Title: Battle Chef Brigade
Available On: Nintendo Switch, Microsoft Windows
Played On: Nintendo Switch
Developer: Trinket Studios
Publisher: Adult Swim Games
Official Site: https://www.battlechefbrigade.com
Release Date: November 20, 2017
Where To Buy: Steam, Nintendo Switch eShop
By all rights, Battle Chef Brigade should not exist.
In all my years of semi-willingly watching The Food Network with my mother, I never thought, ‘They should make a video game like one of these shows.’ I never yearned for a fantasy game centered on Candy Crush-style puzzles. I never dreamed of controlling a warrior chef as my fighting prowess is tested alongside my skill in the kitchen. Even reading this description now, it just doesn’t add up.
Yet this is exactly what Trinket Studios serves up in Battle Chef Brigade, and somehow it works.
Published by Adult Swim Games in November for Switch and PC, Battle Chef Brigade is a unique blend of tile-matching puzzles and side-scrolling, beat-em-up action, all presented in a wild, fantasy-themed version of the cooking competition show Iron Chef. Confused yet? So was I.
At first glance, this game seems like a hodge-podge of random elements. One minute you’re mixing ingredients in a pot by matching colors together, the next minute you’re running outside and fighting monsters in snappy, combo-driven combat. Over here is a diverse set of strange characters, over there is a complex and thought-provoking loadout system, and don’t forget the familiar story about a young dreamer struggling to escape the sameness of her small town.
Through some miracle, Battle Chef Brigade takes this crazy conglomeration of ingredients and produces an experience that can only be described as delicious. Let’s dissect this flavorful dish piece by piece.
Battle Chef Brigade tells the story of Mina Han, a small-town chef in a family restaurant who dreams of joining the titular Brigade, an elite group of warrior chefs who basically act as culinary Jedi for the kingdom. When she runs away to enter the Brigade’s proving tournament, players are introduced to the main concept of the game: cooking battles.
These battles are clearly inspired by the show Iron Chef. They are hosted by a charismatic Chairman, and they feature a theme ingredient to be included in each dish. Each judge has a specific elemental flavor combination they will award bonus points for finding in their meal.
To prepare the dishes, players must first hunt for their ingredients. When exiting the kitchen, Mina transitions seamlessly into a side-scrolling brawler environment filled with platforms, pitfalls, and monsters. Combat maneuvers are intuitive and addicting to pull off. Mina can sweep low, knocking a monster into the air, then leap after it and unleash a series of quick blows, throwing a kitchen knife for good measure as it falls back to earth. Between her physical prowess, knives, wind magic, and numerous upgrades, hunting still feels fresh and enjoyable deep into the game.
After hunting comes the actual cooking. Each ingredient contains a different combination of colored “taste gems,” which can be aligned with gems of the same color to combine and promote their point value. When a player feels the dish is complete, it is turned in to the judges. Each cooking battle can call for one to three dishes. There are some interesting additions to this system that make things more complex later on. More on that in a bit.
The entire battle process, from hunting to cooking to serving, takes place on one timer, and the player commands full control of maneuvering between these phases. Difficulty in battle is often heavily dependent on the loadout of upgrades you bring with you, which encourages planning ahead but can sometimes feel more like trial and error.
The battle system tests time management, creativity, puzzle solving, and efficient combat in effective and exciting ways.
Even after I learned the various gameplay elements Battle Chef Brigade had to offer, I was unprepared for how intriguing the game would be on the narrative side as well.
Mina’s core plotline, while interesting enough, takes a backseat to the vibrant characters and the surprising amount of world-building to be found in this relatively short game. The world of Victusia, protected and fed by the Battle Chef Brigade, is positively teeming with colorful and compelling characters that make exploring between battles worthwhile.
The best example of Battle Chef Brigade‘s unique character portrayals is Thrash the orc. Thrash is a huge, green berserker who characters briefly control later in the game. He’s a beast in the hunting sections, tearing apart monsters in ways Mina never dreamed. But that’s not what makes him special.
Under the tough exterior, Thrash is a kindhearted and compassionate family man. Everything he does at the proving tournament is all for his wife and two young pups. This fascinating depiction of an orc softie is coupled with little glimpses into the culture of his race as a whole. Thrash is a microcosm of the game’s world-building as a whole: subtle, but very well-written.
In addition to the main story in two difficulties, the game offers challenge modes and even daily cookoffs that feed into an online ranking system. While Battle Chef Brigade can be completed in a matter of hours, there is still quite a lot of playability after the credits roll.
Battle Chef Brigade provided more enjoyment than I could ever have expected from a game of its kind, but it is not without its flaws.
Some added complexity to the cooking system is incorporated via important story developments, which is always something I like to see. However, these developments remove players from the main battle system right in the midsection of the story in a rather jarring manner. As the middle chapters progress, not only is the story told in a strange and off-putting order, but it isn’t until the final chapter that the gameplay returns to a sense of normalcy.
The game’s most crippling flaw is also its greatest strength: the number of separate elements. While these different ingredients make Battle Chef Brigade the great game it is, none of them are truly fleshed out to the extent I would have liked. Combat is never really hard: even the final climactic combat section is laughably easy. The cooking, while more developed by comparison, still leaves something to be desired, especially when opponents in later chapters are still making crucial mistakes.
The minigames, loadout system, and even the main story each feel just a teensy bit unfinished. I would have liked to see more from each of these ingredients in an otherwise wonderful dish.
Verdict: Battle Chef Brigade is the cooking game you never knew you needed. Trinket Studios skillfully blends seemingly disparate ingredients together to make something delectable. Some odd mid-story mixups and underdeveloped elements cause a slight hiccup in the works, but overall the integrity of the game’s charm and enjoyment remains intact. Battle Chef Brigade is a worthy addition to any Switch or PC library.
- Gripping, creative cooking battles
- Satisfying blend of puzzle and combat gameplay
- Extremely well-written characters
- Charming fantasy world
- Odd story order
- Slightly underdeveloped ideas