2017 was a heck of a year for video games; while the business side was pushing unsavory practices to the point where it backfired badly, in terms of games, there were a plethora of amazing experiences released and adored by fans. Each person you ask will say a different title for their game of the year. So in the midst of amazing games and disappointments that filled the headlines, I missed a few indie-darlings like Night in the Woods, and decided to give them their proper chance to impress me during the summer, where the release schedule is lighter. The first one I wanted to play was Battle Chef Brigade, a hack-and-slash, match-three puzzle, hand-drawn game by Trinket Studios.
The reason I went with Battle Chef Brigade first was that, out of all the titles I skipped last year, this was the one I was most intrigued by and the first one I bought when I had a bit of leeway in terms of cash. After 11 hours with the game, and many more to come, I regret the decision to skip Battle Chef Brigade, because it is an extremely good game. Playing as Mina, the game tasks the player with successfully entering the Battle Chef Brigade-an elite class of chefs-by participating in the competition and winning enough duels to be accepted. There are two parts to meeting this goal: First, the light exploration part-where you interact with characters for some story and funny moments- and the optional side-quests; Lastly, the duels, which consist of two parts: a side-scrolling, beat-em-up styled, action game where you hunt monsters and gather ingredients for the second part, which is the match-three styled cooking. This is why the game is so good; its a mix of genres and gameplay, that create a new and fresh experience. It is quite addictive and exciting to hunt down monsters for ingredients, and then cook those ingredients with the theme ingredient and the judges’ likings in mind, all while a timer is ticking down; there were several duels where I was rushing to put the final details on my plate, while I had seconds left, creating that feeling seen in shows like Masterchef. Breaking this down reveals that, the game is layers deep for those looking to top the leaderboards and accessible enough for those looking for casual entertainment; memorizing spawn locations, ingredients that drop from monsters and the composition of those ingredients, can make the game tactical and allow players to plan their course of action, while those looking for a more casual experience have enough time and resources to succeed the challenge at hand. Add to this loop, RPG-like items for combat, cooking and cookware; puzzle-like segments for the match-three cooking that require you to be precise and reach a goal, as well as puzzles that concentrate on speed; and what you end up with is finely paced campaign, that is varied and interesting throughout-at least in terms of the mechanics. Narrative wise, the story is not that great; it is heavily influenced by anime and does not offer anything novel or interesting with its world, but it is endearing and charming as similar anime properties can be, thus it was a bummer when the campaign’s pacing worked against the narrative pacing.
However, that is my only issue with the game. Visually, the game is beautiful, with a mix of hand-drawn techniques-such as pencil drawings- which give the world of Battle Chef, a unique feel. Moreover, the characters are varied and interesting, featuring humans like Mina the protagonist, orcs like Thrash and elfs like Kirin, amongst others. In the audio department, Battle Chef has a nice, jolly soundtrack that isn’t anything special yet it fulfills its purpose; a voice cast that works really well, considering the strong anime inspirations for the story and the art-style. In all honesty, I was a big fan of the style, the gameplay loop and some aspects of the story, so the game is worth it just for the campaign, although I have a sneaking suspicion that I will end up spending more time in the daily trials and challenges instead, which are greatly appreciated and give long-term possibilities to the game as well.
2017 was a heck of a year and in any other year, Battle Chef Brigade would have stood out much more than it did, which is a shame. If you have it on your wishlist or if you’re searching for something new, consider giving Battle Chef Brigade a shot; it may not redefine your expectations from video games, but it is a great and worthwhile experience.