Every Friday, A.V. Club staffers kick off our weekly open thread for the discussion of gaming plans and recent gaming glories, but of course, the real action is down in the comments, where we invite you to answer our eternal question: What Are You Playing This Weekend?
Battle Chef Brigade’s concept is so irresistible it carried the modest game to a successful Kickstarter campaign that brought in three times what the developers were asking for. It takes place in a food-obsessed world where the most revered master chefs don’t just prepare extraordinary dishes, they also have to hunt down the fantastical beasts and fruits they’re cooking. And to become members of the Battle Chef Brigade, a collective of the most elite cooks around, hopefuls descend upon a single city and engage in rigorous culinary combat, gathering ingredients and combining them into intricate meals that meet the demands of esteemed judges—all within a strict time limit. Yes, it’s fantasy Iron Chef, presented with all the pageantry and ridiculous posing that implies, and yes, it’s as fun as it sounds.
The cook-offs are the real meat here. Just like on Iron Chef, each one is guided by a theme ingredient, usually a specific monster whose meat you should include in your dish for bonus points. You’re also encouraged to cook to the tastes of the competition’s judges, each of whom will let you know which of three elements—earth, fire, or water—they prefer to dominate a dish. You have to keep those parameters in mind when you’re out collecting ingredients, dashing back and forth between the stadium and the wilds just outside so you can fill you pantry with the proper supplies.
The actual cooking is done with a simple match-the-colors puzzle game. Every ingredient you add takes the shape of a specific arrangement of red, green, and blue gems. You have a very small grid to play with, so instead of throwing stuff in willie nillie, you really have to consider each piece you’re adding and make sure you’re shifting those gems around to make matches, which free up space and create higher level gems that grant you judging points and determine the overall flavor of your dish. It’s a lot less complicated—and a lot more captivating—than it sounds, especially when you add in the pressure of a ticking clock and a simple but effective story about a girl running away from home to pursue her dreams. The game is available right now on PC and Switch. [Matt Gerardi]
As someone who suffers from fairly extreme social anxiety, gaming has been one of my primary ways to connect with others, a shield of shared activity that allows me to sync up with people in ways that freeform conversation and socializing can’t. Few things bring me pleasure like being in tune with another person while I’m gaming with them; from my days playing the two-player modes in stuff like Battletoads or Chip ’N Dale Rescue Rangers on the NES with my dad, to modern couch co-op classics like Lovers In A Dangerous Spacetime or Castle Crashers, nothing makes me feel more connected to someone than sitting side-by-side, occasionally trading quips, and working together toward a shared goal.
Lately, my girlfriend and I have spent our downtime working our way through Overcooked, the adorably difficult cooking simulator that everyone was raving about back in 2016. It’s become standard procedure for us to spend an hour every night playing through its fiendishly cute levels together, serving soup on icebergs, making burritos in volcanoes, and even cooking up burgers in outer space. The real pleasure, though, has been the connection and communication the game’s cute cooking challenges demand. She and I both have issues with keeping our heads or communicating properly when things get tense; by playing an entire game about keeping cool under pressure—weaving around each other to pluck a burning piece of meat off the skillet or dashing to get a salad in under the wire—it’s allowed us to exercise those communication muscles in non-stressful scenarios. All that and we get to play as a pair of adorable kitties trying to fight off the food apocalypse with the power of our three-star tomato soup. [William Hughes]