For those people who love in-your-face insults (you know who you are), the latest chef game adapts Gordon Ramsay's television show complete with bleeped out orders barked loudly from his virtual avatar when players do not meet expectations. This unique status (how many fighting games would allow a general to shut the game down when players don’t complete missions?) is visualized well in a flaming patience meter. High quality orders and fast service restore the meter. If the pressure gets too much players can always turn down the volume or turn off Ramsey’s voice.
Players get a one to five-star rating in the categories of food starters, main courses and desserts. The basic procedure as cook and waiter is to greet, take food orders, cook, serve and clear tables as the bland customers leave. The single player career mode follows a calendar format where players progress through titles and star ratings to unlock more days. This mode can be conquered by most in single digit hours, but perfecting those scores might take longer. The arcade mode has more stations while the multiplayer co-op or competitive (this game’s best selling point) provides some nice sparks and variety. Players fight for ingredients on the red side or blue side to get the best time and quality
The point and click controls work well, another great testament for the Wii’s motion capabilities. The kitchen really starts cooking once players learn how to synchronize cooking start times so all dishes finish at the same time. Players can only fail in the cooking area if food is left on the stove after the time is up – there’s no way to take food off the stove before the time expires. The cooking counters even provide a ring, so players in the dining room can switch back and quickly transfer the food to dishes. There are no specific guides, just estimations and working out special strategies like checking the cooking counters then counting them off while in the dining room.
Unlockables include several recipes, but they are not easily accessible/reproducible. The in-game text is very small, so unless there is a TV/Wii setup in the kitchen, players will have to transcribe these hard-earned recipes (luckily, four nicely-printed recipes appear in the game manual). Some kind of SD card transfer would be ideal here. No background stories or character plots, just succeed with the restaurant or game over. More positive customer reactions, sounds or dialogue would enhance the game more – Ramsey is the only one who really gets to talk.
The graphics could use more distinct colors, though object glows and color outlines help. Larger graphics in the kitchen or close ups of the food would be great since players don’t really get a satisfying food interaction. Basically, players just point, hit the A button and food sets magically mix like someone just cast a spell on it. Some close up character cut scenes (besides Ramsey) and/or decorative changes would be nice.
The replay value is probably the strongest element because some players will insist on trying for higher scores on every day plus the multiplayer option appeals as well. Simple game play and challenging multitasking make a below average substitute for a full cooking simulation, which puts more emphasis on action and achievements instead of the food-making process.
Hell's Kitchen is rated T (Teen) by the ESRB for Mild Language. This game can also be found on the Nintendo DS and PC.