reviews\ Mar 6, 2010 at 7:00 pm

Food Network: Cook or Be Cooked - WII - Review

As far as cooking games go, the Nintendo Wii has seen a number of genuinely fun titles. However, many of them are designed as weekend family diversions, with cartoonish visuals in trite “beat-the-clock” scenarios that only look like cooking. Food Network: Cook or Be Cooked is a powerful brand license has the potential to raise the bar on cooking games, weaving authentic techniques with realistic Wii-mote mechanics. The question is, just how well does it stand up to the heat?

Leading this culinary adventure are two experts straight from the Food Network, Mory Thomas and Susie Fogelson. You might ask: “Who the hell are these people? Where’s Nigella Lawson?” A fair question, but keep in mind, there are financial restraints to consider when hiring talent for video games. Besides, Nigella receives more than enough creepy letters already. Believe me, I know.

More importantly, your hosts are thorough, well-informed, and easy to understand. As you go about preparing each dish, they will offer helpful tidbits and feedback on your technique. This is infinitely preferable to some obnoxious ringing bell, or unintelligible text popping up every five seconds. Unfortunately, the popular contrivance of “competitive cooking” winds itself within the feedback system, mainly in the form of nitpicking criticisms from the hosts that would scarcely have any impact in a real-world cooking scenario. Try to stay thick-skinned however, and you’ll find the game actually does a decent job of presenting authentic methods and recipes like a fully-functional training tool.

The Wii-mote serves as a great instrument for simulating common exercises performed in kitchen settings. It will function as your knife, spatula, and even pan handle. One can easily envision an adopted or expanded version of CoBC finding its way into culinary schools, assuming it can be passed off as a cheaper, cleaner method of teaching certain aspects of the art. As a game, one of the biggest challenges might be found in the patience-testing cooking processes, which can be fast-forwarded with a simple button, but will definitely annoy casual players who were hoping for more “game” and less “cooking.” The true kitchen hero will be able to coordinate dishes strategically, ensuring each element is ready to serve at the same time (without serving anything cold, of course). Once again, this is something that may alienate casual gamers, but may impress veterans looking for a genuine culinary challenge.

Wii titles might not win many awards for the visual design, but CoBC at least offers recognizable ingredients that might send stomachs growling – though I suspect this is largely due to the well-simulated cooking process itself, making the food seem more “real.” In terms of replayability, Cook or Be Cook leaves something to be desired. The number of recipes is rather pathetic; it almost seems the game’s development cycle was cut short. This is a real shame, because the core mechanics work quite beautifully. If a sequel manages to take itself more seriously, this game could become one truly hot potato.

Review Scoring Details for Cook or Be Cooked

Gameplay: 7.5
A fairly impressive set of techniques simulated with the Wii-mote make this a cooking experience to remember. The fun is dampened mainly by a shortage of recipes.

Graphics: 6.5 
Nothing that will blow your mind, but the presentation is clean and clear.

Sound: 7.0
The hosts can be helpful, even if they come across as a bit overly critical.

Difficulty: Medium/Hard
As a more authentic simulation of kitchen chaos, Cook or Be Cooked isn’t for everyone.

Concept: 7.5 
We’ve seen similar titles in the past, but when the handiwork feels this real, it’s easy for it to go unnoticed.

Multiplayer: 7.0
There are modes approaching traditional “co-op” gameplay, but the real fun lies in waiting for your fellow chef to screw up his task.

Overall: 7.0
Cook or Be Cooked doesn’t quite ascend to culinary greatness, but the core elements are surprisingly well-executed. Given more time in development, this could become a truly impressive franchise.


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