Played on Windows.
Also available on Nintendo Switch, and PlayStation 4.
Apparently, I’m a fan of cooking games. I never knew that but since launching this site nine months ago, I’ve reviewed Cook Serve Delicious, Overcooked, and even have Chef on deck. Well if that’s the case, I guess that’s why I’m back here again, taking a look at the Iron Chef TV show Meets Bejeweled Twist. This is Battle Chef Brigade.
Battle Chef Brigade starts with a really entertaining anime opening. Which prepares the player for the game. The graphics are quite good and have a great style to them, and the characters feel well animated. I spent a little time breaking down the animation and I started to notice minor flaws, but every issue I saw was through analyzing the animation rather than just playing the game.
Battle Chef Brigade errors on the side of improved controls and playability rather than being a slave to the graphics or animations system to the detriment of the gameplay. That’s where a game should be and I find it hard to criticize the game for that.
Battle Chef Brigade has quite a few characters, and every character is well defined, though sadly only a couple really get developed. Most characters will stand where they are, and the opponents you do face have their own side of the kitchen and, besides walking away from the main character, you really don’t see them do anything. I actually like the character designs a lot, I just wish Battle Chef Brigade would do something more with them, even seeing them fight on a different plane could have been interesting. Instead, it’s mostly a still image you face.
When you do fight against monsters in the “gardens” to farm for food, they look great. Every enemy is a unique creature and while some creatures do have some relation to real animals, they are all unique and fun to hunt. Every creature drops food for the main character to loot, and many of the ingredients look delicious, whether it be a set of ribs, a big hunk of meat on the bone, or just a fresh egg, the art design really works.
Then as you start to cook, you transform the ingredients into really delicious looking and sounding dishes, at least some of the time. There is always a new dish being made and I’ve seen so many different dishes created by both myself and my opponents that I find it hard not to get a little hungry. The creations are a bit random for what you get, depending on what is the main ingredient in your dish, but there are some very tasty creations in Battle Chef Brigade.
Almost every dish in this game looks so delicious.
As I started Battle Chef Brigade, I expected to quickly find myself in a cooking challenge. While the game does get the player there relatively quickly, there is a decent amount of story in this game, though I do think the pacing is a bit off.
The first chapter introduces our main character, Mina Han, who works in her parents’ restaurant, and makes food on a daily basis. She’s apparently already a solid chef and tends to the garden at the back of the restaurant to gather ingredients. She has a good life but her mind is on something bigger, a chance to go to the big city and join the Battle Chef Brigade, the best chefs anywhere creating the most amazing food.
It reminded me a bit of Star Wars but without the hokey dialogue or the ominous foreshadowing. In fact, Mina just wants to join the Battle Chefs, a simple idea, and it works. She leaves home to go to the academy for a tournament for the Battle Chefs, and it’s a bit muddled, as she already knows an instructor there, but overall, Mina arrives as the yearly tournament starts. She has to win seven tournament battles against opponents to earn her way to the finale. It’s a simple story, and it works. I have a few spoilers that I’m going to hold on to, but the fact is, Battle Chef Brigade has a really compelling narrative, and I like Mina Han as a character, she feels organic rather than a forced stereotype.
The story looks good, and the art style really shines.
The game also allows the player to choose different opponents rather than forcing each battle. Each day the player can talk to anyone in the village and then has to choose an opponent for the tournament battle. It sounds freeform, and it is, but eventually, you will have to face all the opponents.
The battles are Iron Chef style, we have a chairman who introduces a judge, and then names an ingredient, but sadly Battle Chef Brigade doesn’t push this as far as it could have, and I really wish there was a little more characterization of the chairman or just the overtop nature of Iron Chef. Everything in that show is extreme, and it works. I think it’s clear that’s where Battle Chef Brigade wanted to go, but it doesn’t even come close.
