Are you one of those people who are more adept at video games than cooking? I’m not, but I’d rather play DS than cook. If you have more experience playing than cooking, but would love to be a better cook, America’s Test Kitchen: Let’s Get Cooking might just be the “game” for you.
Let’s Get Cooking serves as a solid introduction for beginner cooks. It includes 300 recipes, most of which are basic (although I did get a kick out of learning how to cook Chinese sticky rice), and it takes the user step-by-step through the preparation process. A friendly cartoon chef is the guide; real-life chefs provide lessons in various cooking techniques. There is a calendar feature which can be used to find meal suggestions for a variety of “special days,” such as Easter, Mother’s Day and Thanksgiving.
The first lesson a prospective cook receives is a list of safety precautions, good reminders for any cook. Next up is the cartoon chef who welcomes the user, and on April 2, said “It’s almost Easter; let’s get cooking.” Shopping list and notepad features are handy, but “Cooking A-Z” is good for beginning and intermediate cooks, with sections on ingredients, utensils, preparation, chopping and cutting, terminology, helpful tips, example videos (simple instructions from human chefs), and important points.
Each “Cooking A-Z” section includes an alphabetical index listing the information offered. Need to know what a bench scraper is? It’s listed under utensils. In the terminology section, you can learn about boiling. There are even tips to help surmount your fear of frying. I particularly like having a quick, compact reference for terms; it's my favorite aspect of the software.
Most of this information (and lots more) is included in cookbooks, and there are thousands of them out there. America’s Test Kitchen: Let’s Get Cooking
offers demonstrations and a guide that takes the user through a recipe at the user’s own pace. It also provides instructions for group cooking, telling each member of the group when it’s time to do something. A real-time clock serves as a timer, advising when a step is complete. The cartoon chef’s speech can even be slowed or quickened to suit the user.
To start, a group profile is created. Each member of the group chooses a color and a face icon, then enters a first name, birthday (the calendar keeps track of members’ birthdays and records when a recipe is prepared), and whether heat and knives can be used. Finally, the group member’s name is spoken and saved; in group situations, the software calls a person’s name when it’s his or her turn (and assigns tasks based on whether heat and knives can be handled).
There are several ways to choose recipes. Browse through a listing of all the recipes, broken down by category, or choose an ingredient (or several) and search for recipes that include it. Don’t like green beans? They can be excluded from recipe searches, or recipes can be marked with “x” indicating they include unwanted ingredients. The cook can decide to use the recipe with substitute ingredients or skip it altogether. Recipes also list calorie information.
The best uses of Let’s Get Cooking are for group cooking—it handles delegating tasks, and keeps all the cooks focused—and learning how to cook. Experienced and expert cooks, especially those who think that recipes are merely “guidelines” not to be taken too seriously, will find it a bit too basic. For cooking groups with more than one DS, recipes can be sent to additional players, allowing more than one recipe to be prepared at a time. This game is not to be used by unsupervised children; don’t give it to your kids and expect to stay out of the kitchen.
Bottom line: Would I buy America’s Test Kitchen Let’s Get Cooking? Yes, as a gift for teens who want to learn to cook, and families who like to make cooking a group project.
America's Test Kitchen: Let's Get Cooking is rated E (Everyone) by the ESRB.It includes Alcohol Reference.