Food Network: Cook or Be Cooked Hands-On
We see just how talented we are in the virtual kitchen, armed with a Wii Remote and Nunchuk.
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For food lovers, the Food Network is the place to be if you're looking for some new recipes to try, restaurant recommendations, or just reasons to stare and drool at food that you don't have access to. Developer Red Fly has paired up with the popular network to create Food Network: Cook or Be Cooked to let Wii owners experiment in the kitchen without the dangers of cutting themselves or burning the house down. Food Network personalities Susie Fogelson and Mory Thomas accompany you in your pristine cooking zone to give you tips and fascinating info about the ingredients that you're working with. We got a chance to play with an updated preview build of the game and came away hungry and ready to go eat.
The last time we checked out the game was at Namco Bandai's press event earlier in the year, where we were able to make some steak and potatoes. Now we have access to more than 30 different recipes, ranging from traditional bacon and eggs to Chinese take-in. Unlike previous cooking games, this game doesn't consist of just one repetitive motion after another. These recipes have many layers to them, and you need to manage your time wisely so that each portion of your meal ends up on the plate at roughly the same time (you can fast forward time with the Z button), because you'll be graded on their temperature and how well you followed each step.
The recipe for each part of the meal is located at the top left corner, and you have to click on the icon before moving to the next step. You're given a rough estimate on how long each portion of the recipe will take, so you can gauge your time and decide what you want to do first. Pro tip: Start with the one that takes the longest. For example, when we were making quesadillas, it was crucial that we started with the tortillas because each takes a few minutes to cook on each side, but while they were cooking, we could quickly swing around to our cutting table to make the salsa and guacamole. What's nice about a virtual kitchen is that everything is laid out for you, and you don't have to put in too much effort to wash and cut your vegetables (which is arguably the most time consuming part of real cooking).
Using the Wii Remote and Nunchuk, you follow the instructions that appear in the lower right corner. For chopping, you'll hold the remote sideways and make chopping motions, and to turn your item, you flick the nunchuk. Your speed is also being judged, so be quick if you don't want Susie making snide remarks about your cooking abilities. Adding salt and other spices involves shaking the remote downward, but not too aggressively, because you're always trying to stay within the green zone in the meter. When you're stirring, you have to follow the green bar that floats across the screen as you stir so that you don't overdo it or fail to stir it enough. Sometimes rhythm games will show up, in our case while we were trying to assemble a sandwich. Ingredients will tumble down the screen on the right side and left side, and you must shake the remote and nunchuk when the ingredient touches the box at the bottom of the screen. Other than that, most of the motions are more or less applicable to what you're doing in the kitchen.
When you're done and everything is automatically plated, Susie and Mory will taste your delicious creation and give you a bronze, silver, or gold medal depending on your performance. If you want some company, there's a cooperative mode in the main menu under Hot Potato, where you can work with up to three other chefs by passing the controllers to earn medals and acquire new recipes. There's also a split-screen Cook-Off mode in which you can compete with a friend to see who is ready to be the top chef.
Before jumping into a recipe, you can look at the steps and all the ingredients. It would be nice if there were actual measurements so that you could try the recipes in real life. You don't have to deal with how many spoonfuls of sugar you need in a recipe on the Wii, but sometimes it would be nice to know. What is great is that as you're madly multitasking and going through all the steps, Mory and Susie chime in with some helpful trivia in relation to what you're working with at the moment. Some of these facts you may already know, but those who don't watch the Food Network religiously might find this information useful. They also introduce each recipe with a scripted opening, which makes the game feel like a cooking show at times.
The clean and simple presentation of the kitchen works well with this game. It's nice to work in a space that is not cluttered or distracting. The overall package is very basic, however, with simple menus with pictures of the recipes that you can try. More importantly, though, the food does look tasty, even though you know you're looking at artwork and it's not an actual photo of a juicy burger. As you're working away furiously in the kitchen, there is some unobtrusive music to keep your mind off the stress, but we noticed that while following some of the more demanding recipes, we weren't really listening to what was playing, nor did we pay much attention to our judges' comments.
Food Network: Cook or Be Cooked is the closest we've seen to a realistic cooking game, and from what we've played, it is also the most intensive cooking experience we've had too. All the recipes have been Food Network approved, so with a little imagination and some experimentation, you could also mimic these recipes in your own kitchen. Look for the game when it is released for the Wii on November 3.