Whats Cooking? Jamie Oliver
Atari serves up a bland DS game in need of some spice.
Nintendo and its third party cohorts have done a good job convincing us that the DS has uses beyond video games, ones that involve caring for pets, exercising and strengthening our brains. Now they want us to cook. These new games are essentially interactive cookbooks chock full of delicious recipes. Nintendo has its own entry, Personal Trainer: Cooking, arriving November 24th, but Atari beat it to the proverbial punch with What's Cooking? Jamie Oliver . Although it has 100 of The Naked Chef's tasty dishes, it's leagues behind Personal Trainer: Cooking and not as user friendly.
Much like the competition, the game has an impressive selection of things to eat, including baked garlic mushrooms and crispy prosciutto, caprese salad and grilled peppers, summer salmon salad and also pan-baked chicken with white beans and chorizo. Its dishes have a more gourmet flare than Personal Trainer: Cooking's, so purchasing both games will give you a diverse mix of things to make.
As expected, the game includes a shopping list for each dish and step by step instructions, but Jamie doesn't verbally walk you through the steps, nor are there video clips showing what to do, which Nintendo's game has. That means you're stuck reading the directions, as you would a regular cookbook. At least there's voice recognition, which lets you view the next step or the last one by saying "next or "previous" into the DS microphone.
Although it's not as detailed as the competition, this part of the game still features concise directions that'll enable you to whip up lots of cool stuff. The other half, however, has us scratching our heads. Atari created a 3-D Test Kitchen where you can mix ingredients and complete mini challenges, such as Time Attack, but it's too difficult and therefore annoying to use. There are icons across the top of the screen representing different parts of the kitchen (good luck memorizing them) and a collection of menus and submenus that had us growing progressively angrier. There are way too many instructions for how to make stuff and there's little point to cooking anything, since the game doesn't score your creations. It seems like Atari wanted to give us an idea how to cook, but tapping the DS' touch screen with a stylus doesn't simulate actual chopping, stirring or whatever action the game forces us to mimic.
There's also a mode where you can create your own recipes, but it too has little value, since there's no way to rate your creations or prevent you from mixing ingredients that do not belong together. You might as well clear out your fridge and mix everything yourself.
If Personal Trainer: Cooking didn't exist, we'd probably show more love to What's Cooking? Jamie Oliver for its eclectic mix of recipes. Unfortunately for Atari, Personal Trainer blows this game out of the kitchen with a more diverse selection of meals and a stellar presentation. If you're that hard up for Jamie Oliver, there are plenty of tasty looking dishes for you to make, but seeing as how the game lacks narration, you might as well purchase one of his books, some of which are less expensive than the $29.99 video game.
What's Hot: Lots of delectable looking recipes, microphone recognition lets you cook without touching the DS.
What's Not: Boring kitchen games, too many cluttered menus, horribly labeled icons.