Review: Hell’s Kitchen: The Game (Nintendo Wii)

Hell’s Kitchen: The Game
Developer: Ludia Inc.
Publisher: Ubisoft
Genre: Cooking
Release Date 09/10/2008

Hell’s Kitchen: The Game marks both Ludia and Gordon Ramsay’s first foray into video games. Thankfully their publisher, Ubisoft is no stranger to gaming, especially cooking games. Early this year Ubisoft published Gourmet Chef, for the Nintendo DS, which turned out to be an enjoyable game, and one of the better DS titles I’ve played this year.

In regards to Hell’s Kitchen, I have to admit I have never watched the reality show competition this game is based on, nor do I want to. While both the US and UK versions of Kitchen Nightmares were okay, I’ve never been a fan of the way Gordon Ramsay bullies, cajoles and screams profanity in his attempt to better people. In terms of celebrity chefs, Ramsay sits right below Guy Fieri and Bobby Flay in the douchebag category. (For those interested my favorite Celeb chefs are Ming Tsai, Emeril Legasse, and Hiroyoki Sakai.)

Thankfully Hell’s Kitchen: The Game has nothing to do with the TV show. It’s merely a cooking video game that uses Chef Ramsay’s voice and likeness. As I reviewed Gourmet Chef, and I have Iron Chef and Jamie Oliver’s games slated for review down the line, I thought I might as well pick up this title as well to make a clean sweep of all the cooking video games coming out this year. (Not to be confused with Can’t Decide What to Eat which the other Alix will be reviewing, as that’s not a cooking game but an actual digital cookbook.

So is HK:TG worth picking up, or is the game as Chef Ramsay would say, “Donkey piss?”

Let’s Review

1. Modes

There is no story or plot to this game. It consists merely of four different play modes and a digital cookbook of all the recipes you unlock as you play the game. The first mode is Career Mode, and this is the bulk of the game. There are thirty five days which you must play linearly in order to unlock one week after another. Each day provides you with 1-2 new recipes which have no bearing on the game itself at all. It’s merely fluff in an attempt to give the career mode substance and something for you to look at in the digital cookbook.

In this career mode, you play both waiter and cook at the same time in what boils down to a time management fest where you try to get meals served in a reasonable fashion while Gordon Ramsay swears at you.
Arcade Mode is similar except that it A) lacks the waiter aspect of career mode so all you are doing in cooking and B) you keep going until you finally screw up and watch Ramsay swear at you. You’ll notice a angry Gordon Ramsay is the running theme of the game.

The third and fourth modes are both multiplayer games and are variants of the Arcade Mode. In cooperative, you work together to get meals made before Ramsay blows blood vessels and in competitive mode, you are seeing which of the two of you can meals better and faster than the other.

There’s really not a lot here and you can beat all thirty-five days in Career Mode in about five hours. Arcade mode in all its variants is by far the most fun version of the game as Career Mode’s waiter side of things is both boring and tacked on. If you want the recipes, you’re stuck playing it for the long haul.

Fans of the TV show might be disappointed that the game in no way resembles its namesake, while others will probably find the game both shallow and short. That’s not to say it isn’t fun. It’s just that the game is more a time management simulation then a cooking sim, which is not what anyone is really looking for. What’s here is fine for what it is, but ultimately HK:TG feels lacking.

Modes Rating: Mediocre

2. Graphics

There’s not a lot here visually. The games not ugly, but everything is generic, bland, and nondescript. You see, you never actually see the food you make. Occasionally you’ll see a fowl of some sort of some fruit and veg, but for the most part you are taking undefined bowls of things and butting them in the correct pots, ovens, or pans and thus that is primarily what you see in the kitchen. It’s a little underwhelming that the only food in the game you actually see is in the cookbook.

On the waiter end of the game, you have a nice looking restaurant that is also filled with very poorly done customer models. From your first time playing, you’ll notice they are mostly blobs in the shape of people that move in awkward ways.

As for the virtual Ramsay, he looks well enough, and it mimics his mannerisms quite nicely. It’s just not up to this generation of console graphics. Still, it’s the best done visual in the game.

If your primary concern with video games are the graphics, you’ll most likely be disappointed by what’s here. The game’s not ugly. It’s just not going to wow you. Call it passable.

