With the amount of cooking games that have been hitting Nintendo's Wii and DS lately, messing around in the kitchen has become a genre of its own. It was only a matter of time before the Food Network partnered up with a developer--in this case, Red Fly--to create a well-stocked virtual kitchen so that you may experiment to your heart's content. At yesterday's Namco Bandai Gamers' Day, we got to drool a little over a quick demo on how to make steak and potatoes--with asparagus, but let's focus on the important part of the demo:meat.
The approach of Cook or Be Cooked is to keep the game as realistic as possible. Working closely with the Food Network kitchen staff, recipes have been approved and tested so that you can always mimic what you make on the Wii in your actual kitchen. Although your own station may not be as clean or tidy as the one on the Wii, the game does go through the basics of cooking--because there's always a first time for everyone when it comes to boiling water. Susie Fogelson, a Food Network star, will appear periodically to encourage you or chastise you. We couldn't tell, considering that the volume wasn't turned up. You may recognize her as a judge on the show The Next Food Network Star. Chef hats will appear to let you know how you did, which works just like a five-star rating system. No fiery eyes of disapproval will be seen here.
The person demoing the game had left the kitchen for a bit, so his steak was already a little charred. There are no kitchen hazards included in the game at this time, so the entire place won't go up in flames if you happen to space out while tending to the potatoes--not yet, at least. We watched as our Namco rep adjusted the stove temperature with a twisting motion using the remote and peeled potatoes the same way you would in real life. Once the steak was done, the remote was used to slice it into perfect, succulent pieces, and the Nunchuk was used to rotate the delicious piece of T-bone steak. Waiting for water to boil can be painful, but you can fast-forward time without having to wait several minutes for the water to start bubbling. Once the potatoes were done, they were mashed (without cream or butter!) and immediately plated along with the rest of your meal. Unlike other games that might indicate when you're done with a certain motion, Cook or Be Cooked relies on its visual cues to let you know how much longer you need to cook or mash. The goal is to try to finish everything around the same time; no one wants to eat a cold steak.
This was the only recipe available in the early build of the game. There were still placeholders and other features that haven't been added yet. We were told that there are going to be more than 30 recipes, the hardest recipe being lasagna. No desserts will be included this time around, but you do get to choose between breakfast, lunch, and dinner. We saw bacon and eggs, a hamburger, and spaghetti on the list--simple recipes for a beginner to start off with. Other than this single-player Challenge mode, you can play in split-screen with a friend, cooperatively or competitively, which we'll get a chance to check out at E3.
Food Network: Cook or Be Cooked lacks the cutesy demeanor of Mama in the Cooking Mama series, but it does have a full-stocked Food Network-approved kitchen, complete with an herb garden by the windowsill. The kitchen does look like it belongs on the set of one of the shows, with its wood cabinets and blue flowery accents on the wall. We'll have to wait until next time to get in the kitchen, but Cook or Be Cooked is scheduled to be released later this year.