About a year ago, I was fortunate enough to join a couple of Replayers, Cassandra and Emmanuel, on a late-night stream doing a “wonderful” game called Overcooked… I was drunk, and everything immediately went to shit as I almost literally retreated to the corner of my room and assumed the fetal position while everyone yelled orders at me. The very drunk thought occurred to me just then, “Ifff aye kood dew dis in reel lyfe it wood bee eeziirrr.” Well, now I got the closest to what could be considered this chance through the magical world of Virtual Reality. Here’s a review of the game Clash of Chefs from a SOBER Spuddie… Moniker pending. Anyway, let’s do this.
In the interest of full disclosure, I will tell you how I came about procuring this as-of-this-writing unreleased video juego before anyone else was allowed to obtain it. Drew was like, “Hey, we have a key to early access if anyone wants to review it,” and I was like “MEEEEEEEEE,” and he was like, “Ok, here.” The end. (editors note: It went down a bit more professional than that. Luis was picked based on his previous Overcooked experience, tone, and technical experience in VR but there were lots of "E's" at the end of his initial response. - Drew)
Ok, on to the review.
I own an Oculus Quest 2 because they’re cheap and easy (like me after some wine). Unfortunately, I have no idea how technology works, so I couldn’t get the damn game on my headset right off the bat and instead got it through Steam. The only issue here is that I have to use Virtual Desktop on my Quest 2. I don’t have a computer worth thousands of dollars, even though it is a decent almost-high end, but closer to the bottom, computer (Lenovo Legion y545 for all you who want me to talk nerdy to you). So while I did run into a couple of snafus, like latent loading, these will not be recounted in my review since it has nothing to do with the game itself. I will also be providing videos of myself in the game for a sense of gameplay.
As I loaded up the game and checked out the main menu, I noticed something that only someone with my strange sense of observation would probably see. The controls move independently through the menu and don’t need to be prompted with a pre-emptive click to be useful. Here’s a quick run-on sentence to explain that run-on sentence. Most VR game menus cannot use both controllers independently and instead need you to indicate which controller you will be using to select options by clicking the controller first so you may use it as the indicating controller. Or just watch this video showing you what I’m trying to explain:
This doesn’t exactly sound all that impressive, initially. BUT, being a person that loves video games and has been loving VR more and more, I can tell you this is actually a pretty cool feature. Here is a game that sets itself up as a challenge through fast reactions and precise responses using both your physical and mental prowess. Even its top menu shows that its ambidexterity is already better than other games. I was already salivating at the notion of what lay ahead. I clicked into the single-player mode with great anticipation.
The setting is of a diner in the likeness of a hometown Denny’s, or something. Cartoony, bright, colorful, and pleasant. Very much a reminder that you’re playing a game, but it’s so cheerful it makes me happy just to be in there. Besides, who could be angry in a game this childishly cartoony (oh, just you wait).
What came next was somewhat of a surprise. There was an option for a campaign. I thought to myself, “what could this possibly be like? Will I have to build and manage my chef, my restaurant, my menu items? Will I be able to build a character and level his stats? Is there a story to follow? Will I have to prove myself to a panel of rival chefs that ends in a tournament-style chef-off akin to the likes of Iron Chef!?” NOPE. Campaign mode is just a fancy way of saying, “Here are 20 levels in four different restaurants where each level adds a new thingy that makes it slightly more difficult.” So, yeah. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great way to hone your skills and be introduced to what kind of creations you should expect from the game in general, especially if you decide to go up against other players, which I didn’t get the chance to do.
So, Louie, what’s the gameplay actually like? Well, let me tell you in one word: D-E-M-A-N-D-I-N-G. It’s not so strenuous that it takes out all the fun, but it is demanding enough that simple mistakes can ultimately cost you. However, each of the three available restaurants offered different forms of challenges. I’ll go in the order I played them, which was obviously out of order because it’s me.
I started without the tutorial because BOSS MODE! Which I don't think impeded my experience. Even though it would have obviously been a more seamless introduction, I wanted to see precisely how intuitive the gameplay would be without initiation. Also, I didn’t notice there was even a tutorial until after I started, so whatever. I started out making burgers since this is MURICA! Well, that and burgers seemed easier than sushi or pizza. And my assumptions were correct, for a short time…
Unlike its predecessor, there isn’t a bar that shows how close anything is to being finished cooking. Instead, there are audio cues to listen for. Small dings or a difference in the way something that is being cooked sounds. And they are done QUICKLY. Leave a burger patty for more than about 15 seconds, and it gets close to burning. Additionally, leave a cooked item out too long, and it turns spoiled just as quickly. This keeps you on a race against the clock, and there is a necessity to keep things moving smoothly and correctly as much as humanly possible. After getting the hang of a few burgers, I decided to leave after reaching level 5 and went on to pizza.
