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‘Battle Chef Brigade’ is a Wholesome Dish Chock-full of Fun

‘Battle Chef Brigade’ is an action-puzzler that captures the uniquely hectic creativity you can only find in the kitchen. Despite some technical hiccups and stilted presentation, the game shines as a gorgeously wholesome and frantic take on cooking.

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Battle Chef Brigade Review

My father was born in a poor neighborhood in the Filipino province of Cavite. What he lacked in money, he made up for in creativity. He would craft his own toys, find odd jobs around the neighborhood to earn money and cook meals with anything he could get his hands on. That sense of improvisation never really left him. To this day, he’ll put together meals with whatever he finds in the fridge or low-cost ingredients he managed to snag at the grocery store. Sometimes the results are questionable at best, laughable at worst. But for the most part, his keen sense of taste and innovation have made for memorable dishes that surprise us with how good they are.

People often take innovative to mean coming up with new ideas. I don’t necessarily disagree. Rather, it’s more apt to think of “innovation” as coming up with new ways to present old ideas. As I described in my write-up of Nintendo’s philosophy on fun, “lateral thinking” is this notion of taking what already exists and re-purposing it. Battle Chef Brigade has done just that.

Like the meals you’ll create, Battle Chef Brigade is a game that’s greater than the sum of its parts. It gives tools and a framework for the player to be creative and innovative. It never punishes you for straying off the beaten path; quite the opposite. The game encourages and rewards the player for improvising. While there are some technical hiccups and questionable design choices throughout the game, Battle Chef Brigade serves up a wonderful experience that leaves you hungry for more.

Viva La Brigade!

Battle Chef Brigade infuses anime-inspired storytelling with wholesome warmth. The story takes place in the fictional country of Victusia, a nation once plagued by monsters and foul beasts. 100 years before the game takes place, a pair of legendary hero-chefs led their people to fight back and claim their rightful place at the top of the food chain. Thus, the titular Battle Chef Brigade was born: an elite cadre of warrior-cooks that hunt monsters and turn them into tasty dishes.

The narrative is a fairly large component of Battle Chef Brigade, and for the most part, it’s done pretty well. The game’s story takes several pages right out of the anime playbook by treating a campy premise with some degree of gravitas. The world of Victusia and its elite battle-cooks fit right in with schoolkids wearing power-imbuing uniforms or culinary delights that cause people to have clothes-shredding orgasms.

The bulk of the game follows Mina Han, a young chef who dreams of bigger and better things beyond her small village. After sneaking away from home, she runs off to Brigade Town to compete in the annual Battle Chef Brigade Tournament. Only the best of the best will emerge as fully fledged Brigadiers. In spite of the fierce competition, Battle Chef Brigade takes a page out of the Great British Baking Show by emphasizing self-improvement and camaraderie. Many of the competitors become Mina’s friends who, even in the face of defeat, offer her a friendly smile or warm words of encouragement.

‘Battle Chef Brigade’s narrative is standard anime fare, but the characters’ unique charms and quirks shine through. There’s a wonderful bit of dialogue that lampoons the ridiculous titles the chefs are given, like “The Iron Stomach” or “The Benevolent Berserker”.

Straight Out of a Fairy-tale

Although it’s clearly inspired by action-oriented anime, Battle Chef Brigade notably slides the scale a little closer to the realism spectrum. By doing so, the end result is more storybook in quality. What that means is that although the stakes are never quite that high, there’s a comforting warmth suffused in everything. Much like Kiki’s Delivery Service or Little Witch AcademiaBattle Chef Brigade‘s fantastical elements exist as a natural part of everyday life. There’s a system of economy and exchange at work in Victusia: everything exists for a reason.

If the game took from Kiki’s Delivery Service and Little Witch Academia to inform their story, it most definitely evokes them in the fanciful rustic Western European setting. Battle Chef’s Brigade‘s visuals are nothing short of gorgeous. Everything in the game boasts a bright and vivid color palette. Buildings and characters alike are swept in broad watercolor strokes, framed within a lovingly detailed and sketched world.

The game’s art style and design call up the grand, sweeping, colorful scale of Japanese games like ‘Final Fantasy’ or ‘Valkyria Chronicles’. Victusia’s rustic European setting redone with an anime aesthetic heavily evokes anime like ‘Kiki’s Delivery Service’ and ‘Little Witch Academia’.

