Rating: E10+ for Fantasy Violence, Alcohol Reference, Use of Tobacco
Available for: Nintendo Switch, PC, OS X
Trinket Studios’ Battle Chef Brigade (2017) is probably the most fun I’ve ever had cooking…ever. In a game that combines both side-scrolling brawlers with quick-paced Match-3 puzzles, Battle Chef Brigade takes a new perspective into what daily life could mean for a society populated with Dungeons & Dragons archetypes.
The land of Victusia has an elite group of Brigadiers called the Battle Chef Brigade, skilled chefs who can not only cut down monsters but can also cook them into delicious meals. Mina, a Brigadier hopeful, runs away from home to enter into the Proving Tournament for her shot at joining the Brigadiers. As Mina proves her hunting and cooking skills against other Brigadier hopefuls, she, along with her friends Thrash and Kirin, uncover a a disease that is infecting many of the monsters and by extension, the population’s meals. The disease spreads across most of Victusia with nearly fatal results and causes many challenges for the chefs trying to handle the ingredients. Determined to find an answer, Mina and her friends work to find a cure and the source of the disease all while competing to join the illustrious Battle Chef Brigade.
For a bit of explanation for how the gameplay works, half of the game will be spent in a cooking duel with an NPC. During this duel, you have an allotted amount of time to both hunt for the Theme Ingredient (and additional ingredients) and cook meals to the judges’ Taste Preferences. These Taste Preferences are based on Taste Gems, divided into Earth, Fire, and Water, and will be distributed among different monsters/vegetables/fruits in the designated fighting area. Judges can ask for a single Taste Preference or any combination of Earth, Fire, or Water. Your goal is to match 3 of specific Taste Gems until you reach Level 3 Taste Gems using any of the ingredients available to you. The duels increase in difficulty, but with the help of intermediary puzzle and hunting challenges, you will grow in proficiency as the game goes along. I’m sure this all sounds easy, but the time restraint and the different requests the judges give you really have you working until the very last seconds.
I have to say, I fell in love with this game very quickly. Something about the combination of Dungeons & Dragons races/classes with Iron Chef-style cooking competitions as its central feature was so intriguing that you can’t help but be pulled in. Battle Chef Brigade is primarily a story about chasing your dreams, but it combines it well with a cooking-themed mystery to solve alongside the tournament. The game finds any excuse to throw you into another duel, but cooking is so well integrated into Victusia’s lore that it never feels shoehorned in. That was something else that I really loved about Battle Chef Brigade: the game was able to create this really interesting world centered around cooking. Cooking is something so normal in our daily lives, so to see a world filled with monsters and magic and have their priority be cooking was really interesting.
The funny thing is is that the land of Victusia only learned how to properly handle monster meat within the past century, due to the work of the first Brigadiers. Since then, the Battle Chef Brigade has become a respected entity, protecting people from dangerous monsters, teaching Victusia’s citizens how to cook these monsters, and researching how to prepare better and better meals using the resources they have. But good cooking has not been limited to the ranks of the Battle Chef Brigade: Mina’s family owns a well-liked restaurant in her village, Thrash’s wife’s cooking skills are on par with Thrash’s, and many other characters indicate that cooking is a skill that is not simply to be revered, it is necessary. Creating those smaller permeations is a great example of fleshing out and immersing the player into the established world and lore.
The characters and populous in Battle Chef Brigade also stood out to me: it is a world populated by humans, dwarves, elves, orcs, amongst other races. And even among the various races, each character had very distinctive character designs and class choices. While not every character was a Brigadier or competitor, it did add a level of intrigue for how each Brigadier hopeful fought and cooked, which made the duels themselves feel that much more unique. Even when you eventually fight as both Mina and Thrash, you can definitely feel the difference between the human rogue and the orc berserker. Much like every chef in reality adds their own style and flair to their craft, these characters had their own style for hunting their ingredients. Battle Chef Brigade has a set of Daily Challenges, so I would love to see if they eventually add more characters to the roster to play around with different fighting/cooking styles.
If I were to criticize one thing about the game, it would be that I felt a couple of the game’s chapters needed to be rearranged. In Chapter 5, you play as Thrash and you uncover some clues as to what is happening with the monsters in Victusia. This chapter, I feel, would have fit much better narratively had it been before Chapter 4, which finishes its own chapter with a conclusion to one part of the story. Where Chapter 3 begins the mystery, Thrash’s chapter could have built upon the intrigue and the references in Chapter 4 would have made a lot more sense. Other than that, the story was well-paced and a lot of fun from start to finish.
Battle Chef Brigade is a game I already know I will go back to again and again, mostly for the satisfaction of the gameplay and trying to see what kind of new recipes my combinations of ingredients will yield. The incredibly fun gameplay is well combined with a world that focuses on cooking and creates many opportunities for you to test your skills. It was exciting to see new characters introduced and how each challenge seemed to raise the stakes to a higher level of competition. While some parts of the story could have been narratively rearranged, I still loved how the story combined a “chasing after your dreams” theme with a culinary-centered mystery. If you have not played this game yet, I would highly recommend it. (Also, if you’re reading this, Trinket Studios, please add a multiplayer feature! I want to have culinary duels with my friends!)