This Nintendo DS exclusive title simulates the operation of a French restaurant as players advance through tactile challenges to become a master chef. This cooking encounter has high challenges and excellent touch interactions, but more modes, music and game content and could have catapulted this casual game into the stratosphere.
The game's characters help serve up a decent mix of comedy and interest for players of all ages. Chef Jacques Marceau runs the restaurant with his assistant Nathalie, who loves to eat, the waitress Isabelle and you, the aspiring chef. The customers and local food critic, Gustave de la Broche, provide the challenge and some antagonism, at least for Isabelle. The game's developers allow for fast-forwarding past dialogue scenes by pressing select, but should've allowed this action after the mission is played at least once if they really wanted to engage players through the story. Real life cooks who know all the terms won't really need the optional 12-stage tutorial. Most players will likely jump into career mode, then missions to improve score, which range from a Master Chef (A) to Sous-Chef (E).
Following directions has become an increasingly rare skill today. This game demands great directional and cognitive skills for following recipes, so players without the aptitude need not apply. Completing recipes (using up to three different profiles) yields some satisfaction and entertaining character arcs, plus another incentive – you win all the recipes you successfully cook in the game, a nice bridge to real life applications. The total numer of recipes total more than 70 and include information on cooking length, needed equipment/material and basic steps, which either to allow some real world flexibility or reflect some game limitations on content details and presentation (depending on your point-of-view).
Most players can bypass the optional buttons to scroll text and change workstations (cutting board, hot plates, oven and prep table) because the fun touch controls save a LOT of time, which players need to conquer this amusing game. Players can scroll over the left column to identify each item, then complete the touch screen actions which include cutting, assembling brochettes, stirring/beating (complete with helpful color codes), folding/flipping, seasoning and cooking on stove top or in the oven.
Once completed, creations are graded by speed (check your green clock bars) and quality (seasoning, no overcooking, etc.) with reaction cut scenes of Isabelle and the customer(s). Unsuccessful dishes produce negative reactions before players must repair their food fiascos by repeating the mission.
A high temperature setting can save time, but the food burns easy, which creates another hurtful vice – throwing away your hard work, which really hurts quality score and costs valuable time on the speed score. Demands on speed greatly increase starting at the 15th mission.
Ideally, the all important recipe text scrolls down the top screen as you advance, but can often come to a stand still if you try to work ahead or go overboard on your multitasking. In difficult missions, players might write recipe steps and correct seasoning combinations, which do not change after retrying the same mission, on paper as a helpful reference.
This creative experience would have benefited from some expanded gameplay like a free style mode where players can cook their own concoctions and have the different characters (who have different likes/tastes) try them for bonus points or other incentives. Players could even unlock more content through specific combinations or actual recipes/variations and matching them with the correct restaurant customer. A nice cooking title, which skews older players a bit, full of entertaining edutainment.
Gourmet Chef: Cook Your Way to Fame is rated E (Everyone) by the ESRB for Alcohol Reference, Comic Mischief and Mild Language.