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Cooking Guide: Can't Decide What To Eat?

For: DS

The N word

Product: Cooking Guide: Can't Decide What to Eat? | Publisher: Nintendo | Format: DS | Genre: Casual | Players: 1 | Version: Europe
Cooking Guide: Can't Decide What to Eat? DS, thumbnail 1
Isn't it terrible what Nintendo have done to video games? All those years of loyally buying their games, of enduring ridicule from other more fashionable console owners and what do Nintendo fans get as their reward? To be ignored and discarded the second they're no longer necessary.

Well, that's the way some fans would have it, although in practice those most outraged at Nintendo's new mainstream success are often those who were never interested in their games in the first place. Instead they treat the idea of ordinary people being interested in video games as some sort of insidious plague that has to be resisted at all costs.

Seldom is the opposite view embraced, that Nintendo are actually creating a set of gateway drugs to slowly ease those whose only knowledge of gaming comes from the latest tabloid scare story. They start with Brain Training, then it's onto Animal Crossing and then before you known it they're onto the class 'A' drugs of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass and online Counter-Strike.

Well, maybe not the last one but the other steps are well trodden by thousands of mums and sisters who got dumped with the old DS Phat once the Lite version came out and then discovered that maybe, just maybe, video games aren't entirely evil. For any that still have that lingering suspicion though this should be the final proof of gaming's inability to offend.

Although the term "non-game" was coined by the hardcore as a bitter insult it's the perfect description of this... well software seem to be the only other term to describe it. It is not in any way, shape or form meant to be a video game. It measures no skill, provides no goals and requires no special dexterity to use.

There is an unlockable version of Game & Watch gallery game Chef for you to uncover, but other than that this is exactly what it appears to be: an interactive cook book. It has nothing in common with Cooking Mama, which was essentially just a mini-game collection with a cookery theme, but is instead focused on teaching you how to cook a range of 245 different recipes from around the world.

Naturally everything in the, err… software is controlled by the stylus but each of the touchscreen displays are surprisingly full of buttons, options and descriptions. It's not confusing per se but it's not the ultra simplified set-up you might have been expecting.

The best place to start then is on the world map, where you get to pick your dish from the assorted countries – from France to Russia. You can also search by ingredients, difficulty time, calories and a wide variety of other requirements if you want to be really picky. Using the search box that lingers on these pages involves handwriting recognition that is noticeably better than Brain Training.

Once your recipe is selected (your reviewer went for a nice sounding Coq au Vin) a list of ingredients is displayed, with a handy set of little tick boxes so you can take it to the supermarket with you. The only problem here though is that everything's in metric, which was an immediate problem for the succession of otherwise interested mothers we introduced the game (sorry, software) to.

This becomes particularly annoying when you're told you need 500g of carrots or the rather bizarre 3/5ths of a leek, rather than any more comprehensible measurement. Quite why you can only increase the measures in steps of 2, 4 and 6 is also something of a puzzle.

Once you get to the actual cooking stage though the meat and potatoes of the whole endeavour is made evident. Each stage of the recipe is spoken aloud to you and moving between each one is achieved simply by shouting "Continue" or "Go Back" at the DS. You can even scream "Details" in your best Dalek voice and the more complicated steps will be explained at length.

The voice recognition is largely flawless throughout but foolishly the developer has failed to provide any kind of sensitivity slider for the microphone. So the minute there's any loud noise, such as the chopping of carrots or cursing of celebrity chefs, the DS thinks it hasn't understood you and your vegetable chopping is constantly interrupted by cries of "What was that?" and "I didn't understand you."

Thankfully you can just turn the microphone off and use the touch screen but it does spoil one of the not-a-game's main draws. It's a shame as otherwise this works well with a good mix of recipes, a very handy glossary of terms and even some instructional videos for common steps – featuring just about the best video playback quality the DS has ever seen.

Flaws aside though this is unquestionably more useful than panicked flicks through a Delia Smith book, as all around you burns and deflates. Practised cooks will find little practical use for it, since none of the recipies are very exotic, but as a Wii Fit style introduction to a wider world of things-that-are-not-games it serves its purpose. As the first step to making your mum a Call of Duty addict it may even have uses beyond that.
Cooking Guide: Can't Decide What To Eat?
Reviewer photo
Roger Hargreaves | 27 June 2008
Absolutely not a video game in any shape or form – but something that's more immediately useful than Brain Training and its ilk
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