Have you ever wanted a mix of Iron Chef, Puzzle & Dragons, and Skullgirls? Even if you think you haven’t, you definitely have and Battle Chef Brigade from Trinket Studios and Adult Swim Games delivers that whole experience in cloves.
The art here is a charming mix of watercolor illustration backgrounds and cel style flat colored characters that will probably vaguely remind you of old 2D animated movies. Add in the beautiful and delicious looking food and all the visuals of the game could slip comfortably inside a Studio Ghibli movie. The lines used on characters aren’t clean and are allowed to be looser, giving the characters more life when moving, something I see used a lot in animation but far less so in most games. It’s used here to wonderful effect. The UI and music are very in line with the game’s overall aesthetics that lean towards fanciful JRPGs mixed with wrought iron outdoor French cafes in summer. There are a few things that sour the sauce, so to speak. The innkeeper in the story mode consistently misgenders the player character with the excuse that he’s deaf and blind. Despite being told every time. A joke that tries to be funny once before it rapidly becomes annoying.
The gameplay is a combination of side-scrolling combo fighter and match-3 puzzler intercut with visual novel-esque storytelling scenes that bring the everything together. It probably sounds like too much to try to shove into a single game but it works here as all the sections have definite beginnings and ends to them. Also, if your cooking loadout turns out to have much you up in battle, you can reload in town or just have a rematch if you lose.
There are three play modes in the game: single player story, daily cook-offs, and challenges. All of them do exactly what they say on the tin. The single player story mode comes in normal and hard varieties, letting you travel through the story and world of the game. The daily cook-offs make for a very Iron Chef competition where the dishes need to be hunted down and made as quickly as possible each day with a high scoreboard. This is one I would definitely save for after playing through the main game, once you know what everything does. Challenges are longer time trial versions of the jobs from the single player story. These modes, especially the daily cook-offs, add a lot to replayability especially for the Nintendo Switch.
The mechanics presented are exactly what you’d expect from each aspect of the game. The side scrolling fighter portion where you gather your ingredients depends on timing and combos to get through and leave time to cook. The match-3 cooking puzzles make you match Taste Gems across several varieties and tiers much like the mobile game 2048. The cutscenes are continued through with a single button press like going through a visual novel without the choices. The tutorial section and jobs were incredibly helpful for slowly easing into how the match-3 and fighter parts worked together; does sometimes feel slightly jarring to move from one to the other; some aspects will seem incredibly at home if you’ve ever worked in a professional or commercial kitchen. Well, at least if you’ve watched enough Food Network or Shokugeki no Soma/Food Wars.
The game features controls both keyboard and controller for PC Steam. The game, however, is much more fluid feeling with a controller. I used the XBox One Wireless
Verdict: if you enjoy D&D, Shokugeki no Soma, fighters, and literally any match-3 game on mobile, this is your new Holy Grail. Otherwise, this is just a super fun game to play with seemingly disparate parts that, like recipes, come together like magic. Pretty high amount of replay value in smaller stretches over time that compliments the Switch perfectly.
Available now for PC (Steam and Humble Store) and Nintendo Switch for $19.99.