By Video_Game_King 2 Comments
Just when you thought I couldn't get anymore obscure, I manage to blindside you with a game about mayonnaise. I realize that's only more confusing, so allow me to explain. Long ago, Japan realized the untapped potential of the gaming market. "They'll buy anything", they said. "They'll buy fucking mayo if you slap a game cartridge on it!" That's not a joke. My best guess is that the game was supposed to inform players of the....musky?...yea, let's go with that; musky taste of Ajinomoto Mayonnaise, all while teaching them a slew of tasty, easy to prepare recipes. Now how could you possibly fuck that up? I have to imagine layering some nonsense contextualization would wang it up just fine. Or I don't, because that's exactly what happens with Wonder Kitchen.
Oh, sure, it starts off simple enough. A somewhat competently drawn woman asks you to gather her missing recipes or whatever, and it's your job to do just that. Then you find a penis-nosed witch sleeping beneath your sink, her broom ripe for the stealing. I know what you're thinking: a billion disparate questions, each one trying to make sense out of this scenario. Right now, I think it's best we ignore those questions, because the game gets crazier from there. Hot air balloons transform into apples, lions hide circuses in their mouths (or maybe their mouths are time travel machines to these circuses, somehow), eggs give way to miniature elephants that sing La Cucaracha before they disappear, and already I feel like words fail to describe just what the hell is going on. If any of this sounds charming and appealing in a childhood sort of way, rest assured that it isn't. If anything, it just gets in the way of what you're supposed to do. Remember: I'm supposed to be gathering ingredients for a fruit salad or whatever. Why do I have to jump through so many hoops to achieve what would otherwise be a very simple goal?
There's also the problem of the game not making any damn sense. I know that sounds repetitive, but go back to those examples and see if you can find any sort of consistent logic between them. There isn't any. You're not supposed to figure any of that out. Hell, because the game only advances once you've found everything on screen, there aren't any consequences for failing to figure things out. It's all just pandering busy work. It's a pop-up book where you simply click all about the screen until the game decides that it's had enough, gets bored, and then moves onto whatever other random nonsense it can make up as it goes. Doesn't that sound like fun? Hold up a second: why does a game like this even need to be fun? What would the point of it be? All this game had to do was give me some hands on instructions on how to make food or whatever, and it managed to screw that up. Wonderful.
And it's not even like the recipes are that good. Now to be fair, it's difficult to say that when I haven't even bothered preparing these meals, but in my defense, the game doesn't do a good job of telling me how to do that. Don't be fooled by the admittedly comprehensive and hands-on preparation sequences, because they leave out some very important and very basic information. Want to know how long it takes to cook the food or boil water? Well, I've only seen that happen once. The rest of the time, you're presumably supposed to guess based on....I don't know. Again, the game didn't give me any hints as to what I should be watching for when preparing food. Or hell, even amounts. That may not sound like a big problem when you're explicitly provided the number of vegetables you need, but what happens when you're asked to salt your meals while making them? You'd better be psychic or enjoy very salty tomato bowls, because those are your only two options in the Kitchen of Wonders.
Oh, and mayo. Tons of mayo. Have I mentioned that yet? Because no matter the recipe, the game will ask you to just glob mayonnaise on your carefully prepared dishes. Even if the recipe had already asked you to use mayonnaise, it will still ask you to dump buckets of mayonnaise on at the end. What kind of person would find an omelette (essentially eggs and liquid) drenched in mayonnaise (essentially more eggs and a different liquid)? And what kind of salad asks you to boil cabbage and then cover it with raw fish? After all this, I'm honestly surprised that the food looks as good as it does. If I prepared it according to what the game told me, there's a very good chance my food would end up looking like this. So we've firmly established that the game spends more time spouting off whatever pops into its mind than it does teaching you how to make food, and even manages to screw that up, too. So just what is this Wonder Kitchen even any good for?....Mayonnaise history, I guess?....Yea, fuck this game.
- Oh, Nintendo. Why?
- But at least I have this tasty p-oh, you're just gonna pour mayo all over it. That works, too, I guess.
