What’s Cooking? with Jamie Oliver Review for Nintendo DS

What’s Cooking? with Jamie Oliver Review for Nintendo DS

A Recipe for Disaster

Like a tasty dish made with diverse yet compatible ingredients, the combination of cooking and video games can often be a winning recipe. With the advent of the Food Network, cooking shows and related food programs have become increasingly popular, so it’s no surprise to see more video game spinoffs sprouting up.

What's Cooking? with Jamie Oliver screenshot

Cooking Mama all but established the norm of incorporating some form of mini-game heavy cooking mechanics into the genre. As new games continue to come out, the more esoteric forms of gameplay creeping into the mix are yielding mixed results.

Also known as The Naked Chef, Jamie Oliver is a familiar young face to many non-gamers, and his pretty boy visage, pleasant English accent, and hunger-inducing recipes are now baked into a fresh offering on the DS. Oliver is no doubt a masterful chef, his delicious-looking cuisine is surely first-rate, and it’s undeniable he’s successful at what he does. However, his debut journey into the virtual realm of video games leaves us wondering whether it’d be better for him to stay in the kitchen. What’s Cooking? Jamie Oliver has plenty of interesting components and a solid design, but it suffers from a lack of direction. By trying to be too many different things at once, What’s Cooking? ultimately fails to substantially succeed at any of them.

One of the game’s main focuses is to serve as a virtual cookbook to assist players in the actual cooking process. This is a neat idea with a few truly helpful features. An extensive recipe list features a hundred of Oliver’s tasty dishes. In the interactive cookbook mode, you can easily pick through a list of different dishes ranging from fancy meals to basic treats. The list provides a picture of the dish along with other important information like cooking time and prep times, ingredients, and seasonal or setting recommendations. A variety of filters let you handily search through the list or sort it by ingredients, cooking time, and other elements. There’s even a vegetarian filter.

What's Cooking? with Jamie Oliver screenshot

Once you’ve selected a recipe, you can check out the ingredients needed for the dish and create a virtual shopping list right on the DS. In addition to the ingredients for a particular meal, you can add your own variations to the list through a letter recognition box or hunting and pecking the touch-screen keyboard with the stylus. Separately, you can even choose to come up with your own recipes and share them wirelessly. There are step-by-step instructions for you to follow, while preparing the meal. An on-board timer lets you track the minutes at each step if desired. A voice recognition feature can be turned on, allowing you to say “Next” or “Previous” to flip the digital pages of instructions without getting your DS all nasty with whatever’s stuck to your hands. The voice response element actually works surprisingly well.

When it comes to the actual deed of cooking, using the DS as a guide becomes a bit precarious. If you’re anything like me in the kitchen, there’s a very strong likelihood of putting your handheld in imminent danger just by it being perched within close proximity to food prep. It would be a little too easy to accidentally bump the DS and send it plummeting to an early demise on the kitchen floor or to a watery grave in the sink. Plus, spilling gobs of fluid ingredients or dribbling food bits on it would be a little too much to bear. Then there’s the matter of practicality. It’s far cheaper and just as simple to pick up a cook book, scribble down your shopping list on a piece of paper, and go to it the old-fashioned way.

What's Cooking? with Jamie Oliver screenshot

Moving on to the cooking game aspect, you’ll initially wind up in Oliver’s 3D virtual kitchen, though nine others can be unlocked. There you’ll 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 you’ll mix, chop, heat, combine, and cook ingredients as you follow the directions on the upper screen.

What's Cooking? with Jamie Oliver screenshot

The interface looks nice, but it’s rather awkward to use properly and tough to navigate. It’s also easy to misplace or lose track of ingredients you’ve pulled out, since you’re 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, it’s 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 they’re not particularly helpful when you’re 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 doesn’t 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, Oliver’s 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 can’t 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 What’s Cooking.

Decent 3D kitchens and snazzy pictures of yummy food are mingled with dull recipe and ingredient lists. 2.4 Control
It’s pretty tough to be effective in the kitchen with these stylus-frustrating controls. 1.0 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The canned instrumental music is horrible and Oliver’s poorly digitized “I’m going to eat your soul” voice is rather scary. 2.4

Play Value
The game portion of this title fails. The cookbook is interesting, but not enough to warrant the price of this package.

2.3 Overall Rating – Poor
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.

Game Features:

  • Learn to Cook with the Best!: Have fun while Jamie shows you how to create 100 of his delicious recipes.
  • Test it then try it : Try out Jamie’s recipes in one of ten virtual test kitchens using real ingredients; then try it at home.
  • Cook against the clock: Challenge yourself to make the perfect dish in no time and become a master chef.
  • Your own personal shopper: Create and store your personal shopping list so you never leave anything behind.
  • Create and share: Store up to 100 of your own secret recipes and share with your friends using DS Multi-Card Play.

  • To top