Cooking and video games have more in common than you might think.
They both require a mix of mental and physical dexterity. It takes a lot of practice to get good at either. And champion gamers, like world-class chefs, have instinctual and improvisational talents that are hard for mere mortals to fathom.
Contrary to stereotype, videogame addicts don’t just survive on Cheetos and Red Bull. We like a good meal, and we’re willing to put down the joystick long enough to prepare one. And a few of the game industry’s most prominent publishers are encouraging just that.
— Nintendo’s first foray into the kitchen is the blandly titled “Personal Trainer: Cooking” (for the DS, $19.99). This digital cookbook includes 245 recipes that you can sort by ingredient, calorie count, preparation time or even country of origin.
Each recipe includes extremely detailed, illustrated instructions. Even a relatively simple production like guacamole has 15 steps; beef bourguignon has 49. So even if you don’t know how to boil pasta, you can whip up a fairly decent meal.
— Atari’s “What’s Cooking? Jamie Oliver” (for the DS, $29.99) offers about 100 recipes from the erstwhile Naked Chef, and its appeal rests largely on how charming you find the spiky-haired Brit. Its instructions aren’t as detailed as those in “Personal Trainer,” and kitchen neophytes will wonder why certain steps are glossed over. An oldfashioned cookbook is probably a wiser purchase.
— Majesco pioneered the cooking game, and “Cooking Mama World Kitchen” (for the Wii, $49.99) is another worthy installment of its addictive franchise. The endearing Mama guides you through the virtual creation of a variety of global delights, from chocolate chip cookies to ratatouille. You use the Wii remote to simulate a range of kitchen chores, from chopping vegetables to stirring soup to rolling dough. It’s easy to pick up and very entertaining, and may just inspire a new generation of master chefs.
— Destineer’s “Iron Chef America: Supreme Cuisine” (for the Wii, $39.99; for the DS, $29.99) turns the “Cooking Mama” template into a competition. It does a decent job of simulating kitchen tasks, but it’s difficult to tell what you’re supposed to be preparing in each round.
— Finally, Ubisoft’s “Hell’s Kitchen” (for the Wii, $39.99; for the DS, $29.99) combines kitchen work with restaurant management, and neither sim is very entertaining. This one’s recommended only for masochists who dream of being scolded by Gordon Ramsay.