There’s nothing quite like starting a new life by getting unceremoniously thrown off a ship at your destination. That’s how Zest’s journey begins as he’s kicked off a ship for stowing away on it and nearly bringing it to disaster. Not long after setting foot on land, you’ll learn that bribery and corruption are rife at your chosen port of call and that getting ahead in this new life may require some actual work.
In its opening moments, Epic Chef sets the tone for the adventure to come, and it’s one of sarcasm, irony and general tongue-in-cheek hilarity. Inspired by the works of Terry Pratchett, you can expect to encounter bizarre situations and zany characters in your quest to become, well, Epic Chef because how much work could it actually be…
Epic Chef combines a couple of genres into one to tell its entertaining story. It’s a story driven adventure game, a light cooking sim and a farming life sim all in one. It smooshes all of these aspects together to create a unique blend that, while on the easy side, is nonetheless compelling.
Epic Chef’s biggest draw card is its story. The game is extremely well-written and sardonically funny. Even when the natural grind of sim-like games gets to be too much, it’s the games story that continued to push me forward. The world around Zest feels fully formed with an interesting history all of its own that’s told in the most natural way – through your conversations with others. It’s the bizarre situations that you find yourself in and the almost Monty Python-esque conversations that you engage in that really click though. Whether you’re having a competition against a travelling chef-knight with a donkey for a judge or being berated for not reporting a crazy person running around with a ladle, Epic Chef’s dialogue entertains throughout.
Once you’ve hit the port and found your new, possibly haunted mansion that no one would be caught dead in, the game truly begins. A Golem crashing from the sky will start you on your journey to conquering the culinary Culinarim and opening up your very own restaurant.
Epic Chef doesn’t do anything different in the mechanics department of farming or life sims. Rather it takes these elements and simplifies them a bit to fit within the story it wants to tell. Your dilapidated mansion is in need of work so you’re going to have to buy furniture for it and you do that by earning money through sidequests. If you need ingredients, you can either buy them from the stores or plant and harvest on your property. Planting trees and crops, and harvesting them for ingredients to either sell or craft with, will be taking up quite a bit of your time. This is even with the game helping to streamline the time it takes for crops to grow by giving you a magically enhanced homestead.
Along with crops you can keep livestock and craft devices to help you further your farmstead and cooking aspirations.
The game’s simplified mechanics, whether for crafting or cooking, are actually welcome. Cooking, which is your key to a better life and how you will need to progress the game, is also rather simplistic. You can throw three ingredients into a pan along with a sauce. There is some depth to how you get the best out of your recipes as each ingredient has five values, two determining the sort of food type it is and three that determines the dishes overall score. You have to let the ingredients simmer by stirring the pan and to shake the pan so that they don’t burn. Adding ingredients that complement each other is the key to success. Mechanically that’s all there really is to cooking.
The depth, however, comes during chef battles as each one usually has a specific cooking strategy to exploit. Learning how to make the most of your dishes aroma, or knowing that you need to add an ingredient that biases a chef’s taste in a specific round are things you will need to consider if you want to win. The game treats these encounters as mini puzzles and they work quite well in making sure that you don’t get to rest on your laurels of just creating the highest scoring dish.
Gaining experience for Zest can be gained through a number of ways but he will only level up when he actually eats, which means you have to cook for yourself as well and not just for the battles. You can gain experience by spending time laying around the house, golfing and even tanning, amongst other things, which has the added benefit of passing time.
The game sports a day/night cycle and you can only complete quests during the day. Game time actually passes rather quickly and I rarely found myself with nothing to do while waiting for a quest giver to be available, even if all there was available was more work in the fields. At a certain point Zest will need to go home in the evening and sleep and this is when the game saves as well.
Visually Epic Chef sports a low poly stylised look. This works well for the games environment but not as well for the games characters. There’s a very squat, blocky look to them which you eventually just get used to. The game runs perfectly well on Nintendo Switch in both handheld and docked modes.
One issue I did have, has to do with the games saving. Only being able to save when you sleep, and then after 8pm, gets tiresome especially if you need to take a break for some reason but are far from your villa. It’s also tiresome if you prefer to save before a chef battle and would like to load it right away if you fail, rather than having to start the day over again with a reload and have a series of tasks to perform again before you can get to the battle. Being able to save whenever you please, wherever you please, really should be the order of the day.
Epic Chef does a wonderful job of combining life and cooking sims with a light RPG adventure. The stellar writing and uncomplicated but fun cooking mechanic helps to set the game apart from others in the genre and is worth a taste of your time.
A review code for Epic Chef was provided to Gameblur by the Publisher
Story8/10 Very Good
- Stellar, hilarious writing
- Fun, uncomplicated cooking
- Streamlined farm sim mechanics
- Only been able to save at night when you sleep