IGN Review of Iron Chef America: Supreme Cuisine
Make no mistake about it: Iron Chef America: Supreme Cuisine is a full-blown Cooking Mama clone. It's also a pretty dang good one though.
Developer Black Lantern Studios has teamed with Destineer to deliver a more competitive take on the series, and one that - while not a polished or refined as its cooking inspiration - is certainly more of a full-on game than Majesco's experience. You'll create and track your own chef through his battles, be they quick matches, vs. bouts against other players wirelessly, or career showdowns with actual Iron Chefs from the TV show, earn ribbons for specific accolades in your career, unlock achievement-inspired medals based on performances, and eventually rise the ranks of Iron Chef America.
If you're familiar with Cooking Mama, you already should have a good idea of how Iron Chef America works, as it's nearly identical in most of its design. You'll chop, cut, slice, mash, stir, fry, pour, and pull off other cooking-inspired strokes with the stylus, and just like Cooking Mama, most of those are presented in a "do the action, then see the result" experience rather than actual direct control over the items you're moving. This isn't the case with a few aspects, such as arranging plates or sliding the tops of raviolis onto the main meat and noodle base - pouring is also done exactly like in Mama, by lifting a stylus to gradually tilt a bowl as it empties out - but for the majority you'll do your action, nervously wait a few seconds to see if it registered how you think you did it, and then move on, correcting yourself or attempting the next stage of the dish. Again, totally Cooking Mama inspired.
Iron Chef America takes the design a bit further though, and it makes the whole experience a bit more fun. Rather than just selecting a dish and doing one step after another, reading lines of text as to how exactly you do each little stage, Iron Chef has you picking your dishes (up to six) from the get-go, each of which are based on the secret ingredient, and then racing to finish them within the traditional one hour time limit. That means you could chop up onions with perfect accuracy, but if you take too long, it's ultimately a failed step. Since it's also all about time, you'll get only a brief text prompt (usually a "Well Done!" or the like) after completing a step in your cooking, before instantly thrown into the next stage. It's a far more fluid, realistic approach to cooking, and you'll need to actually learn the rules of each skill in the training area before just jumping into some of the more complex dishes.
There are still some easy ways to improve the design though. When picking dishes, it isn't exactly easy to tell which ones are the toughest to make, or which will give you a larger payout if you can actually pull them off in the heat of battle. In addition, we oftentimes found ourselves just completing each stage as we went, but not really knowing what dish we were working on, or how it affected the overall set of food we were doing. If the top screen was used to show off what stage in the dish we were at, or at least what dish we were making, it would have made it less like a series of steps, and more like an actual systematic cooking experience. We also had a few random touch issues, where we swore we did the action right, only to have it not register, but that still occurs in most "touch action" games as well, and it's pretty minimal all around.
The overall experience is pretty basic, but we still found ourselves having fun while playing through the game's career mode, complete with a cool - somewhat unexpected - boss battle at the end of it all. As you move through the game you face off against classic chefs - Lambert, Xiu, Bianco, Vega, Aarde, Gui, Verlierer, Shu, and DelaSante - and unlock them for the additional modes as you go. Create-a-Chef is really basic though, including only a male and female option with no other changes to your character outside of name, and that's certainly an area where the game could have offered more, making up a fake history for your chef, gaining initial stats from doing training at the beginning of the game, and actually upgrading skills as you progress. If Iron Chef America is going to be the more serious, competitive Cooking Mama contender, it might as way go all out, and really separate itself from the other title as much as possible. One of the ways the game already does that is in its multiplayer, where you can face off or actually team up with a buddy, which can be fun, but again a bit detached in where you are in the challenge, who exactly is ahead at any given time, or what dish you're each working on.
As a nice little addition though, the game can be played multiplayer with pass play, so even if you don't have two versions of the game, you can still get the full-on battle experience by tossing the DS from one player to the other. More games need things like this, as DS is a show-and-tell system for many gamers, and it's always great to be able to get newcomers involved even if they don't have the game, or in this case specifically, even own their own DS. Good call.
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