Bat­tle Chef Brigade


You don’t al­ways need the most ex­otic in­gre­di­ents to pre­pare a good meal. The com­pet­i­tive cookoffs in Bat­tle Chef Brigade blend an un­re­mark­able platform brawler with a straight­for­ward match-three puz­zler, while an episodic nar­ra­tive binds it all to­gether. Yet the sim­plic­ity of the raw com­po­nents be­lies a dish of pi­quant flavour, these in­di­vid­ual el­e­ments co­her­ing into some­thing that, while ad­mit­tedly slight in form, col­lec­tively pro­duce a sat­is­fy­ing dish.

It’s beau­ti­fully pre­sented, too, with its hand-drawn char­ac­ters and wa­ter­colour back­drops lend­ing the serenely whimsical world of Vic­tu­sia a dis­tinctly Miyazaki-es­que feel. In fact, the whole game is suf­fused with a Ghi­bli-like warmth: not all the rivalries be­tween pro­tag­o­nist Mina and her fel­low chefs are friendly, but it cap­tures the unique ca­ma­raderie that can emerge from good-na­tured com­pe­ti­tion. In other words, it’s closer to The Great Bri­tish Bake-Off than Chopped – and even a con­spir­acy plot that’s bub­bling away in the back­ground has the kind of low-stakes feel of a light­weight Sun­day-teatime drama. You might be deal­ing with elves, orcs and necro­mancers, but each of the chefs feels re­lat­ably hu­man; their de­signs may be lightly sketched, but their char­ac­ter­i­sa­tion is any­thing but.

It does, how­ever, mean that di­a­logue and plot can take over for long spells. At times, the cook­ing bat­tles be­tween those hop­ing to earn a place in the epony­mous brigade can feel more like a side plate than the main course. Each of these is set against the clock, as you’re in­vited to pro­duce dishes to sat­isfy a judg­ing panel. Your score is de­pen­dent on the qual­ity of your in­gre­di­ents, and how closely you ad­here to their de­mands.

Most judges will ask for a recipe with a pre­dom­i­nant el­e­men­tal flavour, though some will ask you to bal­ance two of them – and there’s a spe­cial in­gre­di­ent that it’s im­per­a­tive you in­clude in each serv­ing. It isn’t enough sim­ply to com­plete the dishes: you’ll need to plate up and present them to the panel be­fore time runs out.

The for­ag­ing part is simple enough. Dash out of the kitchen and you’ll find plenty of lo­cal flora and fauna to harvest: ev­ery­thing from car­niv­o­rous plants to vi­cious lit­tle fuzzballs that bar­rel out of their nests, and even pon­der­ous but pow­er­ful drag­ons. There’s a sub­tle sense of a wider mon­ster ecosys­tem, though this ba­si­cally amounts to birds fly­ing off with mon­ster parts to gulp them down and ex­crete eggs – which in turn can be struck to make a sauce. You’ve got a set of knives with which to at­tack beasts from close range, though you can also spend your lim­ited sup­ply of mana points lob­bing them from a safer distance, or pro­duc­ing whirl­winds to buf­fet air­borne pests. With your satchel stuffed, you’ll re­turn to your pantry for the sec­ond part of the process.

Ap­pro­pri­ately, cook­ing is an en­joy­able and mod­er­ately stress­ful process. Each in­gre­di­ent is rep­re­sented by an ar­range­ment of coloured orbs that you drop into a 4x4 puzzle grid. Us­ing up to three pans, you must com­bine them, ‘stir­ring’ the pot by ro­tat­ing square blocks of four. Match three like-coloured orbs and they’ll create a more po­tent fu­sion, boost­ing the score of the recipe. Three of those will, in turn, pro­duce a high-qual­ity in­gre­di­ent that will re­main in the dish. As valu­able as these are, they also take up room in your pan, and space quickly be­comes a con­cern – not least when you’ve got pieces of bone to com­pli­cate mat­ters (though these, too, can be ar­ranged to form a wild­card orb that can make matches with any colour). Poi­soned mon­ster parts are more of a prob­lem, steadily reducing the qual­ity of adjacent orbs, though they can also be used to make room: get­ting rid of an un­wanted earthy residue, say, when your panel’s af­ter a dish with a kick.

In the mean­time, you can com­plete side mis­sions. Puzzle stages chal­lenge you to make a recipe from pro­vided in­gre­di­ents to earn a set num­ber of points. On hunts you can prac­tise your stomps, up­per­cuts and back­stabs un­til you’ve slain the req­ui­site num­ber of beasts. But the busy restau­rant quests are the best, inviting you to ful­fil sev­eral or­ders ar­riv­ing in rapid suc­ces­sion, with cus­tomers re­quest­ing spe­cific orb pat­terns in their dishes. They’re eas­ily passed, in truth, but the chal­lenge lies in com­plet­ing as many as you can to earn bet­ter tips. These and other cash re­wards can be spent in shops to give you a fight­ing chance in up­com­ing rounds. Bonus in­gre­di­ents give you a head start, while spe­cial pans let you pro­duce matches from pairs rather than threes, al­beit only for a sin­gle el­e­ment type, forc­ing you to keep switch­ing pans.

De­spite the ab­stract pre­sen­ta­tion of the in­gre­di­ents and the process, there are mo­ments where it feels aw­fully like the real thing. Cer­tainly, if you’ve ever had to cater for guests, you’ll recog­nise the panic in jug­gling sev­eral dishes at once, seem­ingly never quite hav­ing enough room. In a broader sense, it’s about find­ing the right bal­ance be­tween qual­ity and con­sis­tency: do you go all out on one show-stop­per and hope the bonuses will cover the weak­nesses of your sec­ond, or aim for two solid but un­spec­tac­u­lar dishes? On the rel­a­tively easy­go­ing Nor­mal dif­fi­culty you’ll be able to get away with a few mi­nor mis­takes, but on Hard mode your time man­age­ment needs to be much more ef­fi­cient. At least you never have to worry about any­thing boil­ing over or burn­ing, but then we’ve never had to slaugh­ter a wyvern be­fore serv­ing up a roast.

Out­side the com­pe­ti­tion there’s not quite enough to sink your teeth into, and af­ter a while you might well find your­self thumb­ing the skip but­ton dur­ing di­a­logue sec­tions to get back to the action. It’s in­sub­stan­tial but sweet, then; Trin­ket Stu­dio’s game may not linger long on the palate, but while it lasts, this del­i­cate con­fec­tion leaves a pleas­ant taste in­deed.

The busy restau­rant quests are best, inviting you to ful­fil sev­eral or­ders ar­riv­ing in rapid suc­ces­sion

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