youll initially wind up in Olivers 3D virtual kitchen, though nine others can be unlocked. There youll be able to cook meals by jumping back and forth to different stations like the sink, stovetop, island, the fridge, and a convection oven. Using the stylus youll mix, chop, heat, combine, and cook ingredients as you follow the directions on the upper screen.
The interface looks nice, but its rather awkward to use properly and tough to navigate. Its also easy to misplace or lose track of ingredients youve pulled out, since youre often prepping different ingredients at different stations. Interacting with the ingredients and tools is imprecise at times. The commendable complexity and depth the developers were going for is certainly apparent. However, its executed in a way that tends to be more confusing and frustrating than fun.
The Test Kitchen mode gives you recipes to complete at your own pace with the purpose of unlocking new dishes as you get better. A series of tutorials shows you the basics, but theyre not particularly helpful when youre neck deep in preparing a dish and problems arise. Get Stuck In mode lets you freely create your own dishes, while Cook Off challenges you to complete dishes accurately within the allotted time. Even with multiple play modes, the game doesnt really instill a strong sense of purpose or achievement when completing recipes.
Visually, all of the professionally snapped photographs of each dish are wonderful. They make the meals look appealing. Oliver never pops up in the gameplay himself, but his likeness is plastered all over transitional screens. The kitchen graphics are decent. In contrast, all of the audio in the game is borderline horrendous. Over at the decoration and presentation station of the kitchen you can tap the nearby radio to pick from atrocious, feel-good instrumental tunes sporting names like The World Can Be Nice, A Week in Santa Fe, and, You Are My Friend. Most of the songs are painful to listen to. Also, Olivers voice crops up frequently to read dish names and offer upbeat snippets of praise or encouragement. Unfortunately, his voice sounds extremely garbled and robotic.
On his website, Oliver expressed excitement about sharing a cookbooks worth of recipes with gamers on the DS, as he hopes to get as many people cooking easy, tasty meals as possible. Granted, some who pick up the game may indeed find it useful to learn how to cook a few solid dishes, but this is nothing that cant be done in a more practical manner by grabbing one of his cookbooks. The actual gaming portion of this package is painfully unintuitive and fails to deliver any sort of experience of lasting worth. A food analogy properly sums it up. Pizza, salad, and cake are all good on their own, but haphazardly mash the three together results in an unpalatable mess. Sadly, such is the case with Whats Cooking.
CCC Staff Contributor