Battle Chef Brigade is by far an incredibly out there game conceptually, having one of the strangest yet charming concepts in a game all the while perfectly fusing platform gameplay with cooking. It may sound odd, but this combination of gameplay mechanics go perfectly together. Battle Chef Brigade instantly caught my attention when I got a chance play the beta/demo at Pax East a year ago. Combining elements of Iron Chef with Sci-Fi isn’t something you’d normally think about but boy does it work. With it’s beautiful hand drawn aesthetic and colorful cast Battle Chef Brigade has an infectious charm that help this indie game stand out on the Switches already impressive Indie line up.
Taking place in the beautifully designed mythical kingdom of Victusia, our main character Mina has aspirations of reaching new heights and proving herself among some of the best chefs in the kingdom. As the kingdom is overrun by monsters it’s up to the army of chef warriors who serve the brigade to slay and cook those monsters into delicious plates of food. Along her journey Mina meets many colorful characters that really help breathe life into this game. From the lovable and cheery orc named Thrash to the undead chef Ziggy and everyone in between (my personal favorite the Innkeeper who consistently serves as comic relief due to his nearsighted comments) each character has enough charm and personality that helps the game catch itself whenever it stumbles.
Having a story centered around a young woman with an overbearing mother and low self esteem trying to put herself out there can be tricky. Luckily Battle Chef Brigade finds enough charm, challenge and creativity to keep you invested throughout it’s relatively short game. When I first started my journey with Battle Chef Brigade the world instantly won me over, perhaps it’s because I’m a sucker for hand drawn aesthetics and cooking shows but the parallels between Battle Chef Brigade and some of my favorite cooking shows are just too close to ignore.
Fans of the show Iron Chef for example will be quick to notice some of the many similarities Battle Chef Brigade share with it, many are a little too on the nose. Having a lavish figure similar to Iron Chef’s “Chairman” introduce the competitors and ingredients feels a little too familiar. Even with some of their less than subtle nods and winks to famous cooking shows, Battle Chef Brigade never comes across as just a parody. While we have familiar aspects from the cooking genre such as serving specific foods to cater to judges and the judge critique, Battle Chef Brigade is much more than just a one dimensional experience.
Cooking may be the overall theme but that doesn’t mean the game or it’s characters are limited to it. There’s this unique use of platforming and battling in the game that make each in between moment of cooking fun. While you’re set to make your dish you have to fetch your own ingredients, this is done by heading out and slaying monsters to harness their meat. Again, this isn’t your run of the mill cooking game. Mina as a character is fairly versatile both in the cooking and combat as she’s able to wield wind magic and use her chef knife to hack enemies up. This is where the game gets a much needed layer of depth that while initially fun if played in long bursts can become a little too linear and repetitive.
Even though the combat itself is fun and Mina is able to upgrade her weapons and learn new abilities, there is just so much you can do in the time given. Hunting down monsters for your food is a great addition to the game and really helps break the puzzle cooking element, but most of the monsters you encounter follow a predictable pattern or don’t offer much of a challenge. For a game as creative and charming as Battle Chef Brigade is you end up walking away wanting more for each battle. There are some genuinely challenging monsters along the way like dragons and some elemental monsters in later levels, but they feel a little too far in between the standard five hit kill monsters.
While it would have been nice to have a little more engaging battle system the simplicity of the game does have it’s own perks that do make your time spent with more endearing. Not everything needs to be convoluted and over the top and this is where the simple nature of Battle Chef Brigade shines. Even though most of the time you’re out gathering food you’ll encounter the easy to kill monsters that offer no challenge, there’s more to each level that could go unnoticed if you don’t venture out. For ingredients that are harder to find or ingredients catered to a specific element you’ll need to press forward and look past the easy pickings that your first encounter.
As the game progresses new enemies will be introduced which does help break some of that been there done that feeling you might have from the first two chapters. Once you dive deeper into the levels you’ll encounter monsters that while they follow a predicable pattern, they’re a little more challenging than others and the rewards are worth it. Battle Chef Brigade’s use of combat is simple and effective, even though you’re constantly running back and forth to fill your pantry the upgrades Mina can receive make this task seem less like a chore. As far as cooking goes the game shifts from the platform element to a puzzle solving one where much like Super Puzzle Fighter you have to stack similar colors(elements) on top of each other form bigger crystals(elemental orbs). It’s fun, simple and a little repetitive but with each chef you encounter performing some high level dishes you don’t seem to mind as you try to find new ways to combine elements to up your score.
I simply adore this game on a personal level, it’s simple, charming, fun and a great game to help me ease into the night after a long day of playing more demanding titles. I personally love everything about this game and have since I randomly encountered it at Pax. With that being said, although I adore it I know it’s not perfect and Battle Chef Brigade is not without it’s many faults. At the end of the day however fun this game is there’s little to no risk in each battle. If you challenge a chef and lose to that chef there’s no sense of importance because you can always hit the rematch button without penalty and try try again until you come out on top. Going out on a hunt and monster gets the best of you mid chef challenge? No problem, just start back in your kitchen and go pick up the food you dropped without having to lose the battle or much time. It’s this part of the game that make me less enthusiastic, why give it your all when you have literally nothing to lose? There’s just not enough incentive in the game to keep you on your toes.
Even with that being said there’s still plenty Battle Chef Brigade has to offer. With numerous challenges, upgrades, odd jobs to work and switch ups during chef battles you’ll have plenty to be entertained by. Long after the game’s story is finished there’s still a fair amount to do and a lot of content to be found post game. Battle Chef Brigade may be short and sweet but that doesn’t mean once it’s over you’re ready for the check. With daily chef challenges and chef battles having some randomized addition/challenges to keep you invested you always want to see what’s next. Being a relatively short game comprised of about six chapters, the lack of incentive does begin to dwell on you initially. Especially given the fact that for a game that has a lot of elements going on and upgrades to be had, when it comes to rewards there isn’t really anything to show for it.
Mina doesn’t level up, there is no achievement unlocked or Final Fantasy like themed music that plays when you go back and demolish your previous score. It can be a little bit of a let down when you don’t much to show for all your efforts put in, but honestly I never minded it. While it would have been nice to have more to show for my victories, when I eventually ended my time with the game I had more fond memories of it than complaints. While a fairly linear experience overall, the saving grace of the game isn’t found in it’s gameplay but rather in it’s characters. Mina’s encounter with each character is always something I look forward too, the cast is colorful and charming and the more I see of Victusia the more I want to find know about it.
The simplistic nature of the game won’t be for everybody but that’s ok, Battle Chef Brigade isn’t a perfect game by any means but it doesn’t have to be. There’s honestly enough there to give anyone a great experience. While the story may be short, the characters are charming and the battles can be challenging. Having a straight up gorgeous look to the game helps keep you invested. Hunting for food is a big part of the game and it’s always fun even if there isn’t any risk involved.