Reviews by Sam Kabo Ashwell


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Cook-Off!, by S. Miracle

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful:
Flavourless, July 13, 2012
by Sam Kabo Ashwell (Seattle)
Related reviews: fanfiction, food, cooking, minigame, cyoa

Heavily reliant on cult JPRG Suidoken II, this is a minigame about head-to-head cooking contests. The only possible interaction is cooking, which is a two-step process; you pick a base food from a list, then modify it with seasonings from a second list. The modification is more conceptual than literal; mayonnaise turns into cream if you combine it with a quiche, or transforms fried chicken into french fries. Add salt to a sandwich, and it becomes peanut butter and jelly. There's no way of getting any more information about these ingredients -- such as the ones with Japanese names -- or predicting what effect a seasoning will have, short of experience. Other than this, play consists largely of pressing any key over and over to see what happens.

The NPCs -- your cook-off opponent, and the judging panel -- are drawn from Suidoken II, which you are assumed to be familiar with; each is described with only a brief phrase that makes little sense out-of-context. Sometimes there's a hint about the sort of food they prefer, but not enough to formulate anything like a strategy with. Still, random selections will usually be enough for victory. Winning contests unlocks more base recipes, but other than this there appears to be no progress; win or lose, you still go around and play another contest.

The writing has a sort of manic anime feel about it, but is generally not really enough for the job. It doesn't provide either enough information or enough interest. It does not seem designed with a prose format in mind; rather, it's a little as if someone stripped out the text from a medium more reliant on visuals. The effect is a bit like a radio broadcast of a gymnastics contest; sure, you get the general idea of what's going on, but it's clear that you're missing out on the most crucial element.

As a coding exercise, it might be considered a small success; the presentation is smooth enough. As game design, it leaves something to be desired.

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