I’m a big fan of cooking shows. In particular, The Food Network’s “Iron Chef” and “Iron Chef America” are must-view programming for me. As a home cook with chef-esque pretensions, watching Cat Cora, Mario Batali, Masaharu Morimoto and others battle other chefs to make fantastic dishes within 60 minutes is scintillating TV. I have often wondered what it would be like to participate in a head-to-head competition in that pressure cooker known as “Kitchen Stadium.”
So when I saw that a game publisher Destineer was releasing “Iron Chef America: Supreme Cuisine” (“ICA:SC”) for the Wii, to say I was intrigued would be an understatement. How, I wondered, could you translate a cooking competition into a video game?
The Wii from Nintendo is a pretty awesome console with its motion-sensing controller, but could it be versatile enough to make a cooking game interesting?
With “ICA:SC,” game developer Black Lantern Studios has created a game that takes some of the finer points of culinary know-how and blended them into a fairly entertaining and credible game.
Players take on the role of the challenger. They can opt to go for “School,” “Quick Play” or “Career” gameplay. At “School” gamers have the opportunity to master their knife skills and other cooking tasks. “Quickplay” puts players into Kitchen Stadium for a quick face-off against standard Iron Chefs. As the player defeats more difficult opponents, more chefs and new dishes are unlocked.
In “Career” mode, virtual chefs climb the culinary ladder, competing against one-star, then two-star and higher competitors. Each defeated Iron Chef will unlock a new, higher-ranking chef for players to challenge.
Once a gameplay mode has been selected and the Iron Chef has been chosen, players can choose one of 15 theme ingredients. In Career mode, however, the Chairman chooses a secret ingredient, and it’s then up to the challenger to select three to six dishes that will be prepared during the cook-off.
Gamers chop, slice, flatten, boil, mix, pour, grind, roll, fillet, pressure cook, grate, fry, grill and more, all using the Wii remote controller. Players need to be careful not to take too long lest they wind up running out of time and not completing a given task. With the various components of different dishes finished, it’s time to plate the food, easily accomplished by placing the item in the highlighted spot.
You Be the Judge
Any fan of “Iron Chef” show knows that after the food has been plated, it’s time for the judging to begin. That is where the game takes a mysterious turn for me. After several hours spent playing “Iron Chef America: Supreme Cuisine,” I’m still not sure what the judging — and therefore the game — is based upon.
Although I’ve won every competition so far, I still don’t know what a game-winning strategy would look like. I also would have liked to see more choice built into the game so that I could choose how I wanted to plate a dish or exactly how I wanted to roll out pie dough, for example. What if my culinary expertise told me I wanted to try frying my lobster ravioli instead of boiling it? There’s not much freedom and no sandbox mode that I have found in “ICA:SC.”
It would also be nice to know if points are subtracted if a pot boils over, the pressure cooker blows up or food is mixed out of the mixer. Also, I should be able to use my Mii as a character in the game — a frequent gripe I have when playing some games not developed specifically by Nintendo. That would be better than have to select one of the two generic chefs available.
Overall “ICA:SC” is entertaining enough to keep me playing until I reign supreme in Kitchen Stadium, have taken on all comers and won all the cooking skills badges/awards available.
However, I’m not sure the game has enough spice to make it interesting for the non-cook.