SEATTLE – Cooking games are usually pretty simple affairs. You find some ingredients, you follow a recipe, you play some minigames and see how your dish turned out in the end. Battle Chef Brigade technically follows the same formula; the difference is in the execution.
Your recipes are handed down by flamboyant judges, Iron Chef-style. You punch, kick and stab dangerous monsters to procure ingredients. You play a fairly involved match-3 game to cook, complete with power-ups and high scores. In short: Battle Chef Brigade is very weird and kind of wonderful.
I got some hands-on time with Battle Chef Brigade at PAX West 2017, and the best way I can explain it is “Iron Chef as an over-the-top anime.” You play as Mina Han, a lazy but creative cook in her family’s humble restaurant. Mina’s ambitious cooking eventually lands her smack-dab in an ongoing competition, where she crosses paths with orcs, two-headed giants and demons – all of whom also want to prove that they’re the world’s greatest cooks.
MORE: Most Anticipated Games
Gameplay is essentially split into two halves: ingredient acquisition and cooking. To gather ingredients, you’ll need to take Mina out in the wild, where she can learn a variety of punching and kicking combinations to kill savory birds, gelatinous beasts and tasty bulls. Over time, Mina can upgrade her abilities – especially her magical throwing knives.
The larger part of gameplay comes in the form of cooking. Once she has sufficient ingredients, Mina can square off against other cooks in a match-3 game. Under a time limit, Mina must “stir” her ingredients, matching red, blue, and green gems by rotating groups of three at a time. The more matches you make, the higher your score; simply exceed your opponent’s numbers to win.
Defeating rival chefs will earn Mina money, with which she can buy special ingredients (which can give her desirable color combinations of gems in her dish), as well as new cooking equipment (which can give bonuses depending on the type of gems matched). For a cooking sim, Battle Chef Brigade can get surprisingly deep.
One of the game’s biggest draws has nothing to do with the gameplay mechanics. The graphics are simply gorgeous, infused with a rough, pencil-drawn manga aesthetic and a vibrant, lush color palette. Mina looks eager and exasperated; her orc opponent, roguish and powerful. There’s something of a watercolor feel to the backgrounds, giving the whole game a pleasant fantasy feeling without going overboard.
The game will debut early next year on PC and Nintendo Switch, although there’s no price listed just yet. Until then, if you want to approximate the experience, you can marathon Iron Chef while playing Bejeweled.