- Some basic Googling has told me that over-consumption of mayonnaise can give you brain damage. That makes so much more sense than anything in Motoko-Chan's Wonder Kitchen ever could.
Remember when I said that I'd play this last? (Back in my Pandora's Tower blog?) I told the truth. No, this isn't a semi-esoteric Commando reference, but Grill Off With Ultra Hand!, the latest in Nintendo's line of games you can only get through Club Nintendo. Seems a bit silly to review a game under those conditions, but, well, I've done stupider, haven't I? I mean, look at the last game I blogged about. But back to Grill Off With Ultra Hand!. It has some issues (mostly some really confusing ones with the motion controls), but overall, it's a fun little toy to mess around with for maybe a brief afternoon.
Well, at least if you ignore the existential nightmares surrounding it. The game's light on detail, but much like a fine Hemingway short story, the beauty's in what's not said. From what I can tell, you're some type of invisible ghost chef recruited into some sort of strange 70s era game show. Your goal is to pick meat off the grill when it's just right (the game's own words) and feed it to the infinite crowd of ravenous eaters lying just off the edge of the screen. This is your life; it is the only life you know. Also, these are apparently some very complacent eaters, since they all request that their food be prepared in the exact same fashion, without any spices or condiments or anything on top of it. Just prepared as is: dropped via helicopter onto a flimsy grill, cooked ten feet away from you, the cook, and brought to their face holes via a (most likely grease-drenched) children's toy. All in a back yard whose fences periodically explode for absolutely no reason.
Speaking of no reason, that's exactly the level of relevance that last paragraph has to actually playing the game. The only part that actually holds importance is the "picking up patties" part, since that's what you're going to do for the entire game. Sound simple? Well, that's because it is. There's nothing to Grill Off With Ultra Hand! beyond that basic premise. Still, it manages to achieve quite a bit with such limited tools. Slabs of meat drop down in almost pre-defined patterns, so it's really easy to fall into a fun rhythm as you jump from patty to patty in just the right manner. Think Bit.Trip Runner, and then stop thinking it, because these are the only similarities that the two games share. Then again, that perfect rhythm can also fuck you up big time if you pick up a patty at the wrong time, since you're now locked into the exact beat you don't need and it's really hard to get out of it.
And then on top of that, you have to deal with the motion controls. They...I'm not entirely sure what they do to the game. I mean, on the one hand, the motion controls are what enable so much of the game's fun in the first place. Without exaggerated motions on your part, the game might feel flat and repetitive. With them, though, you get this great adrenaline rush that firmly locks you into the action on screen AND a tangible sense of accomplishment from flipping patties. That's more than you could ask for in real life. Wow. Perhaps the only thing more depressing than that grim truth is how loose and flippant the motion controls are. (OK, it isn't, but leave me my transitions.) The game's alright about picking up when you're extended and when you're not, but the majority of the game's going to be spent in between those two positions, usually at rapid speeds. This is most assuredly a recipe for dirt meat, and nobody likes dirt meat. Except the game, of course, because it has one other trick for dirtying up your meat: calibration. If the game ever asks you to recalibrate your Wii-mote's position, YOU ARE GOING TO LOSE.
But the question remains: do these controls get in the way of enjoying the game? Not so much that it matters. Yes, wonky controls stealing a potential great game from you certainly hurts the game's quality, but it's still a good game, motion controls be damned. It gives you one minor idea, develops enough on it so you feel like you've actually gotten something out of the experience, and then just stops right there. I'd recommend that you go out and get Grill Off with Ultra Hand!, but, well, it's only available through Club Nintendo, so that's something of a moot point. You know, I should start reviewing more games nobody has any real chance of getting. Tune in next time when I blog about Polybius! Only on Renegade Ego.
- What could be more fun than flipping patties?.....That was supposed to be a compliment.
- Who knew that the Wii-mote wouldn't make a very good spatula?
- And as long as I'm asking questions, why has my life been reduced to meticulously and exactly preparing food for a perpetually greedy crowd I do not know, never once allowing me to taste the
fruitmeat of my labors?