IGN Review of Hell's Kitchen
There's a classic episode of Frasier where the Brothers Crane open a fancy restaurant and, as you would expect, everything goes hilariously wrong. Frasier and Niles, joined by Daphne, Roz, and Martin, must do everything themselves, from waiting tables, mixing drinks, cooking, and keeping the guests happy. Hell's Kitchen is a lot like that episode, only devoid of any semblance of fun and where the entire staff of the restaurant consists of just you.
I've never really watched the television show the game is based on, but I do know that it's based on some wannabe chefs needing to please the world-class chef Gordon Ramsay, who is one part Simon Cowell and another part George S. Patton. Unfortunately, Ramsay's fiery temper doesn't really show in the game; he just spouts a line or two at you before the start of every day, like, "Let's go, Yes?" And with that, you're dumped into an unending time-balancing game that doesn't teach you anything about how to cook or run a restaurant. Instead, all it will do is teach you how to tap on the DS screen with the stylus. A lot.
It starts with guests appearing at in the lobby; you must then tap on them to arrange the maitre de to seat them at a table. He then delivers menus; when the guests put down their menus you must tap on them for the waiter to collect the order. That sends the order back to the kitchens, which is on another screen, where you must prepare and mix the ingredients for the various dishes. These ingredients are very basic: beef, chicken, vegetables, dairy, and so on. While the first guests are busy going over the menu, you need to tap over to the kitchen screen and start "preparing" the ingredients. It's very Disney-esque, simply tap on a pile of vegetables and they'll magically whirl into the air and blend together before being deposited in a bowl. Repeat this for every basic ingredient by clicking to mix them.
Once the order is in you've got to get to work fast. Each dish requires a different blend of ingredients. Simply dump those ingredients into a pan or a pot on the stove, and then wait for the timer to tick down to zero. As soon as it's done, remove the dish from the stove. The goal is to prepare five-star dishes, and food that is undercooked, overcooked, or has cooled down too much loses stars. The trick to cooking is that each dish has different cooking times and requires a different mix of ingredients, so you have to very quickly analyze the total order when it comes in to identify what the bottleneck is going to be. If two dishes require the same ingredient, you've got to prepare that ingredient twice. You can't stockpile them by say mixing 10 bowls of vegetables before hand; you can have one bowl of an ingredient at a time. The cooking timer on a dish doesn't begin until the final ingredient has been added to the pot or pan, so the challenge is to add the final ingredient at the right time so that all dishes complete at about the same moment.
As soon as the dish is done, you send it on its way back to the dining room, where you must tap on the serving tray to have the waiter deliver the food to the guests. When they're finished eating, you must tap again on the table to have the waiter bus the table and the guests can leave. It sounds easy, but keep in mind that there are as many as six tables with up to four guests each, and each guest orders an appetizer, entrée, and dessert, which means that you've got to prepare three dishes for each person. That means that the game is a nonstop tapfest. If guests wait too long they get angry, and that has an impact on your score.
At the end of the day you get graded, but it's not too hard to get a top score. The problem is that all that tapping just gets you through a single day. You've got to go through an entire month day-by-day, with each day becoming harder than the previous one. Harder may involve another table opening up (which is another group of two or three guests to juggle), or more complex dishes that require more ingredients. And that's just about it. That's all you do with very little to show for it, save for some real-world Gordon Ramsey recipes that you unlock as your reward.
The production values are bare bones; the DS visuals seem overly pixely and you have to squint at times when checking out the state of the dining room. The audio is minimal, and the only noises that you'll remember are the burning sound that crops up when guests are really angry at waiting too long.
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