Through dedicated narrative segments, character interactions, and small item descriptions, you can piece together a cozy patchwork of the world and its inhabitants. Despite the premise being centered around a competition, Battle Chef Brigade‘s story and characters are surprisingly wholesome. I’d suspect this comes from the fact that a Western studio developed the game. All of the dialogue flows naturally, further reinforced by a stellar voice-acting crew. They bring the game’s characters to life and instill so much personality in a diverse cast; Mina, the protagonist, is a refreshing mix of pragmatic, caring, and headstrong.

There are, unfortunately, some minor quibbles I have with the visuals. There were more than few instances of assets and character models that weren’t where they should’ve been. Perhaps more noticeable was the limited animation. Mina herself has gorgeously animated movement and attack cycles, but aside from a few other characters, it seems to end there. This is never a huge issue, as the game takes some clever workarounds to hide it, but once you notice a static image sliding offscreen to simulate “movement” it’s hard to not see it again.

The Tools to Cook and Create

Wrapped inside of this gorgeous package lies a myriad of systems and mechanics that blend in perfect harmony. The game takes a very similar approach to Hand of Fate, where several smaller mechanics add up to create an experience that’s greater than the sum of its parts. Aside from the narrative, the core gameplay is divided into three distinct aspects: spatial reasoning, platform brawling, and fast-paced improvisation.

Each of these elements is reflected in three jobs that Mina can pick up around Brigade Town to earn money. The player can choose one of three jobs to take on: performing food researching, hunting monsters, and working in a busy diner. All three jobs require different skills from the player and culminate in Battle Chef Brigade‘s defining feature: cooking.

The brawling component is fairly basic, but when used as a way to get ingredients it suddenly gains quite a bit more depth. You can’t go around indiscriminately killing everything. You need to be careful about what kinds of ingredients you pick up and how they’ll work with each other to fit the judges’ tastes.

At first glance, the cooking is fairly standard Match-3 gameplay (in the style of Bejeweled). Dishes are made by working with the three elements of Earth, Water, and Fire. By combining basic gems into more powerful ones, you can gain higher points for your dish. Once the game eases you into the cooking system, it starts throwing a few curveballs at you like poison, bones, and a persnickety panel of judges.

The Brigade Tournament is structured around a series of duels: 7 wins and you make it to the final round; 3 wins and you’re out of the tournament. Each duel pits you against another competitor. You must both create dishes that appease judges, who oftentimes have very different preferences. The genius behind the game shines in the duels. The three jobs that Mina can pick up around town play perfectly into its mechanics. But best of all is that the game actively promotes creativity in how the player prepares their dishes.

When you’re not brawling, you’re cooking. Cooking in ‘Battle Chef Brigade’ is largely symbolic, but still manages to capture the sense of hectic creativity that uniquely belongs to the kitchen.

With each job you complete, you earn money that can be spent on upgrades. These upgrades can range from added combat passives to different cooking tools. Depending on the kind of dishes you need and want to focus on, certain items and upgrades will work better than others. There are even items that can yield greater points for your dish by adding an element of risk to the preparation.

Outside of the main game, Battle Chef Brigade features three standalone modes: challenge duels, restaurant rush, and platform brawling. These are more or less the same as they are in story mode, with a couple small additions that bring quite a bit of replayability to the table. The challenge duels will actually cycle out on a regular basis, bringing new characters, loadouts, and competitors to the table.

For all three modes, however, daily leaderboards show players’ top scores. These were nice additions, as the core gameplay mechanics have decently high skill ceilings. You can get by well enough, but it’s possible to become extremely proficient at the game (the top leaderboard scores regularly have a large margin between them and lower scores). Although it might seem small at first, these added features do much to add to the game’s staying power by tying social competition into the player’s motivation to do well.

There’s nothing more satisfying than seeing your creations lined up in the post-Victory screen. Many duels ended with me being pleasantly surprised that I’d managed to cobble together a dish that delighted the judges.

A Great Dish That’s Close to Perfect

The story, unfortunately, is also where the bulk of my issues with Battle Chef Brigade lie. A lot of details and characters get tossed out with little to no setup. An event partway through the game separates Mina from her friends. Major events occur while she is away and little is done to explain things to the player.  As a result of this stilted pacing, the game’s story is a great idea that comes just short of being excellent.

It’s a bit of a shame, as there’s such a fun attention to detail that permeates this game. I want to know more about these that get thrown at me, but the game more or less tells me to just roll with it. That said, it doesn’t stop the game from being any less entertaining or charming.

