Sometimes I wish that I lived in the Land of Casual Games. If I did, there would be a ridiculous number of restaurants, each serving the best quality foods they could muster while I stood there at the counter, hearts ticking away. If I could choose a restaurant to go to, Kitchen Brigade would be high on that list.
In Kitchen Brigade you are a young, aspiring chef (are there any other kinds?) who just won a big cooking competition. Unfortunately, after taxes, tuition from cooking school and buying your own place, you’re left with the shirt on your back and big dreams. But, not long after opening your restaurant, you’re invited to join the Kitchen Brigade game show.
You begin competing against other chefs (a la Top Chef) to work for ten days, growing the number of dishes you can make and serving different people. On the tenth day, the big cheese himself, Henri Fromage, comes in to inspect your restaurant. If your food and service please him, you are given a new restaurant and continue the competition, trying to conquer six restaurants in 60 days.
At first glace, Kitchen Brigade looks like another standard time-management title. After all, a lot of the traditional trappings are there: variety of customers with special tastes and patience levels, a counter with multiple customers lining up, and kitchen help you have to watch. Progress is made by achieving a minimum amount of money per day. The faster you serve, the higher the tips you receive.
However, soon into the game, there’s much more to do. Not only do you have helpers, but you yourself are also part of the kitchen action! If all your cooks are busy, you can step up to your own prep area and, in short minigames (with mechanics similar to Cooking Mamma or previous Fugazo title Cooking Academy), help slice, dice, fry or grill to ensure all the customers are served quickly. These minigames start simple, but get more complex, with more steps. The game’s tutorials are great, so you shouldn’t get lost.
Adding to the interesting balance is that your staff can only do certain tasks. At first, you have two helpers, which then quickly grows to three. Two of them are only good for hands-on work, like slicing, shredding or folding. The other is only good for stovetop work, like frying or boiling. You, as master chef, are able to do all of those tasks – only much faster than any of your helpers. However, you also have equipment that nobody else has, like a grill. If one step of a customer’s order involves grilling, you can’t delegate it, and must make time for it.
This extra element of self-management on top of the standard time-management really adds to the frenetic pace of Kitchen Brigade. It’s very exciting when the customers are lined up, and you have the responsibility of finishing the dish, getting it out to the customer before their patience runs out.
There are, of course, different kinds of customers, each with their own personalities, likes and dislikes. But rather than just being avatars with meters, some of them can really mess around with your kitchen rhythm. For example, each of the six restaurants is themed, with cuisine like American, Italian, Mexican or Asian Fusion. But some of the characters don’t care what the restaurant is, and order anyway. The Geisha – low patience, but big tipper – will order Japanese food, even if you’re trying to toss bowls of pasta. And if Henri Fromage shows up, you must serve him right away, or the level is over. It’s fun to have this extra challenge.
Kitchen Brigade offers some help when things get hairy. The Food-O-Matic is a device that, if you drag its icon onto a customer’s order, will automatically make it for you instantly. It’s very helpful when you’re trying to serve someone with low patience and an order that has a lot of steps. Sometimes a customer will come in with a power-up icon flashing over their order. If you complete their order before the icon disappears, you’ll earn the power-up.
The presentation of the game is nice, clean and bright. The characters are easy to see at a glace when trying to determine who to take care of first, and the food certainly looks delicious. The sounds of slicing and sizzling are clean and clear. The music loop can get a bit repetitive, but hardly anything major.
If Kitchen Brigade has any faults, it’s that we’ve seen it all before. We’ve played kitchen management and clicking minigames. However, Kitchen Brigade manages to put them together into something genuinely fresh and fun. If you’re into time management, then step into the kitchen and get cooking!