Enjoying a cool evening with friends, gathered around a campfire to roast marshmallows is a particular pleasure for some people. For the rest of us who prefer the warm glow of our phones from the solitary comfort of our couches, Campfire Cooking is the outdoorsy, snack-inspired puzzler we deserve.
Puzzle levels are grouped by unlockable campgrounds and each level features a different layout of charcoal briquettes, flames, and tinder which either help or hinder your ability to cook. To succeed, you must perfectly roast marshmallows and heat up other fire-top food, while negotiating the layout of the board and the direction your skewers can go.
You must avoid burning your marshmallows by passing over a flame more than twice, and you will have to roast all of the marshmallows on the fire in order to pass the level. Skewers can push other items, such as soup pots, over the flames and wooden skewers (as opposed to metal skewers) can even rotate around the board to change directions. The puzzles are procedural, where success can only achieved by doing things in a certain order while considering cause-and-effect. Over time you’ll even begin to plan several moves in advance.
True to the real-world titular experience, the pacing of Campfire Cooking is relaxed and laid back. Your marshmallows only cook when you turn them over the fire, so they can sit as long as you need while you strategize your next move. And, be warned, there are many levels where you’ll need to spend some time considering your moves. The difficulty progression is reasonable, though there are some noticeable challenges that clearly mark the next “phase” of the game. As new obstacles, mechanics, foods, and other components are introduced, negotiating the flames becomes a rather complicated endeavor.
Campfire Cooking is a premium game with no additional IAPs or limiting energy systems. Unfortunately, there is no hint system, which I always find a bit irksome in premium games. You’ll need to unlock a certain number of levels within a campground before you can open a new one, so a hint system would be helpful here to ensure players can keep progressing. However, if you get stuck there are unlimited level restarts and you are able to work on any level within a campground, in any order.
The modular gridded board will feel familiar for puzzle lovers, but the campfire theme is surprisingly refreshing. The 3D graphics are quite appealing, with just enough detail to feel tangible but not cross over into the uncanny valley. I did find that swiping to move the skewers wasn’t always responsive, or that a swipe triggered an unintended move, but moves can be easily undone.
The soundtrack is delightful, with a musical loop that’s long enough to not be irritating and the pleasing sound of crackling fire and sizzling tidbits. There are also some quirky characters featured in cut scenes, but I didn’t feel particularly attached to any of them. If those characters were really meant to keep me invested, I would have enjoyed a richer, more robust storyline for them all.
Discrete levels will appeal to commuters or short-session players, while access to multiple levels at a time will keep long-session players motivated. Those looking for a fierce puzzle fix with relentless high score chasing should look elsewhere; this is not a twitchy manic experience. Players who enjoy a mellow, contemplative process of puzzle solving, with room for ongoing improvement should certainly consider Campfire Cooking.