IGN Review of What's Cooking? Jamie Oliver
Certainly there are plenty gamers out there who could use some help in the kitchen. Disguising that help as a "game" is a pretty brilliant idea -- as long as it's done well. What's Cooking? Jamie Oliver is half interactive cookbook and half food prep game, but neither portion is strong enough to make the title a worthy purchase. The game aspect is terribly unintuitive, and the cookbook doesn't offer anything its physical counterpart can't for cheaper.
There are a whole slew of recipes to follow in a variety of prep times, ingredients, and courses. Some helpful filters are available to sort by, say, dishes that take less than 20 minutes to prepare or only vegetarian meals. Recipes begin with an ingredient list where another other useful tool is the ability to earmark things you don't have and reference later as a shopping list. There is also a timer option, so if something needs to be baked for 10 minutes you can set the timer, go about the rest of the recipe, and your DS will notify you when the 10 minutes are up. But that's pretty much where Jamie Oliver stops going beyond traditional cookbooks. You'll get a step-by-step explanation of how to prepare a dish but there aren't pictures to illustrate each step and the game doesn't explain how to do everything. This butternut squash soup looks pretty good, but I have no idea how to peel a squash and Jamie Oliver doesn't feel like telling me.
The cooking game puts you in a kitchen and has you performing virtual representations of each step in a recipe. Using the touch screen and stylus you whisk eggs, pour sauces, and cut vegetables. But a lot of the controls don't make sense and, ultimately, this isn't going to teach you how to do anything in the kitchen. There are tutorials, but they don't explain how to do everything in the game. For instance, sometimes you have to put a tool away before you take out a new one -- would have been nice to know before I spent five minutes wondering why I couldn't take a bowl from my pantry. You might waste a lot of time wondering why it's so damn hard to crack an egg. What's worse, Jamie often doesn't require you to perform every step and will let you finish the recipe anyway, telling you "Good job!"
There are also Cook Off (timed) and "Get Stuck In" modes. Get Stuck In invites players to whip something up of their own creation using the game's ingredients, save the recipe, and share it with friends who also own the game. But…why would we want to do this? We can't taste our bacon and mayonnaise pancakes, so how do we know if the recipe is worth saving?
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