It’s not because I just returned from visiting Pixar Animation Studios that I find similarities in the story between the animated flick, Ratatouille, and Alawar’s new hidden object game, Mystery Cookbook. After all, both follow a mouse/rat who wants to be a skilled chef. Um, sound familiar? While we won’t dock points for story unoriginality, we must in the gameplay department, and for other issues, which we’ll soon get to.
As a result, Mystery Cookbook is a fun but flawed game that might hold your interest for a while but don’t expect much from this casual download.
Boot up this attractive hidden object game and you’ll meet Mousy, a rodent who wants to master the fine art of professional cooking. To help him achieve this lofty goal, you’ll meet many bizarre animal characters, visit nearly a dozen locations and search for hundreds of well-hidden items in order to find pages of a secret cookbook. If you don’t like the humorous dialogue between Mousy and a cat, dog, fish, bird, hamster and so on, you can just click to fast-forward to the game-play.
If you’re familiar with hidden object games, you’ll have no trouble playing Mystery Cookbook: players are presented with a busy scene, such as a restaurant kitchen, and a number of items to find, such as a fork, wine glass, basket, apple or flowers. Sometimes you’ll see the items listed as words, like "bread," while other levels will show you a silhouette of an item to find, such as an outline of a sugar bowl, and you’ll need to look for it on the screen. You must find all the items within the allotted time or else you need to replay the level. Click on the wrong item a few times and 20 seconds will be removed from the clock as a penalty.
If you’re stuck, you can click on the cheese platter for a hint, and in order to replenish this plate you can find bits of cheese hidden on the level.
Players are also given a specific task for the level, which is tied to the story, such as finding a pocket watch, menu, eyeglasses, brochure or page from a cookbook, and so on. Allegedly the game has more than 800 objects to find, which is enormous.
Mystery Cookbook also offers six types of mini-games that pop up every few levels or so, such as a tile puzzle that challenges players to rotate blocks on a 5×5 grid to form a scene; spotting the differences between two similar images; or finding a specific number of similar items in a scene, such as cups.
Besides the "me, too" game-play, Mystery Cookbook has its share of annoying problems. For one, I was instructed to find and click pieces of cheese on the level, but when I clicked on what was obviously a piece of brie, it cost me some time off the clock as it wasn’t one of the ones I needed to find for some reason.
There are also some confusing items listed like "can," but it turned out to be a glass jar, and "pots," but when I clicked on two pots on the stove, I lost points (it was a third bronze pot off to the side). A third issue is when you need to replay a level if you run out of time, the items stay in the exact same place the second time around so it makes it too easy to finish it since you know where everything is.
As a fan of Alawar’s games, I really wanted to like Mystery Cookbook, but couldn’t get past these annoying shortcomings. Sure, if you’re a serious fan of hidden object games you might enjoy playing through the trial but be aware these issues exist, which will likely eat away at your patience.