Kyle grew up with a controller in one hand and a book in the other. He would've put something else in a third hand, but science isn't quite there yet. In the meantime, he makes do with watching things like television, film, and anime. He can be found posting ramblings on liketherogue.tumblr.com or trying to hop on the social media bandwagon @LikeTheRogue

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Brent Middleton

    January 14, 2018 at 12:02 pm

    Really great read. It made me want to check the game out until the story flaws were mentioned. Also caught that Food Wars reference towards the beginning haha!

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Game Reviews

‘AVICII Invector Encore Edition’ Review: Rhythm and Melancholy

‘AVICII Invector: Encore Edition’ is a music and rhythm game perfect for newcomers and fans of the genre.

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AVICII Invector Encore Edition Review

Developer: Hello There Games | Publisher: Wired Productions | Genre:  Rhythm | Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Steam | Reviewed on: Nintendo Switch


In terms of a pure adrenaline rush, nothing tops a well-designed rhythm game. Good rhythm games let players feel a euphoric sense of flow and even excitement. But the best the genre has to offer taps into the heart of music itself. AVICII Invector Encore Edition is a rhythm game perfect for newcomers to the genre but also works as a moving tribute.

I can’t tell where the journey will end
But I know where to start

Whether it’s tapping buttons in time with the beat, smashing feet on a dance pad, or moving an entire body in front of an IR camera, rhythm and music games have always been popular. AVICII Invector Encore Edition takes inspiration from music games that came before it but stands firmly on its own. It’s wonderfully accessible, truly a music game for anyone. From diehard fans of the rhythm game genre to people who are simply AVICII fans who also have a console, Invector checks a lot of boxes.

Levels across AVICII Invector play largely the same. The player picks a track and a difficulty level, and is off to the races. They control a slick spaceship moving forward along a track, and must tap or hold buttons as the ship passes over them. This “falling jewel” style has been popular from the Guitar Hero franchise and beyond, but Invector finds ways to make it feel unique. The art direction is breathtakingly stellar, taking players on far-out trips through cyberpunk-esque cities and crumbling pathways. There are even portions of each level where the player can steer their spaceship Star Fox-style through rings and around pillars to keep their point multiplier up.

Invector feels like it’s trying to affect as many sensory inputs as it can. Though Encore Edition is fully playable on handheld mode on Switch, Invector shines brightest on a big screen with a thumping sound system. The neighbors might get annoyed, but who would hear them complaining?

Tracks are divided up by worlds, with four to five tracks each. Worlds must be cleared sequentially, by scoring at least seventy-five percent on each level in that world. While this may sound initially restrictive, Encore Edition gives players access to two extra worlds with five tracks each right out of the gate, so players have plenty to play with at the start.

There are three difficulties available, and each mode offers a different experience. For players who just want to experience AVICII’s music in a low-stress way while enjoying amazing visuals and ambiance, Easy mode is the way to play. Anything above that amps the difficulty up significantly, with Hard mode escalating the required precision to an unbelievable degree. Building up a competitive high score can only be achieved by hitting multipliers and keeping a streak going. At higher difficulties, Invector feels challenging but exhilarating. Scoring above ninety percent on any difficulty mode above Easy feels extremely good, and the online leaderboards are the perfect place to boast about that achievement. During high level play, earning a high score feels transcendent.

Worlds and levels are strung together with brief, lightly-animated cutscenes. It’s a slim justification for a rhythm game, but they’re better than nothing and provide just enough context to keep things interesting. AVICII Invector is both visually and aurally pleasing, but even if the player isn’t a diehard fan of EDM or House music, there is plenty to love.

This world can seem cold and grey
But you and I are here today
And we won’t fade into darkness

AVICII Invector is a truly fantastic rhythm game. But it’s also more than that. It is impossible to play Invector and not feel a twinge of melancholy. The game is a tribute to a hard-working perfectionist, but the man behind the music had his demons. Though the visuals are enticing and the gameplay electric, it is difficult not to feel sad from the opening credits. It is to Invector‘s credit that all throughout, the game feels like a joyful celebration of Tim Bergling’s music. It is a worthy tribute to a man who revitalized and reinvigorated the EDM and House music scene.

At the end of the day, almost every aspect of AVICII Invector reflects a desire to connect. For players connected to the internet, global leaderboards are a great opportunity to share high scores. Invector is much more forgiving than Thumper or Rez or even anything in the Hatsune Miku catalog. Players can cruise through this game on Easy mode if they want, and they won’t be punished. The Encore Edition even includes a split-screen multiplayer, which is fantastically fun.

