Battle Chef Brigade review
If you tell me that I am going to play a side-scroller action RPG combined with a match 3 game, I am interested. If you tell me that it’s going to be combined with a fantasy cooking competition, you have my time and attention. Battle Chef Brigade (PC, Nintendo Switch) is just such a game, an odd mashup of genres that stands out for many other reasons besides its odd premise. Delivering delicious visuals, delightful characters, and delectable gameplay, Battle Chef Brigade is a game you should at least sample.
Battle Chef Brigade is an aesthetic standout in a year of aesthetic standouts, vivaciously illustrated with hand-drawn animations and backgrounds. Characters are filled with life, making excellent use of expressive emotional posing and shorthand you expect from cartoons and comics. Though I was at first skeptical, the voice acting in the game ended up being a highlight, with some standout performances from the main character, her family, and a troupe of villainous actors. The game’s music adds flavor to the environments but is never predictable: Bouncy, lively scores accompany scenes of comedy, but even dark caverns have a hint of a light-hearted theme to them.
The world of Battle Chef Brigade is straight out of a serial cartoon or comic. In the nation of Victusia, the nation’s elite soldiers are Battle Chefs, warriors who solved a food crisis by learning the art of slaying, cooking, and eating dangerous monsters. Your character is Mina Han, a young cook who runs away from her family’s restaurant to join the Battle Chefs. To do so, she must pass successive rounds of cooking challenges, defeating other chefs, and satisfying the esoteric tastes of judges while always remembering to include the theme ingredient. Along the way she makes friends, battles rivals, and confronts world-shaking chaos. The story as a whole is infused with comedy and positivity even during its grim moments. It is, in a word, a wholesome game - the kind of comfort food that’s perfect for a warm blanket on a couch or a lazy summer afternoon on the porch.
Battle Chef Brigade’s main draw is its eclectic mix of two game types. In a typical battle with another chef, you have to make one or more dishes to satisfy judges, ensuring that your dishes include a theme ingredient determined at the start of the match. As the whistle blows and the timer starts, you sprint out of the kitchen colosseum and through a portal to one of a handful of themed environments to hunt down your ingredients. Getting ingredients means fighting monsters and plucking vegetables in an action/platforming environment. Creatures like rampaging bull-monsters, thieving little birds, dragons, and hydras all have unique attack patterns and varied behaviors. You dodge, jump, and combo attack your way to victory, sometimes throwing out a few special moves or some magic. It’s not a particularly complex combat system, but it suffices, and mastering it saves precious seconds on your cooking clock.
Once you’ve collected the ingredients you want, you dash back to the kitchen and start tossing things into pots and cookers. As you place ingredients their elemental gems match, refining flavors and increasing the dish’s score. You can manipulate the dishes and match gems by stirring ingredients, cutting on a cutting board, simmering in a slow cooker, or one of many other, more esoteric and magical cooking implements you unlock as you progress. What begins as a simple situation of matching three gems quickly becomes a varied, customizable process as you learn to match two, or four, remove specific gems, or improve them passively as you work on a second dish.
The matches become more frantic as the game progresses, demanding more and more timing and skill. Juggling multiple dishes is incredibly satisfying, requiring frantic runs back into the monster-infested wilderness to pick up the right spice, just one more tomato, or a last-minute rack of ribs. The challenges never become too difficult, but you’ll almost certainly have to take more than one crack at some as you figure out which combination of implements, spices, and combat abilities will satisfy the judges’ palates. Matches are supplemented by a variety of challenges that earn you money to unlock new implements and abilities, like puzzles aimed at matching efficiency or timed challenges.
I expected Battle Chef Brigade to be a quirky game with a cute aesthetic and premise. A true curiosity, a casual mash up of two distinct game genres. Instead, what I found was that it was much better than it should have been. Filled with love, humor, and a refreshing lack of self-seriousness, I’d heartily recommend Battle Chef Brigade to anyone who asks about it.