IGN Preview of Food Network: Cook or Be Cooked
Cooking games have become an increasingly popular sub-genre in the videogame landscape as of late. These mini-game-filled, quasi-simulation titles do a great job capturing the interest of the atypical gamer -- a guy or gal looking for something more than just blasting aliens or saving the world.
Enter Cook or Be Cooked, a realistic cooking game that bears the coveted Food Network brand. In Cook or Be Cooked, you'll be tasked with preparing a variety of dishes and you're judged on your ability to cook them skillfully. Judging your culinary creations will be a pair of virtual Food Network hosts that, for some reason, emerge from your virtual TV and sit on a small table inside your virtual kitchen. When you serve them food, they eat off a massive plate with tiny little utensils. Sure, it doesn't make any sense at all, but it's still quite adorable.
Most of the meals in Cook or Be Cooked involve multitasking and working on several aspects of the meal at once. For example, the first dish I attempted to prepare was a straight-forward meal of bacon and eggs (with a side of toast). On the upper left corner of the screen, the major steps or elements of the meal are displayed, and you point and click on them with the Wii Remote in order to activate your next task.
Let's say you need to get those eggs cooking. Click on the icon at the top of the screen and a small instructional blurb will be displayed underneath. Shake the Nunchuck to confirm your task and the camera will sweep around the kitchen and position you in front of the appropriate station. The camera centers on the stove and you need to shake the Nunchuck to throw a pan onto the stovetop. Then, grab the burner dial by holding down the A button and twisting the Wii Remote to set the level of the flame. Once your pan is ready to go, you're tasked with added some oil to the skillet by tilting the Wii Remote gently to the side while a small status gauge fills up on the side of the screen, which will indicate when you've added enough oil.
These various steps illustrate the general flow of Food Network: Cook or Be Cooked. Click on the recipe icon, follow the steps on the screen by using an assortment of different motions, then continue on with the rest of the meal preparations. The strategy of the game comes with timing the different dishes properly. Food cooks in real time in Cook or Be Cooked, which means that if the instructions call for cooking an item for fifteen minutes, you need to wait fifteen minutes before you can move on to the next step. Fortunately, if you've finished everything you can and you're waiting on one last item, you can hold down the Z trigger to speed up time and get the rest of the meal underway.
Besides the aforementioned bacon and eggs, I also tried my hand at making hamburgers, as well as a marinara pasta dish. I did these two recipes with the help of the one and only IGN editor Scott Bromley, as Cook or Be Cooked offers a multiplayer "hot potato" option where you can take turns in the kitchen. This was actually way more entertaining than playing on my own, but this could be due to Scott's commentary, as he mentioned how delightful it was that we could "talk about the meal we weren't going to eat!"
Unfortunately, our multiplayer session revealed several issues with Cook or Be Cooked that could be cause for concern. First, the game glitched out partway through one of our meals and an icon begin flashing randomly on the top of the screen for the rest of the meal preparation. Also, the method for switching between players is confusing, as Scott and I were never quite sure who was actually supposed to be manning the Wii Remote at what time.
Perhaps more troubling are the game's questionable controls, which seemed either too responsive in certain sections or too muted in others. Luckily, the build we were working off of was far from a retail copy of the game, so these issues could very well be ironed out before the game hits store shelves.
Despite some additional visual glitches, Cook or Be Cooked is a fairly entertaining affair, especially if you have someone to play with. But my goodness, those judges are hard to please...
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