Personal Trainer: Cooking Review for Nintendo DS

Personal Trainer: Cooking Review for Nintendo DS

Classy Cooking

Though the advent of cooking video games is still a very recent phenomenon, the range and scope of food-related ventures in the gaming world have fluctuated and expanded rapidly in recent years.

Personal Trainer: Cooking screenshot

Cooking Mama may have kicked off an entirely new and exciting genre, but others have taken the chef’s hat and ran with it. While initial cooking game efforts focused on mini-games, the latest trend has slowly shifted towards attempting to impart some level of culinary skill upon players. Nintendo’s very own Personal Trainer: Cooking is easily the cream of the crop of such endeavors.

To call Personal Trainer: Cooking a game is really a misnomer. There’s no gameplay involved. Instead, it’s a highly interactive, full-featured digital cookbook and training program. Budding chefs who cringe at the thought of thumbing through an old-fashioned, dusty cooking tome to hunt for recipes will find this compact digital package easy to navigate and actually fun to use. Jamie Oliver’s recent attempt at a cooking game was a bust, because it spread itself too thin attempting to be both a game and a digital cookbook. Nintendo cuts to the chase and focuses solely on the cook book and training elements. The result is more thorough and less gimmicky than Oliver’s offering, and it’s ultimately very successful.

Some may argue there’s little need to make a cookbook in video game format, when you can get thousands of recipes in bound form for far cheaper at any book store. In most regards, Personal Trainer: Cooking makes the food planning, preparation, and cooking process far more palatable to those of us who do not possess latent culinary abilities. Navigating and deciphering a cookbook can raise lots of questions that aren’t easily answered by novice chefs. This can be intimidating to folks who don’t know their way around the kitchen. Fortunately, the interactive experience the title provides goes far beyond simple reading. The game does its job well, making you feel like someone who knows what they’re doing is standing right there guiding you.

Personal Trainer: Cooking screenshot

Whether you’re pre-planning your meal, shopping for ingredients, doing prep work, or actually cooking the food, Nintendo’s software holds your hand every step of the way and provides crucial information and clarifications to many questions that might arise. Not only does it offer 245 different recipes from around the world and step-by-step instructions on how to prepare them, it also jams in loads of little helpful features, tips, and even video instructions to make the process less daunting and more enjoyable.

Perusing recipes is simple, thanks to the straightforward interface. You can search by ingredients, country of origin, keywords, and by more specific requirements like cooking time, difficulty, and calories, among other things. Instead of hunting and pecking with the stylus during specific searches, two small boxes let you quickly draw letters when doing a specific search. The handwriting recognition software works quite well. Once you’ve narrowed down the kinds of dishes you’re interested in by category, you can sort them further by name, picture, by country, or their meal type. Dragging the stylus over a particular dish selected brings up a beautiful picture of the food on the top screen that’s accompanied by important information like cooking time, caloric content, and a brief narrative on the dish.

Personal Trainer: Cooking screenshot

The variety of foods featured in Personal Trainer: Cooking are divided nicely between salad, soups, noodles, rice and bread, meat, fish, veggies, side dishes, and desserts. Certain countries’ like France, Italy, and China have their cuisine featured more prominently than others, but the mixture there’s still a good range of meals and side-dishes to pick from.

Folks with specific food allergies, dietary restriction, and picky palates will also love the ability to track dishes and ingredients they can’t have. It’s important to note you can hand-pick ingredients you do not eat in the options menu. This will mark which dishes contain ingredients you’ve excluded from your diet, when browsing the recipes.

Personal Trainer: Cooking screenshot

Other minor touches like a fully functioning kitchen timer, a shopping list, a built-in calculator, a tracking system that tells you how many times you’ve created a particular meal, and a calendar that tracks what meals you’ve made and on what days you’ve made them. A cooking A-Z section provides a wealth of kitchen knowledge, from ingredient substitution and terminology to cooking tips and homemade ingredients. Also, 20 short video clips provide further instruction.

A vibrant and warm presentation gives Personal Trainer: Cooking a lot of personality for a glorified cookbook. Your personal trainer and narrator, a simple animated line-drawing of a mustachioed chef, has a pleasant voice and a cadence that can be sped up or slowed down to suit your taste. He’s a cheerful, friendly fellow that dishes out good advice and congratulations for every dish you make. During the food prep and cooking process, your chef buddy narrates each step of the instructions in a simple, easy-to-understand way.

Easily the best feature of the entire game, the voice recognition software lets you cook hands-free. In fact, the whole step-by-step food preparation process is excellently executed. The chef trainer narrates each step and then waits for your instruction before proceeding. Though you can navigate through the recipe with the stylus, it’s far better to do so verbally by saying “last step,” “repeat,” and “continue.” At any time in the recipe when additional instruction or clarification is available, another option will pop up. Saying “more details” then brings up the additional information, before returning to the recipe when you’re ready. For safety reasons, each recipe begins with the preparation phase before completing to the cooking phase.

DS owners who haven’t got a clue on how to cook but are willing to give it a shot will find Personal Trainer: Cooking to be a highly rewarding investment. This package surpasses the novelty of having a slew of recipes and a personal backup up chef teaching you the ropes. It can open up a whole realm of possibilities for gamers who wouldn’t step within 10 feet of a cookbook otherwise. At a price of $20, your stomach will thank you.

Colorful photos, clean menus, and easy navigation make it a pleasant experience. 4.6 Control
Hands-free voice recognition software works amazingly well, while the stylus works great in a pinch. 3.9 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The pleasant background music changes to match your dish’s nationality. The chef’s voice and dialogue is great. 4.0

Play Value
While it’s definitely not a game, there’s a ton of use to be found in this great program.

4.2 Overall Rating – Great
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.

Game Features:

  • Cooking Guide includes more than 200 recipes from around the world. So no matter what you’re in the mood for, you can find something new and tasty to make for dinner. Users can search a map by country to find regional dishes or select options for low-calorie foods, specific ingredients or short cooking times.
  • Each recipe contains step-by-step directions and photos to make it possible to prepare dishes you’ve never tried before. Use the stylus or simple voice commands to “turn the page.” A tap of the touch screen lets you adjust the serving size automatically, and users can write and save cooking notes, just as they would in a paper recipe book.
  • The Cooking Guide chef talks you through the entire cooking process. Recipes include photos of the dish as well as instructional videos on how to perform different cooking techniques, such as how to chop an onion or clean a fish. Users can access a handy reference function to explain unfamiliar terms and cooking techniques when they appear.
  • The software includes a timer and calculator, as well as a search function to help you find what you’re looking for. Cooking Guide also includes an ingredient checklist to use as a shopping list ? just put a mark next to the items you need and bring your Nintendo DS to the grocery store.
  • Learn from the best! You and the Chef will collaborate on a wide variety of recipes, with videos of techniques, explanations of ingredients, and expert advice. With its innovative interface and the interactivity that only the DS can provide, it’s a perfect learning tool for the budding chef.
  • Shop with the Nintendo DS! As you browse recipes, just tap a box to mark ingredients you need to buy. The DS will automatically store them in your in-game shopping list. Later you can take your DS to the store and check off the ingredients as you put them in your cart.
  • What do you want to cook today? Search for recipes by ingredients, calorie count, cooking time, difficulty, and more.
  • Talk back to the Chef. Hands covered in batter? Keep your DS clean using voice commands to continue to the next page, repeat a step, go back, and more.

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