Prior to Overcooked, we would have been a bit sceptical about a video game where the primary objective is to cook food. Overcooked, however, proved that spending time in the kitchen can be the base for a great multiplayer game. Battle Chef Brigade wants to prove that food-based games can be just as tasty for the solo player, and it goes about this in a most creative way. Where Overcooked is all about quantity and serving up as much as possible, here you're instead focused on individual dishes. You'll never cook more than three dishes at once, and for much of the game, you're only asked to prepare one or two dishes. This game is all about giving that one dish the love and attention it deserves. All of the ingredients you put in (more on this later) bring specific tastes, represented by coloured balls. A red ball will give you a fiery hot taste, blue is watery and refreshing, green offers the rich taste of nature. If you place three green next to each other you can combine these to a bigger ball which gives a much richer flavour. Add to this pots that let you upgrade the taste balls by only having two next to each other, pots that upgrade them slowly but automatically, as well as ingredients that can change colour, and you've got the foundations of a fun and effective puzzle game.
You're always on the clock, however, so you can't just work on the flavours forever. You're often limited to two or three minutes of work, and therefore you need a steady hand and a good tactical overview to become the best chef. The game does a great job of slowly introducing the player to these mechanics. What seems simple enough at the start turns into a very complex puzzle game, but there's also a great balance between challenge and not getting overwhelmed. The puzzle part of the game is, on the whole, incredibly well implemented, but unfortunately, there's one more aspect you need to consider when cooking, and this one is not as well done.
Before you can prepare the food, you have to collect the ingredients, and you do this by stepping out into the garden and putting down monsters. The combat system is basic and not very rewarding. There are some good ideas here, such as the one where if a bird eats your prey before you can pick it up, it will lay an egg that you can use in your dish instead. However, these inspired ideas are few and far between. Often there is a larger monster hiding in the level, the one that gives you the most ingredients, but the battles against them can be drawn out and, at times, frustrating experiences. As previously mentioned you only have a little bit of time to prepare your dish, so a larger monster that constantly pushes you away can steal much of your most valuable resource. The combat system works, but when put next to the brilliant puzzle mechanics it doesn't impress.
And the dialogue doesn't impress either. It's not outright poor, and for the most part, folks interact well with each other in harmony with the visual style, but at times the dialogue simply doesn't make sense. The game quickly falls into a repetitive routine. You get up, complete the objectives across your three jobs, challenge a person in town to a cook-off, go to bed, and repeat. Suddenly there was a character who apparently knew me from before and played a key role in the story. The only problem was that we'd never met him before. We had never challenged him, and so we were never introduced, something the game simply ignored. Much later in the game we did challenge him to a cook-off and were then given the introduction we'd missed out on that the game chose to ignore, this after we'd already had several interactions. Apart from this rather odd experience, the dialogue and voice acting to a solid job, although perhaps we're being quite forgiving thanks to beautiful and varied character design.
As we mentioned before, things quickly become routine. Your three tasks give you money which you can use for equipment for your battles, and thankfully most of the tasks are rather fun. Our favourite sees you maximising the taste from a given set of ingredients. Here there is no time limit so you can lean back and figure things out. Another task sees you cook as many dishes as possible, preferably by tweaking the ingredients slightly, and it also makes for a nice change of pace, whereas the final job tasks you with hunting. You need to put down specific animals, but as we've already explained, that this wasn't our favourite part of the game, it should come as no surprise that we opted out on a few occasion when our coffers were already full.
Battle Chef Brigade is a nice little surprise. Where Overcooked showed us how digital food preparation can be fun with friends, Battle Chef Brigade shows us how it can be fun alone. It's not the perfect dish, as we experienced inconsistencies in the dialogue and the ingredient collection wasn't very engaging, but nevertheless, we had a good time in this particular kitchen. Its charming visual style will make you crave a good meal, and it's impossible not get swept away by Battle Chef Brigade. Vive la Brigade.