In his music, Bergling worked across genres to expand what pop music could look like. With Invector, music lovers and players of nearly any skill level can have a pleasing experience. In video games, that’s rare, and it should be celebrated.

According to publisher Wired Productions’ website, all music royalties from AVICII Invector Encore Edition will support suicide awareness through the Tim Bergling Foundation.

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Game Reviews

‘Tamarin’ Review: Monkey Trouble

Like Yooka-Laylee before it, Tamarin flounders in its attempts to recreate its source material for a more modern audience.

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Tamarin Game Review

Developer: Chameleon Games | Publisher: Chameleon Games | Genre: 3rd Person Shooter/Platformer| Platforms: PlayStation 4, PC | Reviewed on: PlayStation 4

You have to be of a certain age to recall a game like Jet Force Gemini. One of Rare’s one-off titles of the N64 era, like Blast Corps, Jet Force Gemini never earned itself a sequel but was a fun sci-fi adventure for its time. It’s this same energy that Tamarin, from Chameleon Games, attempts to channel.

Made up of former Rare staff, the folks at Chameleon Games are almost certainly the best team to make an attempt at rekindling such a long dead franchise with their spiritual successor. However, as can be the case with retro throwbacks, sometimes it’s better to ask whether you should bring back an older style of gaming, rather than if you could.

As we’ve seen with games like Yooka Laylee and Mighty No. 9, it often seems that the idea of an older game or franchise being resurrected for modern audiences is better to imagine than to actually play. While the occasional Bloodstained does come along to buck the trend, more often than not we get a game which is too faithful to its sources to make a mark or too different to rekindle that old love and nostalgia.

All of which is to say that Tamarin, while very faithful to its inspirations, never quite hits the mark that brings it to the next level. Part of this is the natural aging process, particularly of the first era of 3D platformers and adventure games which spawned on the PlayStation and Nintendo 64. While many of the games of that generation packed in endless hours of fun, so too have many of their mechanics aged terribly.

Tamarin Game Review

This accounts for Tamarin‘s weakest point, which is undoubtedly its combat. The shooting sections of the game, while channeling another Rare franchise that balanced cuteness with cartoonish violence, are just so mechanically terse that they drag the game down egregiously each time they crop up.

Like with Jet Force Gemini, players will spend much of Tamarin battling troubling insectoid enemies that threaten the peace of all of civilization. Also like the game which was such a clear inspiration for Chameleon, Tamarin brings back the clunky 3D aiming reticle. Not only is the shooting janky here, it feels downright unwieldy when you first get your hands on a firearm.

Though players can get the hang of it with a little effort and some reworking of how they see shooters, there seems to be little point in doing so. Tamarin‘s braindead AI and sparse few enemy types make combat feel like much of an afterthought to the experience, despite how central it is to progressing through the game.

To be fair, Tamarin does also bring some of the good from its spiritual forebear. The gradually growing arsenal of laser guns and rocket launchers does feel fun to play with, and the game is peppered with plenty of upgrades for the guns along the way. Sadly, then another of the Space Invaders style mini-games will pop up and derail things all over again.

Yes, there is a strange reference to yet another long gone gaming franchise here. Unlocking certain doors requires players to start from the center and aim the analog stick around firing at hovering, shifting rows of bugs. Again, it feels very unwieldy, and by the end most players will simply settle for spinning the analog stick wildly while firing with the machine gun for maximum ease.

Fortunately, more successful are the platforming sections. Making up the other side of Tamarin‘s coin, is a game more inspired by Banjo-Kazooie and Donkey Kong Country 64 than anything else. As players travel through the outside world, gathering collectibles and gaining new abilities as they go, Tamarin shows much more variety than its combat sections.

With clear cues marked on the terrain to denote which areas require upgrades or new abilities to traverse, Tamarin is generally able to point you in the right direction across its world, though a map or minimap would help matters considerably. Though the game is split into many separate areas, they often look so similar that it can make the game hard to navigate and harder to remember where previous markers were for exploration. Even a rudimentary map feature would make this far less of an issue.

Alas, the exploration flounders on occasion as well. Jumping sometimes feels a bit too flighty and can even break the game at times, allowing players to jump off of surfaces they shouldn’t be able to normally. Further, the need to hold down a button and press another to grab certain collectibles is totally unintuitive and is another feature that seems to be more or less pointless.

