Earlier today, while enjoying some hands-on time with the DSi XL at Nintendo's World Summit in San Francisco, we had an opportunity to check out America's Test Kitchen: Let's Get Cooking. This interactive recipe book features no fewer than 300 different recipes from the America's Test Kitchen TV show. Although it's clearly not a game, its presentation and some of its features are reminiscent of Nintendo's Brain Age offerings. As in that game, the first thing you need to do is create a profile. You enter your name, record your name using the mic, choose one of several different heads for your animated chef, and then--importantly--indicate whether or not you're allowed to work with knives and heat. The thinking, clearly, is that everyone in the family can have a profile in America's Test Kitchen, and children who aren't allowed to use knives, for example, will never be assigned such tasks as chopping onions or carving a chicken.
With your profile created, you're free to check out all 300 recipes from the outset and search for specific ones using a number of different criteria. You can search by preparation time, by calories, or by any number of ingredients that you're hoping to combine. We found the interface to be extremely intuitive, and although the slow-cooker recipe that we found after searching for a dish that combined beef with bacon was tempting, we ultimately opted to make BBQ beer can chicken. As we sat in the middle of a busy press event, we sadly didn't have any kitchen utensils or ingredients on hand, but the checklists that popped up before we got started at least afforded us an opportunity to automatically add anything (read: everything) that we were missing to a shopping list.
Every step of the recipe was explained clearly and concisely, both via onscreen text and the voice of a chef. Photographs of what each step should look like were reassuring as we slid our imaginary chicken onto an imaginary 12-ounce beer can, and some of the stages were even accompanied by short instructional films. If you've ever wondered how best to carve a chicken, America's Test Kitchen has you covered. Instructional films like that one can be viewed at any time, but they are also associated with recipes so they're easy to find while you're working in the kitchen. Furthermore, because you're probably not going to want to be handling your DS while you're handling foodstuffs, you'll be able to navigate recipes using simple voice commands like "Last step," "Repeat," and "Continue."
America's Test Kitchen appears to perform its function as an instructional recipe book admirably, but what's most interesting about it is the way that it encourages whole families to use it for planning meals, shopping for groceries, and cooking together. For example, if you're wondering what to cook for dinner, you might choose to search for recipes that other members of your household with profiles have expressed an interest in. Then, after looking over the list of required utensils and ingredients, as well as going to the store for any items that you're missing armed with an onscreen shopping list, you can have America's Test Kitchen randomly decide which members of the household will be responsible for which parts of the preparation. You're free to assign responsibilities manually if you prefer, of course, and if you have access to multiple DS handhelds, you can even forward recipes to your assistants without requiring them to have their own copy of the product. (This will work with only about 120 of the 300 recipes).
When the meal is finished, everyone who contributed earns a stamp on his or her profile and has an opportunity to rate the recipe so that in the future, those ratings can be used as yet another criterion for searches. You also have the option to add notes to recipes, because you may want to substitute one ingredient for another, for example, though there's no option to add your own recipes or, as far as we could tell, download additional ones.
America's Test Kitchen: Let's Get Cooking is currently scheduled for release at the end of March.