REVIEW / Battle Chef Brigade (Switch)

 

Last year, I attended an awesome event called ValorCon. Located in my home city of Chicago, it’s a small gaming convention meant for those who can’t make it to the bigger conventions in neighboring states, or who just can’t get enough of gaming. It’s mostly tabletop gaming, but there were a choice number of in-progress independent video games to try as well. One that really caught my attention was Battle Chef Brigade. With a concept resembling Iron Chef in a fantasy world, I was pulled in by its mix of gameplay styles and its unique art. I was anxious for more, and now, the game has finally been released for the Switch and PC. Let’s see if it lives up to the potential it showed at ValorCon.

Battle Chef Brigade mainly follows the story of Mina, a chef at a small time family restaurant who dreams of joining the titular brigade. See, with monsters roaming the land, the only way chefs can procure ingredients is to harvest meet and plants themselves. Thus, chefs from across the world compete in the battle chef tournament for a chance to join the brigade. During the tournament, you meet an entertaining cast of characters. They’re all very well written, and the game even has full voice acting, which you don’t see often in indie games like this. It’s a shame, though, that you almost exclusively play as Mina during the main game. There is a brief part wherein you control my favorite character, an orc named Thrash, but it ends up being somewhat disorienting. It’s still something, at least, and he’s a particularly good character to get the spotlight for a while.

Though Battle Chef Brigade does feature RPG elements and some other activities, the core of the gameplay comes from the cooking battles. This comes down to two activities: hunting and cooking. Hunting involves leaving the kitchen stadium for the wilds outside, killing monsters and picking plants to use as ingredients. It plays like a pretty standard beat-em-up and it quite competent, even though it doesn’t really do anything too special in this space. Once you have your ingredients, the actual cooking occurs as a type of match-3 puzzle game. These are a dime a dozen, but this game manages to put a fresh spin on it. The difficulty increases throughout the game in interesting ways too, as new tools become available and new challenges change how you play. It’s still a pretty simple game, so it’s not going to win a ton of awards, but it does what it does pretty well. It does eventually wear on you a bit, but it’s still the most complete-feeling version of the match-three puzzle I’ve played.

The visual style of Battle Chef Brigade will be hit or miss for you; it really depends. It’s got a sort of storybook look to it, which is a neat take, even if nothing about the game really calls for that aesthetic. At times, though, the visuals seem a bit unfinished. This is a stylistic choice, of course, but it doesn’t always work. Fortunately, the character designs largely make up for this. It’s easy for an indie game to have one compelling character design, but this one really knocks it out of the park.

In a year full of amazing blockbusters and viral indie darlings, it’s easy to forget about some of the other indie games out there. And it’s true, Battle Chef Brigade may not be the next PUBG, but it’s a fun and well made experience. It was clearly crafted with care, and does some cool new things. I definitely recommend picking it up if you want a cool casual experience. It’s a lot of fun, and it’s the kind of unique indie title that we need to support against a wave of clones and copycats.

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