Indeed. Every once in a great while, a game comes along that feels as though it were made just for you. This, you may recall, is the number one gaming site for vegetarians, and I am one of the chief members of the select club that makes it so.
Thus it seems entirely appropriate that I be the one to review this game about properly grilling the mangled flesh of bovine carcasses.
Let’s discuss for a moment the elements that contribute to a game’s falling into my favor. First of all, it’s political. I mean – this comes a long at the time when mad cow’s disease is running rampant, killing women, children, and tiny defenseless babies. Never mind the fact that the game actually came out in august, I’m playing it now. (plus, in seriousness, this has been going on for some time.)
This mad cow thing, as you may know, is a result of the meat industry’s unwillingness to stop feeding cows to other cows. Now CALL ME CRAZY friends, but cannibalism never seems like a good idea, in any context.
And yet here we are.
Hell, what do I care, I don’t eat meat. Losers.
Right, I was listing things. Next up, the game is 2D. TWO! Other than a 3D cow or two, that pesky third dimension is nowhere to be found, bloated with its uglygons and broken promises of ‘deep gameplay’. The graphics are crisp and clear, all the while completely ignoring the PS2’s emotion engine. That takes balls.
There’s voice acting! I’m a sucker for things being spoken out loud. It’s a well known fact that I’m almost completely illiterate, and compose my reviews by speaking to a typing-monkey through mental telepathy.
And no, unfortunately…the hip-hop guy does not say ‘fuck.’ I misheard the word the first time through, in my intense excitement. He does say ‘funk’ though. And if I try really hard, I can pretend that it’s just as funny.
Usually that’s about all it takes for me to like something, those three elements. But here’s the bit that tips the scales: it’s prohibitively expensive. That’s right! This means I can enjoy the game all by my lonesome, without pesky ‘hardcore gamers’ flaunting their highscores, spouting off about how cool it is, and this sort of thing.
See, that’s the trick with we counter-cultural types. The more the bourgeoisie masses like something, the less we do. Can’t have that.
And what’s this? Sony lists the game genre as ‘gourmet action.’ Wacky-factor +10!
The game is true to the established legacy of interactive cookery. You play the role of the food-preparer, and must serve finely browned foodstuffs to three waiting customers. There are a total of four meat types, and four vegetable types that cycle through your inventory, and you must place them in any of the nine spaces on your grill. The center is hotter/grills faster, the outsides less-so.
All food must be properly cooked in order for the patrons to enjoy it. So you have to flip the food, making sure it’s browned on both sides. Certain types of food need more cooking than others. Luckily, if you happen to burn some food, you can leave it in it’s place for a while and let it crisp up, then break it down with your chopsticks.
All food handling is done with the X button, and the chopstick physics are excellent, I must say. Flip meat, carry it around, the whole nine.
You send the meat off to whichever customer you’d like to serve via square, circle or triangle, with each customer being assigned to one button. Quite clever.
As time wears on, they become hungry, and their level of satisfaction drops. This is represented by a colored bar, which changes hue if their hunger drops or raises significantly. Send the customer some bad food, and their satisfaction level drops significantly. If you send the food off quickly, and it's well received by the customers, you can get combos of up to 12. Meat combos are excellent. But fail to satisfy even one customer by the end, and you're out of the game, like the meat eating loser you are.
(note: it is not possible for vegetarians to ‘fail.’ When we do not perform the actions as required by the game, we are consciously depriving a meat-crazed public of their drug of choice.)
There is a time limit as well – every customer’s appetite must be sated before the clock runs out. Some customers get hungrier than others, and must be fed more frequently.
In addition, every patron has a particular type of food they like and another that they dislike. Their likes and dislikes change throughout the game, and the patrons announce these changes with almost-humorous phrases (sexy girl says: h~mm, maybe I should eat you!). Give them the food they like, and their satisfaction goes up faster. If you give them well-cooked food that they don’t like, their hunger is only slightly sated. Give them unproperly cooked food that they don’t like, and you take a major satisfaction hit.
It takes some effort to figure out how to properly cook the food, as each item needs a different degree of yaki action. The manual does provide illustrated guidelines for the way each ‘finished’ product should look, but I find trial-and-error to be more effective.
You use these skills to cook in various gyu-kaku restaurants across the nation of Japan, as the branded loading screens will remind you. Nothing like paying 4,800 yen for an interactive advertisement! Place your cursor over every spot, and see the particular kind of cow you’ll be sending to heaven, along with a little bio. Aww.
If you satisfy customers in all locations, you can take on the champion yakiniku chef in all the land – a 99 year old coot whose fanaticism is near-religious. He’s terribly difficult to please, but not impossible.
Then the credits roll.
And then you’re done! Just like that. No highscore saving, no unlocked bonus, nothing. Brilliant!?! No. But hey, at least you get to see that a scant 13 people worked on the game, voice actors discluded.
The game is seriously addictive. I’ve just come off of an hour-and-a-half playing stint, which is impressive considering the simplicity of the thing. There are a couple of nice options for you here, aside from the normal ‘quest’ mode; namely a two-player face-off, and a survival mode!
Two-player mode puts you both on the same grill, competing for the same customers. Steal each other’s projects, push each other out of the way. It’s good shite.
collision is war
sparks fly from chopsticks
battle for niku
~Sheffield, Brandon 2.2.04
In the survival mode, you must get every customer to a ‘complete satisfaction’ level, at which point they will leave, and a new customer will drop in, with different likes/dislikes, and different levels of hunger. As the time wears on, the grill gets hotter, at one point becoming the bonfire described in the title. Quite exciting!
HOWEVER! Even the most ridiculous games are not without their problems. For one thing, it’d be quite nice to hear the characters say whether their food was over or underdone, when you botch the job. At times it can be a guessing game (most notably on the ‘final boss’).
A saving option would have been nice, yeah. I mean, though it plays, sounds and looks like a budget title, it clearly is not. That’s a problem.
The music is fantabulous. But the compression is just abominable. It sounds like it’s being synthesized by the Jaguar’s soundchip. And I’m going to guess that it wasn’t.
No analog control! Maybe in Japan they use their chopsticks digitally, but here in California, we’re analog-based.
But the sound!! It’s brilliant! The sizzling of the meat, the constant chatter from the customers, it makes the entire affair quite satisfying. And there’s a Bob Sapp look-alike in there! And a Leon Phelps! And…a middle-aged lady!
It’s a monster of a game. And I am the magistrate of meat-frying, as much as I abhor the stuff. Challenge me to some 2-player AKUSHON, and I’ll show you what’s what, suckah. If they’d just stuck some tofu in there, I’d have pledged my heart to Media Entertainment.
Thanks brothers. You’ve convinced a small portion of a small nation to continue eating a food that could potentially kill them. And for that, I tip my metaphorical hat. To you.
Brandon Sheffield thinks meat eaters are terrible people deep, deep inside.
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