Without spoiling much, I do want to talk about the pacing. The first chapter is short and a very quick tutorial setting up the second chapter which is significantly longer, perhaps even five to ten times longer. Stuff will happen and chapter 3 is a return to the original chapter style, short, story driven and has a heavy tutorial aspect, then the game pretty much concludes in chapter four, another long affair similar to chapter 2. Like I said I’m trying to avoid spoilers, but there is an issue here. Up to this point, everything is very linear.
But if the game is mostly over, two more chapters still remain. Chapter five is where the pacing really becomes a problem. A character we’ve already met takes over for our main character, and the game teaches a tutorial about them. The chapter is similar in length to the longer chapters, but this chapter chronology takes place alongside chapter 3. It’s also quite a bit easier than the end of chapter four.
And then the narrative at the end of chapter four takes over again for the game’s sixth and final chapter, a short chapter, containing only two events.
The character designs are so good, but sadly they do nothing beyond stand there and run to the left.
The issue I take with the story’s pacing is that the fifth chapter could have been a second story mode, or placed as chapter 3.5. I’m not sure why it comes after chapter 4 unless that’s the way the game was delivered. You see, Battle Chef Brigade was a Kickstarter, and that explains why a third playable character was included, that was not in the main story, but I don’t see anything that explains the odd ordering of the story itself.
I do like the story of Battle Chef Brigade, it’s just that I take a big issue with the disjointed nature and difficulty of the story because it confuses and ultimately fails the game a bit. It leaves a huge question mark over why this was done and I still wonder why the change.
At the same time, Battle Chef Brigade’s gameplay makes up for much of the story confusion. The gameplay is fantastic. At its base, Battle Chef Brigade is a match three game, where each match can level up a gem. Each gem type has three tiers that are improved with each match, and the third tier gems can’t be matched. It sounds simple but there are more complications to it.
The gems are added to the dish through ingredients so the player can only add gems in pairings of different size and type. There are only three main gems, each matching an element, Fire, Water, and Earth. While the simple premise still has more to discuss, I’ll allow Battle Chef Brigade to reveal those.
Battle Chef Brigade succeeds at teaching its rules. It does so slowly, while still appearing to focus more on the story. The player learns all the rules and tackles many challenges without realizing it, and Battle Chef Brigade shines at the interesting simplicity of the gameplay, while still having a remarkable complexity to it as well.
One trick the game uses is offering “Classes”. There is a hunting class that teaches combat, a puzzle class that helps to teach matching, and a restaurant that teaches speed cooking. Each of these sounds like a simple mindless tutorial, but they actually are three events that teach the player how to play the game, under the guise of offering money so the player can buy new equipment. That equipment isn’t required by the game, but it certainly helps when you have the right setup.
Each battle has a special ingrediant, everything from fruit, to dragons.
The equipment has a lot of different uses, some books will give expertise bonuses, there are starting ingredients, and enhancements for the main character’s abilities as well as cooking equipment so the player can use different items to create the amazing dishes he’ll need for the real game.
As mentioned above, the game has an Iron Chef competition between characters and the focus of the gameplay is really about this. Each competition takes between five and fifteen minutes. The whole goal is pleasing judges, and each judge gets served their own dish. The goal is to have the most Tier 3 gems of each judge’s favorite color or colors. Some judges want two colors and that means there will have to be equal numbers of both of those colors.
This is where the real complexity comes in. Each competition requires a particular theme ingredient. Though, it’s a mere formality, luckily. Some theme ingredients don’t really work, such as a Water heavy dish that is made with a theme ingredient that only has Fire and Earth. If you make a dish filled with Water Tier 3 gems, and one of the theme ingredients, the judge will be happy. Even destroying the gems from the theme ingredients will still keep the judges happy.
Of course, we’ve talked a lot about cooking, thus Chefs. But this is BATTLE Chef Brigade. The player has to get his ingredients from somewhere, why not a battlefield filled with different enemies and monsters, most of which are hostile.
The combat is really solid as well, death isn’t that punishing, but unnecessary in almost every battle.
