Adult Swim is no stranger to the video game world. Games have been a core part of their website pretty much since its launch, and they have even done a few mobile games. Battle Chef Brigade is their first attempt (as publishers) at a more “full launch” indie game, and it was a hell of a starting point. The first thing I have to say about this game is that it’s difficult to explain what it is. It’s one part iron chef, one part puzzle game, one part monster hunter, with some RPG elements thrown in to round it off.
You play (mostly) as Mina, a girl that wants to join the Brigade. They are the top chefs in the world, and they compete to earn their spot (hence the Iron Chef). The first few chapters follow Mina as she plans to leave home and join the competition despite her parents not wishing her to do so. She makes good friends and starts to stand out in the competition. Then she is removed from the tournament much to her disappointment. Once this happens, the game takes a turn as suddenly several people are beginning to fall ill, and various chefs around the area are all noticing that something is wrong with the meat they use from hunted monsters. Mina rejoins her friends to find out what is happening. The plot is pretty compelling, although not entirely fleshed out. While nothing that is there is bad there is a bit of a limited feel to it. Still, it is enough to make a connection with the characters, and even drive home some strong emotions. Mina’s journey from highs to lows is one that I think many people can appreciate, the feeling of failure and being uncertain that you can ever overcome it. You also take over another character for a chapter, and his story to save his wife is downright touching. Still, the conclusion of the game (and cause of the poison) feels rushed, and the mystery doesn’t last too long. It’s hard to complain since I completely enjoyed what I did experience, but I did end up feeling that I wanted more.
Gameplay for the game is interesting and fun. You are given a time limit for each round and have to spend part of that time gathering resources for cooking and part for the cooking itself. Gathering is mostly done by hunting down animals on the map and picking up what they drop. There are some non-hunting ingredients, but they are more limited. You are given a theme ingredient and are asked to focus on a flavor related to earth, fire, or water. Each ingredient you gather will be part of those flavors.
Cooking is the puzzle game, as you add food to your cookware they have flavor crystals (again with the three elements and later other gems). Matching three will clear all but one and upgrade the remaining crystal. It’s like any other match game you’ve seen before only with the added touch that you decide what you are adding to the play field. If you need a lot of earth, you are going to use ingredients with green gems. You can also upgrade gems with other cookware, and even remove ones at later stages. It is pretty standard puzzle fare, but the “cooking” idea behind it makes it feel fresh. You spend as much time thinking about what ingredients you are adding as you do actually matching gems once they are on the field.
Once again though we sadly circle to the game feeling a bit limited. There are only three maps that you go hunting on, and you access most of the cookware fairly early in the game. Once everything is outlined, it won’t change much for the rest of the game. The poison eventually adds a new layer of challenge, but still, the game feels slightly small. As with the plot, it’s hard to complain, what is there is so good that I am not actually unhappy with it. If there could have been even one change, I would say more maps and enemies would have suited the game well.
When you do finish the main story, there are still daily challenges you can participate in as well as a higher difficulty level. Neither address my underlying issue, but it is nice to have both there to help add more ‘meat’ to the game.
One of the places the game shines completely is the art. The game is largely hand drawn and is a treat to look at. Each character has a unique look, and it just… feels nice. It’s not that I dislike non-hand drawn animation there is just something lovely about Battle Chef Brigade and the choice to go hand-drawn has a lot to do with it. The maps are rather small but nothing on them looks bad, there was care taken with the game, and it shows.
So in the end? I truly loved this game. I adore the characters, the plot was solid, there is enough silly humor that balances with other emotions, and it’s just damn fun. Maybe I mentioned that they could have added a touch here or there, but honestly even with saying that the game doesn’t feel lacking. It is honestly one of the best gaming experiences I have had recently, and I can’t wait to see more from the developers, Trinket Studios. Also, if this is the quality of game that Adult Swim is going to be publishing then bring it on. If you have a chance you should give this game a try; I hope you’ll enjoy it as much as I did.