As such, for all of it’s cute mascot spiritedness and lovingly attributed influences, Tamarin ultimately falls short in bringing back some of the best franchises of yesteryear. Though the effort is a valiant one, Tamarin, hampered by the flaws of the games it attempts to emulate, is just too clunky in its execution.

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Game Reviews

‘Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles Remastered’ Review: Some Games Age Like Milk

Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles Remastered fails due to problems that existed in the original title, as well as flaws in this remastered edition.

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Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles Remastered

Developer: Square-Enix | Publisher: Square-Enix | Genre: Action-RPG| Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Mobile | Reviewed on: PlayStation 4

There’s a bit of a storied history between Nintendo and Square. Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles Remastered is an important part of that history. Or rather, the original version, released in 2003, was.

While it might seem to younger gamers like Square-Enix and Sony have always been close, Square had a different best friend for much of the 80s and 90s: Nintendo. Though a rift developed between them when Square opted to focus on CD-roms rather than cartridges for Final Fantasy VII, that rift only lasted for about 6 years. The game that signalled the end it? Well that was a new release exclusively for the GameCube: Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles.

Though Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles was released to relatively positive reviews 17 years ago, the game has not aged well. The quest of a caravan of crystal bearers to refill their crystal’s power and protect their homes from a deadly miasma, Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles Remastered fails due to problems that existed in the original title, as well as flaws in this remastered edition.

Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles Remastered

The first, and most considerable, problem with the game is that the quest at the heart of Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles Remastered is tedious and repetitive. Players ostensibly go from area to area on a world map, exploring uninteresting towns and beating lackluster dungeons. If this wasn’t enough, players are also forced to replay these levels over and over again in order to gain enough upgrades for later levels.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: all RPGs ask players to level up in order to succeed. You’re not wrong, it’s simply the structure of levelling up that makes this experience so trying. The only way to level up in Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles Remastered is to beat the entire level again. Players are not rewarded experience for killing enemies but instead can choose one stat to upgrade each time they complete a level. What this means is that every tiny upgrade to your character can take 10-15 minutes at a time to get.

This wouldn’t be as trying on your patience if simple, basic flaws in the game weren’t so egregious. Hit detection is incomprehensible at times because, even when your character seems to be standing right next to an enemy or boss, they often fail to connect their attacks. Even worse, rather than mapping different attacks to the face and shoulder buttons, players must cycle through them one at a time, with the attack button standing in for defense, magic, healing or food consumption.

Of course, much of this has to do with the format of the original game. Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles was meant to be played with link cables and Game Boy Advances connected to the GameCube. Each player would have a different bonus displayed on their GBA screens and, as such, players would work together in local multiplayer, aiding each other with their unique screen information as well as their combat skills.

Naturally the GBA had only two face buttons and two shoulder buttons, hence the layout. However, it’s been 17 years, and it’s pretty egregious that Square-Enix didn’t even think of giving players an option to rework the button layout. Doing so would make combat much more dynamic and help to fix the often clunky feeling of battling the game’s monsters.

Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles Remastered

Adding to the tedium are unskippable cutscenes all over the game. Every single time players challenge a boss, they are forced to sit through the same cutscene introducing the boss. Further, there are random events that occur on the world map which are also unskippable, even if they’re repeats of events that the player has already seen. Haplessly tapping the confirm button to skip through dialog that we’ve already heard should not be an issue in a game released in 2020.

These flaws were mostly a part of the original release as well but what’s the point of remastering a game if you haven’t fixed anything? Even the visuals in Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles Remastered have failed to receive much polish. The game looks murky and fuzzy rather than sharp and clear. If Square-Enix could clean up Final Fantasy VIII for its gorgeous remaster, what stopped them here?

This is without even mentioning the loading times, which are frankly absurd for a game nearly two decades old. Again, it seems that getting this remaster out the door trumped quality control for Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles Remastered, which does nothing to help the game’s case.

Though the game is markedly more fun when players join you to take on a level, even the online connectivity has serious issues. To make matters worse, if a player chooses to use the multiplayer, they’ll have to carry a chalice around themselves if no one joins them, picking it up and putting it down all through the level.

Since single player has an AI character who will carry it for you, this option could be easily added to multiplayer, disappearing when (or if) someone actually joins you. This would allow the structure of the game to remain static regardless of whether someone joins your game or not, instead of making the game harder if no one decides to pop in.

While game director Araki Ryoma has promised to address the issues with Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles Remastered, the game has aged so poorly that, even without the flaws of the remaster, it’s hard to recommend it to modern audiences. Sad as it is, some games are better left in the past. Such is the case with Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles.

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