Breaking My Backlog #4 – Battle Chef Brigade
Breaking My Backlog is a semi-regular features on Troamm.com in which I attempt to complete my entire backlog before buying any new games. You can read more about the quest and see my backlog here.
On paper, Battle Chef Brigade is a game that shouldn’t work. Its weird blend of puzzle game with beat-em-up feels like the kind of game that’s made because of dare or bet, or at the very least, a game that was prompted by the phrase, “Hey, don’t bogart that shit, pass that shit around.” What interests me, though, as a gamer and intrepid games writer, is that it does. Somehow, the game works, and I had a blast playing it.
To understand Battle Chef Brigade, you have to start by buying into the world created by developers Trinket Studios. We’re dropped into a world ravaged by two problems: monsters and famine. Soldiers sent to fight the monsters soon realized that they could the food issues by simply cooking the monster parts with some other, fresher ingredients to create wonderful dishes to feed the people while culling the dangerous monster population. Enter Mina, a young enterprising chef that seeks to become the newest member of the Battle Chef Brigade, the military organization that hunts monsters and develops new recipes for all of the crazy monster parts they obtain as they hunt. Let me be real clear right here: if you can’t buy into this story, you’ll have a very hard time enjoying this game. Again, on paper, this game shouldn’t work.
Gameplay is split into two separate parts: the first, the hunting part, plays like a traditional side-scrolling beat-em-up. You enter the wilderness, encounter monsters, and kill them, harvesting their eyeballs, limbs, and steaks. You can also harvest a few fruits and vegetables along the way to increase your ingredient stock. Once you’ve obtained some ingredients, you head into the kitchen and start the cooking phase. Essentially, cooking involves a Bejeweled-style puzzle game, in which you move gems around to match up colors and increase the gem levels. The higher the levels, the more flavor you’re bringing out of your ingredients. As you clear the board, you add more ingredients to increase the complexity of the dish, until you’ve ultimately created something that is five-star worthy. During the cooking process, you’ll probably run out of ingredients, so you’ll have to venture back out to hunt monsters before returning to the kitchen and continuing your cook. Learning to balance these two gameplay types and seamlessly move from one to the other is key in achieving success in your dishes.
Once you finish the dishes, you present them before a panel of judges in some sort of Food Network-style cooking competition. The judges award you scores on your dish based on its complexity and their personal preferences. If your score is higher than your opponents, you win the battle. Oh, didn’t I mention that this is all done in a competition format? I’m sorry. Again, on paper, this shouldn’t work.
I really had fun with the game. The story itself is cute and made all the more engaging by some truly fantastic voice acting. As far as presentation goes, it’s absolutely top of the line. My only story complaint involves the ordering of one of the chapters, which felt really disconcerting. It didn’t hurt my appreciation of the story, but it definitely could have benefited from a story editor taking one final review.
My biggest complaint would actually be with the gameplay. The puzzle portion is good. If you’ve ever played Bejeweled or Candy Crush or any of either’s clones, you know how to play the puzzle portion. There’s nothing really to mess up on this, and this part of the game is great. The hunting portion, though, feels off. These sections just get really monotonous. The developers try to make it interesting by giving you spells and different offensive and defensive moves, but really, it’s easier to mash the attack button until the monster dies. There were only a few higher-level monsters that really gave me trouble during my entire playthrough. Most of the enemies were a fairly easy hunt. Near the end of the game, the hunting portions felt more of a chore than I think they were intended, which is a shame, because everything else in the game is so much fun.
Ultimately, though, any complains I have did little to temper my enjoyment. Overall, I loved the game, and I would highly recommend it to anyone. I swear to God, I don’t know why it works. I just know that it does. And that, to me, is all right.
One more game down. One more game down.
(All images obtained from the official website for Battle Chef Brigade)