I love cooking, my DS and yes, Jamie Oliver, which made me a more than willing guinea pig for this foray into foodie gaming. Sadly, what could have joined the ranks of Cooking Mama and her slicing and dicing ilk is little more than an interactive cookbook, and I have the Internet for that. If you are fond of cooking and Jamie, I will gladly recommend any one of his cookbooks currently available for less than this underachieving game.
On the upside, there are plenty of recipes available with instructions and ingredient lists. You are able to filter the recipes in different ways (like by ingredients or prep time) and assemble shopping lists. Unfortunately, the menus are hard to navigate and simple tasks are made cumbersome. You will likely find yourself entirely unsure of what you are doing and often even what is expected of you. The in-game instructions are foggy, and while I appreciate the attempt to overcome the game’s confusing setup they just don’t cut it. You can, however, reassemble a tomato.
The “game” disguise here is a farce. In the cooking portion of the title players can test their virtual skills in a virtual kitchen which is virtually terrible – the 3D space only belies the miserable game mechanics and lame item models. Stylus meets touch screen for a bit of pouring, whisking and chopping which should manage to teach any gamer looking for some foodie skills absolutely nothing.
Within the kitchen there exist different work spaces like the sink, oven and cutting board, and additional menus for things like ingredients and utensils. Each of these is accessible from an icon list at the top of the screen. Once you figure out the icons and where to find things there is no escaping how labor-intensive the game portion feels.
In the Cook Off your recipe assembly is timed while Get Stuck In is a free-form mode in which players can create their own culinary abominations and share them with people that have the game. Why this is an appealing feature I am not sure, unless you are already a cook and want to enter recipes into your DS game to have the chance to not smell or taste them.
The game does include functions like baking and boiling which will mean you are either watching a pot boil or waiting for the baking to end. There is a timer as well as the option to advance time, but all these do is flag the tedium while you try to avoid it. Each completed recipe will award players a star rating, and Jamie’s false praise is the most hurtful of all. Having become bored with the assembly of shrimp cocktail I declared the recipe complete only to have him reply “Good job!” No, Jamie, I made a disgusting ketchup-y mess and left the shrimp boiling on the stove, not a “good job”.
Graphically there are some cheery shots of Jamie and the rest is generic utensils. Visually unimpressive there are no illustrations for recipe prep so if you are not already familiar with how to perform a step the education stops here. It is a similar story for the sound: some audio commentary from Jamie and a bunch of mediocre, strangely dated-sounding music.
With exciting actions like dragging and dropping, only a small portion of the game is an actual game, and what is is just miserable. What’s Cooking? Jamie Oliver wishes it could ride the Cooking Mama bandwagon, but there is no ease of gameplay or engaging interactivity. Players will spend a lot of time just not understanding what is expected of them, or why something isn’t working.
With little to offer beyond the conventional cookbook What’s Cooking? Jamie Oliver doesn’t bring anything new to the dinner table. Combining the thrilling elements of a recipe Rolodex, food preparation and list making each element of the game is weakly done and tedious. What’s Cooking? Jamie Oliver will only serve to remind you that cooking is work and motion-based gameplay is not inherently fun. If you have a DS, some cash and scorn cookbooks go ahead and buy the game, but it gave me food poisoning.