Battle Chef Brigade has a rather solid combat system attached to its match 3 gameplay. When I said the core gameplay is the Match 3, I do mean it, as the combat is a bit easy for the most part, but still, much of the player’s time is split between making amazing dishes and collecting the ingredients they need for those dishes.
Battle Chef Brigade requires a decent strategy, usually focused on which enemies to kill, or which items to collect, as well as where to focus your time for every battle, but the real flow of the game is to quickly rush out, collect a bunch of ingredients and then try to improve your current dish as best you can before you rush out and collect more.
The entire process is time-consuming, and the time limit works well here, creating a hectic rush to get everything done in time. In fact, I missed delivering the last dish a few times because I was working on one last goal.
As I mentioned more complexity, and there is. Eventually, the game has the player dealing with bones, poisons, fragile gems, and more. I’ll let the game talk about them more, as it does a solid job and explaining the challenge beyond just cooking the early dishes, but realize this game can get complicated, but also remains engaging.
If there is one feature that Battle Chef Brigade should be the proudest of, it’s the difficulty of the game. It offers a rather good adaptive difficulty to the player. If you don’t lose or don’t let the game record your loss by quitting out after each loss, the game is rather challenging, to the point where the achievement for beating the game without losing a battle seems like a worthy challenge. The minute you lose any battle though, a rematch with that battle will have the enemy take pity on you and turn in a slightly weaker dish.
The cooking isn’t that complicated, just match three of the same gems and they’ll cook. At least that’s the beginning.
This difficulty change is a rather solid system, and it works very well, though I will say, I wish the game gave the player a choice to do so. Ask “Should we change the difficulty a bit with no penalties” And the player can say yes or no. To do it silently is fine, but I would have loved to be able to deny the change to difficulty if I wanted to. I tried the perfect run a couple of times and finally gave it up. I’m glad the option is there though.
Though for fans who might be upset by that, there is also a hard difficulty as well making the game even harder difficulty mode, so you can challenge even more than the average fan.
Not having the option to disable the adaptive difficulty, brings me to a couple of complaints. The UI in Battle Chef Brigade can be a bit of a pain. A few times I had to quit out of the game because I accidentally fat fingered the “Continue” option when I was trying to set up my equipment, and the game doesn’t have a confirm dialog box there. I even ended up retrying at least four battles because my cursor accidentally moved to “retry” instead of “resume” at the top of the pause menu, and again no confirmation dialog box is there.
The UI has other really annoying problems, as well. There’s no way to know what gear you’ll need for the next challenge. The judges and ingredient you’ll use are only announced after you choose your equipment and it doesn’t produce a good experience. If they swapped the introduction and the equipment screen order it would produce a better game. The player doesn’t benefit at all from the swap, and good players will either look it up, or just enter a match, quit and then re-enter it with the appropriate gear.
One last complaint I have for the game is that it is a bit short, and it’s a shame because of how much fun I had with it. The story lasts about 10 hours, and while I do have 20 hours recorded, 10 hours is probably the main story time. There are bonus modes here to try to lengthen the game, but they aren’t very entertaining, at least not for long.
Battle Chef Brigade offers a daily cook-off, and a number of combat and speed challenges, but nothing really made me want to play it more than once. The Daily Cook-off is an interesting idea but after three days, I had seen a good variety and had no reason to return to it either.
Ultimately, I think Battle Chef Brigade is a great game. It’s fresh, interesting and unique. The Match 3 gameplay is something we’ve seen before, even with the twist mechanism, and if that’s all this game was, I would have issues with it. But Battle Chef Brigade delivers so much more. The combat is an interesting addition, the story is charming, even if it has those problems with pacing, and the game’s visuals are entertaining. In fact, the one thing that Battle Chef Brigade makes me want, other than a snack, is a sequel, because I’m not done with this franchise at all.
I award Battle Chef Brigade a
Final Thoughts: Take a match-3, add in great character design, a fun story, and solid combat. Add a pinch of fun and serve. This is a really solid game that should be checked out by all. Something for everyone.
Stats: 19.4 hours played. 21/25 achievements earned