Cooking Academy Review
If Cooking Academy on the PC is a full restaurant, then Cooking Academy for the iPhone is like a great fast food joint. It’s a little light on the sophistication, but a delicious experience nonetheless. And amazingly, it also has a great menu.
Like its big brother, Cooking Academy is all about learning to cook a variety of foods for appetizers, breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert. You start with appetizers and move on up through the menu, meeting different teachers along the way. Some of them are nice, while others – including a tough-to-impress French chef – are out to knock you down a few culinary pegs.
In order to progress from one part of the menu to the next, you’ll have to master making a number of dishes, ranging from spring rolls to pancakes and beyond. Each recipe has a number of steps to perform in order. For example, to make guacamole, you have to chop the garlic, pit and cut the avocado, crush the avocado, add all the ingredients to a bowl and stir them up. Each new step is a minigame using the iPhone’s touchscreen and tilt sensor to accomplish the different tasks.
While breaking up the flow of cooking into bite-sized portions might seem like it interrupts the flow of a real kitchen, it works really well here, particularly as a portable game. Before cooking each dish, you’ll be able to practice to your heart’s content. Each step is rated out of 100, along with some bonus points for taking less time. At the end of the dish your current teacher will grade you on your culinary skills.
Each activity really makes great use of the iPhone. While using your finger to trace a knife slicing through something seems like common sense, other activities are really well thought out. For example, you’ll be tilting your iPhone to pour cheese fondue into a bowl. My favorite has to be flicking the iPhone upward quickly to flip a pancake, then tilting the phone to catch it before it lands on the counter!
Once you complete all the recipes in a given section, you’ll be sent to an exam to show off some of the more challenging aspects of the recipes you’ve just learned. Do well enough on them and you’ll progress to the next course.
There is a huge variety of different dishes, both in terms of ethnicity and in preparation skills. It’s not the kind of game you can just sit down and plow through in an evening; you’ll be cooking for a good long while. Unfortunately as dishes become more complex, you’ll be repeating a lot of steps – even within a single recipe. For instance, if you need to chop onion, garlic and carrots, you’ll be doing three separate steps during the recipe, all of them playing out nearly idenitcally.
The presentation in Cooking Academy is top notch. The cartoony graphics give lots of character to the different cooking personalities you encounter, and that food looks mighty delicious! In-game icons, though a bit small at times, are typically clear and easy to see. The boppy acoustic guitar soundtrack is largely forgettable but certainly doesn’t interfere with the game.
You’ll also have a lot of reason to return to the kitchen with the variety of trophies and achievements that Cooking Academy offers. Sure, you can get by with barely passing those exams, but you wouldn’t want to eat that food, would you?
Cooking Academy doesn’t pretend to be anything more than a miniaturized version of its PC brother, and it doesn’t have to be. It’s a fun, easy to pick up title with lots of appeal and longevity. If you’ve got a need to get out of the fire and into the frying pan, download Cooking Academy. The best part? There’s no clean up in the kitchen aftwards.