Review: Hell’s Kitchen (PC/MAC)

Hell’s Kitchen: The Game
Developer: Ludia Inc.
Publisher: Ubisoft
Genre: Simulation – Cooking
Release Date: 09/25/2008

I can’t cook.

Cooking by my definition is throwing something into the microwave or the oven and having it become magically warm enough to eat in a matter of minutes. I don’t own many ingredients, unless ketchup counts (It shouldn’t) and I generally don’t feel much of a need to try. So when I found out I was heading to Hell’s Kitchen I thought to myself, “It must be some computer shooter game I’ve never heard of, kind of like Max Payne or something, right?”

Wrong.

My long time friend and DHGF Editor-In-Chief Alex Lucard told me I was going to be dealing with Gordon Ramsay, and again, I kinda still thought, maybe it’s the hero in my new shooter game? Wrong. As it turns out, Mr. Ramsay is a well-known chef that even has his own reality show! Where have I been? Clearly, not in the kitchen.

This game hit the Wii in September, and this is the cheaper alternative with an MSRP of 19.99 It is a quick and easy download on either a PC or Mac. It doesn’t take up a whole lot of space and the set-up is mostly painless. Now is the game? Read on, my friends…

The two main modes are Arcade and Career, and that’s all this one has to offer. The Career mode is a repetitive yet progressively harder run as a waiter/chef in a pretty generic looking “trendy” restaurant. You start small, working relatively easy “recipes” as Gordon Ramsay watches over, sort of “God-like” in a window at the top left cornder of the screen. The opening rounds are so incredibly simple, Mr. Ramsay actually seems like a nice guy! All you do is bounce back and forth between the kitchen and the tables, click on a couple pots, drag them to the stove, drag them to the prep table, and then they magically slide out to the dining room.

Now repeat that process over and over and over again and if you’ve got career mode. It is incredibly repetitive and is essentially Groundhog Day: Cooking Edition. Even the customers look absolutely identical. The same couple, the EXACT same couple appears at your tables over and over again – simultaneously as you progress through the days and weeks. I can’t for the life of me understand why they couldn’t give the generic couple at least some different colors of shirts, but nope, the same people over and over again.

It doesn’t end up really mattering in the game, because your waiter identity will automatically send the cooked food to the right table, but could you imagine how confusing this would be in real life? I waited tables as a part time job in high school and college and remembering who ordered what can be hard enough, let alone walking into a packed restaurant full of identical people. Then again, I guess they don’t call it Hell’s Kitchen for nothing.

Back on subject, you really don’t have to have any cooking skills at all, at any point during this game. You click on generic food and it magically starts floating in air before it drops into the bowl. You never really get to see a finished product at any point, just generic raw chicken, generic lettuce, and a weird floating image of bread and bread-related products. The only real recipes you see come in the form of unlockable, legit Gordon Ramsay originals that you attain as you progress through the mode. You can even e-mail and print them, and there are a lot of recipes, some of which I must admit have me want to actually TRY cooking. Really! Its really the only motivation I can see anyone have in progressing through the Career Mode without getting bored.

The initial run through the game is surely to be the most addicting to anyone. I must admit I was surprised at just how long I felt like playing from the very start. I’ve turned off much bigger AND better games much sooner, but something about the pure simplicity of point, click, and drag just made it kind of a fun diversion. Once I did finally stop and step away for awhile, I didn’t really feel compelled to have Gordon Ramsay yell at me some more in Career Mode, and all the repetitive clone people aren’t really worth hanging out with more than once, so there is an alternative, the even faster paced Arcade Mode.

In Arcade Mode you get to stick to the kitchen and prepare bowls, stoves, and ovens all over the place. It’s a complete test of time management and even some basic math skills to try and get multiple dishes done at nearly the exact same time. Fear not, Gordon is around to yell and scream at your ineptitude in this mode as well, this time in the center of the screen. For all the complaining I’ve made about the graphics and the pod people in the dining room, Ramsay is very well rendered, albeit with pretty limited movement and not a ton of vocabulary to go with it. Its pretty much a race against time and yourself, once you fail, you head to a scoreboard screen where you can compare your rankings.

Other than the limited, and often “bleeped” ramblings from Ramsay, the audio is extremely limited. The musical score is tense and does set the mood for the situation, but that’s pretty much all you get to hear. When the customers get angry, flames erupt from a centerpiece decoration at the table, they don’t verbalize anything, your waiter never says anything, and when you’re in the kitchen, nothing. Ramsay is the only voice you’ll hear in the game. Again, I can’t really understand why they couldn’t have added a little variety, angry customer interaction could’ve been fun.

I’m not really sure who the target audience is, nor can I recommend anybody go out and pick this game up unless you can find it via an extremely cheap deal, because there’s just not enough here to have any lasting appeal to anyone. Fans of Gordon Ramsay will be disappointed because there’s nothing to see from him more than a few profane one-liners, people who actually do cook’s skills won’t shine because you flat out don’t need any skills. If you can point, click, and count, you can cook in this game. To be perfectly honest, this seems like a fun java-based Internet kind of game. One of those addicting games you find on the Internet for free that grabs your attention, and honestly with the lack of depth its almost likely you can find something similar out on the “Ëœnet somewhere.

The potential is there if the developers take the time to add some depth and polish. Give the customers some looks, maybe a voice, anger or some personality! Let us see what we’re cooking, MAKE me learn to cook, get Gordon out of the magical floating box and into the game in a prominent role. As I said earlier, I knew absolutely nothing about cooking, Gordon Ramsay, or Hell’s Kitchen in general, and there was something in this game that made me actually care and see that there is hope for this franchise – if it so chooses to be one. Until then, its time for the game makers to go back to the kitchen and cook up another try!

The Scores
Modes: Mediocre
Graphics: Poor
Sound: Mediocre
Control: Good
Replayability: Poor
Balance: Mediocre
Originality: Good
Addicitveness: Good
Appeal Factor: Poor
Miscellaneous: Decent

FINAL SCORE: BELOW AVERAGE GAME

Short Attention Span Summary
This is an incredibly simple game to learn, and can be addicting to those who want to give it a try. But the lack of depth and polish absolutely kills whatever potential is actually there. There is fun to be had if you have a few minutes to burn, but it can’t be recommended if you’re looking for something to last you more than a day, at best.

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