The Italian scenery was different, but the general schematic of the counter you work on is relatively the same: main dishes are cooked to the left of you, plates and setting in the front, and extra items and drinks on the right. After learning the general flow of making a pizza, I started to work in a zen-like state. I even nearly made a rhythmic dance to make the flow easier. I couldn’t just let things go easily and instead started to look forward to more demanding plates and pizzas. A small meter above the clients’ order shows how satisfied they are with how quickly you get the order out. In other words, working faster necessitates a continual flow, so each subsequent customer receives their order promptly and is satisfied with your work. It’s sort of a trade-off for doing your job correctly, which made the challenge all the better for it.
I went to the Japanese-style kitchen next… and the tribulations of a master chef began to present themselves like a den of trolls that were lying in wait. I found my flow pretty quickly, but a new feature made me lose my freaking mind: the hot tea. In order to correctly produce a “simple” cup of tea, there were a few things that needed to be in place. 1. The tea kettle MUST be steaming, or it won’t be accepted. 2. The cup must be perfectly positioned, or it would fall over and spill, rendering it useless. 3. If the tea sits out too long (about half a tenth of a millisecond), it turns cold and is also useless. These seem obvious, but the kettle had a problem of not really being placed right at any point, no matter how hard I tried. If it’s not positioned correctly, it won’t heat up, and heating up takes time. This interrupted my perfect dance and flow and made me have to stop and stare at a kettle to see if I placed it correctly or not. Most likely have to replace it again and again... In the immortal words of Emperor Kuzco, “You threw off my groove.” *Pouty face* But other than that, it was a fun experience.
I returned to the Burgers, knowing that I had mastered the ebb-and-flow and fully ready to make some bomb-ass boygahs for my adoring fans. But alas, this was not to be. Pizza and sushi could have the ingredients placed in any order to be prepared correctly and set for take-out. But the burgers… oh the god damned burgers. All I could hear was a customer somewhere on this planet that would lose their complete shit over the mere conundrum of accepting a fully prepared meat sandwich with the condiments proceeding from bottom to top; ketchup-meat-mustard. Nay sayeth he. He will not acquiesce to such disorderly conduct! He doth proclaim! It be mustard-meat-ketchup, or it be death! So I made the damn thing again, throwing the other on the ground to inevitably rot and make a group of flies hover over it.
Further insult to injury, the waiter sits by patiently shaking his head if the order isn’t prepared correctly. Even if the ingredients are correct, indicated above his head in a thought bubble with checkmarks, he blindly stares in the distance shaking a “no” with his big dumb head. I named him Carl. I yelled at Carl a lot. Like, terrible things, and a lot of them.
In retrospect, this anger was contrived as it tells you how to do it correctly, but I was being a baby and playing a single game for more than 3 hours could do that to anyo- HOLY SHIT, I PLAYED IT FOR NEARLY 3 STRAIGHT HOURS! Ok, that snuck up on me. A game that will induce a zen-like state and keep you entertained for 3 hours, even if Carl is being a total douche.
Finally, I wanna talk about the bad stuff… but there wasn’t much, to be honest. Aside from the aforementioned TEA KETTLE (which I’m not certain was an in-game issue, maybe I just suck), I only ran into a couple of glitches. The worst being a ladle that stopped working altogether at the end of one of my runs. This was disheartening since I was close to finishing on a perfect status. I had to watch the time run out on my last customer as I could do nothing but throw things at Carl to amuse myself (which you can totally do, and he makes an “ugh” sound). Everything seemed to be on the up-and-up and was responding great! I was frankly surprised at how well it responded to my ninja-like reflexes and totally awesome “bro” movements in the gameplay.
The one thing I couldn’t review because I ran out of time since work/eating/sleeping are things normal “adults” have to do to survive was multiplayer. The “campaign mode” was completed in its near entirety (the fourth restaurant, which is Mexican, is only unlocked at launch but made me sad since I am of “ARRIBA” heritage) within those 3 hours. It's fun enough that I can consider returning when trying to kill time and have some fun at Carl’s expense. My earlier endeavor taught me that this would be a great drinking game at a party to watch sloshed friends fumble all the orders while yelling at Carl to stop shaking his stupid face.
Food for thought (HA!).
Will you be adding Clash of Chefs to your VR game library? Let me know in the comments!