"It’s not me, it’s the food!"
My friends are all well aware of it, but people who read my reviews on GR probably don’t know that at home I’m a cook – a very serious cook. Due to a small, and honestly quite silly run-in with the campus police early in my first year of college, I was moved out of regular student housing and into housing for “problem students”. This turned out to be an awesome upgrade, namely my own apartment with a full kitchen.
[image1]I had already discovered that the campus cuisine tasted as if the food had been trying to pledge a frat, died during hazing, hidden in the house basement, and discovered by the janitor several weeks later. Then reheated and served.
I suddenly acquired an incredible appreciation for my mother’s cooking that I never had before as an asshole teenager (we were all assholes, just admit it), and I decided to make my life that much better. So I bought The Frugal Gourmet, a cookbook that sounded just about perfect for a poor college student.
I then proceeded to make every single recipe in the book – not all at once, of course. Years later, Jeff Smith the author turned out to be a child molester, effectively ending his TV and book career. Fortunately, he left that recipe out of the book.
Instead I bought more cookbooks from other authors like Alice Waters and Joyce Goldstein and practiced and experimented until I really knew what the hell I was doing in the kitchen. These days I can whip up my own best recipe for veal piccata or steak au poivre, with sides, in 30 minutes. By the way, cooking is a terrific way to impress women. Trust me.
So when What’s Cooking? Jamie Oliver and Personal Trainer: Cooking (both for the DS) arrived in the office, instead of letting them languish in The Limbo of the WTF Game, I took them home to challenge them, Iron Chef style.
That turned out to be no contest at all, because while a friendly bloke and a good cook, Jamie’s game is less useful in the kitchen than the fry-guy from McDonald’s, and a completely unworthy opponent for the far superior Personal Trainer: Cooking.
[image2]The problem with WC?JO is that it cannot decide what it wants to be – a Cooking Mama style game or a kitchen assistant and recipe book.
The first and best part of this DS title is, in fact, that recipe book. It has 100 of Jamie’s recipes and he is an excellent chef. I may have a few quibbles here and there (sorry Jamie, my caesar salad is better than yours) but from rogan josh to shepherd’s pie, this is some delicious, delicious cooking.
Both games allow you to sort recipes in all kinds of smart ways, by ingredient, prep time, or course. But WC?JO is severely hampered by a bad, confusing iconic interface, a lack of handwriting recognition to find things fast, and some missing sort options like difficulty and country of origin.
Jamie doesn’t help you much either (although we assume he wrote the original text of the recipes), you’ll just be going through the steps one by one, reading them. There is, however one brilliant addition – whenever you get to a timed step like "broil for ten minutes" a little timer pops up that you can start.
You can also add your own recipes to the mix and use the shopping cart tools to keep track of what you need to buy at the supermarket. Just select a recipe or three if you’re planning ahead and tell the DS what you have and it will tell you want you need to get. Then just tick them off. However, once again the confusing menus will leave you at a loss, and longing for a good old piece of paper and a pen.
Then there’s the game aspect of WC?JO – you can also make any of these recipes in the DS virtual kitchen. You stir and chop away with the stylus, just like Cooking Mama, only now that damn confusing interface has somehow managed to get even worse.
[image3]And while the ingredients are correct for each dish, the game never shows you any of the amounts, you just add until the meter is full. This means the game doesn’t actually help you to learn any of the recipes. I can forgive Mama for that as she has no intentions regarding teaching you to cook, but not Jamie who wants you to cook for real.
Jamie himself also doesn’t add much, just reading the name of the dish aloud and occasionally saying "that looks fantastic". Oh, and you’ll want to turn off the background music right away. As in immediately.
All in all, I cannot figure out why anyone would buy this game instead of purchasing one of Jamie’s cookbooks. It’s just as useful, has a larger "screen", probably has more recipes, and won’t short out
if when you spill wine on it.