Review: Battle Chef Brigade

Battle Chef Brigade initially showed up on my radar when Trinket Studios opened a Kickstarter for the project back in 2014, with a good reason being because the aesthetic is one-hundred percent something that I am a sucker for. Soon after the release of the crowd-funding campaign I essentially forgot about the game almost completely, until this year when a new trailer popped up! In it I saw all of the things I want in a game, immediately adding it to my “Games of 2017 to play” list.

Now that it’s out, Battle Chef Brigade is something I find hard to describe. There come very few times where I feel at a loss for words about a game that I’ve been playing, something that a reviewer should never say. But sometimes there are these special types of games that come around, taking us on an adventure that we never expected. Battle Chef Brigade may very well be one of these games.

Now imagine, if you will, a gaudy golden dining room with tinted lights.

You and I are sitting at a table, discussing this year’s finest video games. On the table in front of us are NieR: Automata, Mario Odyssey, What Remains of Edith Finch, Breath of The Wild and Yakuza 0.

The waiter walks by and asks us, “Is there anything else you need for this delicious meal tonight?”
“Bring us the finest wine you have,” I ask very politely.
A few minutes later, the waiter drops off a copy of Battle Chef Brigade for the Nintendo Switch.
“Oh my,” you say.
I nod my head, “Only the best for us tonight.”

Battle Chef Brigade is surprising, not for its individual ingredients, but for how it mixes them together so well. The game is centered around a character named Mina Hann, a woman from a rural town that wants to be a chef but is shackled to her family’s restaurant. One day she sneaks out of her house to head to Capital City and attend a competition to join the ranks of the Brigade Chefs. These chefs are the most revered from around the world, known for using their intellect with food, medicine and science to help others. The role of a chef in the game’s world is highly regarded, and to become one she has to battle her way through seven other competitors.

The game has an amazingly simple and intuitive way to teach you how to play. On a day to day basis you, as Mina, do little side jobs in Capital City to earn some money, using the earnings to buy skills or cooking equipment (there’s a super dope broiler that you can buy). Around town you come across several characters that you can interact with, that will lead to improvements and new skills to utilize. You can help the old scientist Melchior learn different ways to affect food for better taste. There’s a woman named Thorn who focuses on teaching you combat techniques, but also occasionally gives you money. Through these small interactions with the characters around the town you get to meet the colorful cast that live within the city and also the ones that you’re competing against in the tournament. You can even work at a restaurant, where puzzles can be completed. The game is divided into days, so no matter what you take on, you have to do three tasks at specific locations and challenge someone in the city. The challenges at the three places all are integral to teaching you ways to improve your cooking and your puzzle solving abilities, before testing you on it for completion. The daily process weaves itself into the story so well, that though in most games these things would be a side quest, they feel integral to Battle Chef Brigade‘s main quest itself.

Taking on a challenge requires use of a special ingredient ala ‘Iron Chef’. The chef(s) will introduce themselves and tell you what elements of food they like, then immediately a clock pops up and you’re off to the races. Depending on how many people/ingredients you need to cook with, the challenge times can go up to 9 minutes, but with three minutes on the clock you move out to the battlefield. This is where the game changes again, and turns into a beat em up akin to Vanilla Ware’s Odin Sphere. There are dash, magic and normal attacks that all link into each other, and can make for some very SICK combos. Here you have to beat up enemies and collect their parts, which are used as element-based ingredients.

 

There are three elements in Battle Chef Brigade: water, earth and fire. You need to collect the right amount of different elements, and also make sure you get the required special ingredient, for the challenge to be complete. Alright, so let’s say a minute and a half has passed by, you’ve beaten up a few enemies and you have the ingredients — now you have to rush to the kitchen! This is where the cooking portion begins, presented as a match-three game. When you transition back to the battle arena, you immediately grab your pan and need to place the elements in it. The pan itself is represented by a 4×4 grid at the bottom, and what you need to do is match as many elements as possible to make sure your dish has enough flavour and the right amount of each. Matching three base Earth forms them into ONE level TWO gem. You need need to make three of these level TWO elements before you can make the final level THREE form, which represent the strongest flavor of each.  That’s a lot, right? Well that’s only the first chef battle out of many. Not only do you have six more battles ahead of you but you have more mechanics, characters, judges and enemies to overcome. There is also a challenge mode, an expert difficulty and an online exhibition. And, there’s a new online challenge from the chairman to compete in each day, with a different set of food to collect, utensils to use and judges to please. I take a bit of personal pride in being in the #1 spot for November, 11th on the Switch’s leaderboards.

Honestly, I’m finding it hard not to make a lot of cooking puns while talking about the game, but it’s hard to describe without them. All of the game’s systems are very unique but they come together and marinate into one delicious dish of a game. Every mechanic within it is executed masterfully, like Gordon Ramsay chopping garlic, and every interaction and reaction can be explosive, like Emeril shouting BAM! Watching a trailer of the game doesn’t do it any justice at all, either, as it’s something you need to experience on your own to really understand what makes everything work so well.

Battle Chef Brigade is truly one of the most exciting, fun, genuine and charming experiences I’ve had this year.

 

An eShop review code was provided to SideQuesting by the publisher.

Author: Zach Quest

I’m so boring I sat here and tried to think of a bio for a few minutes. Just follow my twitter: https://twitter.com/okayquest

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