Chef Wars, arriving on iOS and Android in Mid October is possibly the most the charming game I’ve ever played. Bright, colorful, and delightfully animated, if you told me this was a mobile game made by a major studio using the famed UbiArt engine, I’d believe you. Look at this trailer:
But it’s not a major production at all. Chef Wars is being developed by an indie team in the Philippines – consisting of artists, programmers, and writers from various studios all coming together to release a game that simultaneously celebrates the open-world RPG genre, and turns it on its head by eliminating traditional combat and replacing it a recipe all its own.
Literally. Chef Wars is basically a collectible card game without the cards. You roam the landscape, going from town to town collecting ingredients, flipping over to a creation screen to mix and match those ingredients into recipes, and then you turn around and use those recipes in a chef battle.
A battle will have a theme, and then judges with specific tastes. So if the theme is “French, Cheese, Pastry” and you have a Cheese Danish ready to go, you’re going to get points for Cheese and Pastry, but not French. However, sometimes a Judge’s ‘tastes’ will override the theme. Thus, if you don’t have something that quite matches the theme, but know the judge’s preferences, you might be able to fudge it. No pun intended.
The key to victory is having a well-rounded team of chefs armed with a variety of cuisines – that speak to their specialty for every occasion. Though this can prove tricky because there’s nearly a thousand ingredients and recipes in the game all with unique tags and traits.
Chef Wars literally attempts to encompass the totality of worldwide cuisine; so you’ll find Sushi-related challenges in Japan, Wine-cuisine based challenges in France, and so on.
Even better, each recipe comes with a description straight from a quality menu, and a link to a real-life recipe. So if you want to make your own croq au vin, or any of the other hundred recipes, the how-to is literally a tap away.
Additionally, each town and region also features lots of educational text about the cuisine, history, and culture of the given country or area or city. None of it is mandatory, but if you want recipe tips and to learn a little bit about the world beyond your favorite Arby’s, here’s a way to do it.
It can actually feel quite overwhelming. I am *not* used to this much polish, flavor text, and content in a free-to-play mobile game. Chef Wars almost feels like an evolutionary iteration on games like The Oregon Trail, Carmen San Diego, and other educational titles that entertained so much, you forget you learned things, too. Any student interested in geography and culture will find themselves fixated on this game – and any school would be well served to have this game freely available to students.
However, the biggest (and possibly only) flaw is Chef Wars’ restrictive nature regarding recipes. Frankly, for a game with hundreds of potential combinations, the stringent limits on the number of recipes a chef can learn (without spending ‘gems’ – the game’s premium currency) seriously hampers the fun.
Starting out you only have one chef (you can recruit more) and limited recipe slots. After you fill up those slots you can ‘forget’ recipes to try and learn a new one. But what can and does happen is you’ll eventually stumble across a recipe you didn’t want to learn at all – have to forget it, then need to re-learn it later for a competition. It’s easy enough to forget and ‘relearn’ recipes, though you need the ingredients to do so. With so many combinations available, limiting how much a player can truly experiment is a bummer.
Thankfully the developer said they’d be re-evaluating the number of recipe slots ahead of the October 12th release date on iOS and Android – and if you’re a fan of unique mobile experiences, consider yourself a foodie, or just like RPGs with charming art, you tummy is rumbling just like mine waiting for that date to arrive.