Graphics Rating: Mediocre

3. Sound

Of course the most important piece of the game is Chef Ramsay. I’m happy to say that his voice has been recorded to say about two dozen things, most of which are mean and dickish, so you get the authentic Ramsay experience. I will say that this game is probably not for children simply due to the language Chef Ramsay uses as no parent probably wants to hear their 9 year old playing a game when a computerized character says, “People out there are getting fucking impatient, you fucking sod.” Oops. There’s a reason the box is marked T for “Mild language” people.

The rest of the game’s noises and music are mostly forgettable. You get the occasional clank of silverware as you unveil a meal or clean up a table. The majority of the effects that you will hear is the “preparing” of food, which is simply watching food swirl around in a circle for a few seconds before it becomes glop that you put into one cooking appliance or another. The most realistic noises you hear are the ding of a kitchen timer and the crackling of flames when the Ramsay pissed off-o-meter goes off.

Again, I was hoping for more here in line with cooking and the din of a busy kitchen, but there’s little of that to be found. Still, the game captures the incessant self esteem lowering comments of Chef Ramsay, which is the hook for the game and thus his fans. In that respect, HK:TG is perfect, while the other sounds are simply there as filler.

Sound Rating: Good

4. Control and Gameplay

I hope you like pointing the wiimote and pressing the A button, because that is ALL you do in this game. I’m not kidding – it is literally all you do. There are no simulations of cutting meat of dicing vegetables as in Gourmet Chef. THAT is a real cooking simulation. As I said before, this is a time management simulation.

All you do in this game is point your wiimote around and click on things. In career mode, you click on the lecturn to seat guests. You click on their table to take orders, check if they want dessert and to clean up after they have paid. You click on the switch screen buttons to go into the kitchen where you click on ingredients to prep them and then click on various bowls to put them in various appliances and then click on the finished product.

Eventually the game boils down to your ability to prep ingredients ahead of time so when people make orders you can get them done faster. It also involves a great deal of switching between the two screens to make sure both waiter and chef are keeping the customers happy. At the same time You have Gordon Ramsay and his frustration meter. For each dish you make properly and in a timely fashion, it goes down. Each time to screw up or take too long it rises. The goal is to keep the meter from overheating before the end of the night, which isn’t that hard to do until about the halfway point of the game as then you’ll have 5-6 tables at once to please.

At the end of the day, you are given a 1-5 star rating and then you move onto the next day. If you have earned enough stars, you can start the next week. If not, you need to replay your worst days so as to earn more stars. Do this 35 times and you’ve beaten the game. Congrats!

The game is VERY simple in terms of both controls and gameplay and its similar to Diner Dash in that the focus is on doing things in a specific amount of time rather than simulating cooking. All one really has to do is make sure you focus on the dishes that take longer to cook first and then gets the dishes that are faster started once the longer dishes are halfway done so everything comes out on time, thus getting yourself a five star rating. Once you’ve got a lot of guests though, this is easier said then done, but either way, the game is a perfect casual game for the Wii that makes decent use of the Wiimote.

The game might bore the more ardent and experience gamer, but casual gamers of fans of Hell’s Kitchen that wanted to try the game will find HK:TG easy to both play and master. The game doesn’t try to be as in-depth as Gourmet Chef, but it doesn’t need to be. Solid but shallow and functional but monotonous. That’s Hell’s Kitchen: The Game

Control and Gameplay: Good

5. Replayability

There’s not a lot of replay value to career mode. Of course, there’s no real value in playing it at all unless you want Ramsay’s IRL recipes. Arcade Mode, both single and multiplayer can be quite fun, if only in short bursts. These modes go on until you finally lose, and that generally can bet between five and thirty minutes, making it perfect for a quick casual game – especially if you are a big fan of Gordon Ramsay and his way of dispensing words of encouragement to you. I wouldn’t recommend the game for then a maybe 3-4 bursts of multiplayer in a row as you’re likely to get bored past that point, but that first time you play it each day tends to be a lot of fun and make you laugh as the Max Headroom-esque Ramsay’s tirades at you.

Replayability Rating: Mediocre

6. Balance

HK:TG is a very easy game. In all of career mode, the lowest score I received was three stars and I never once filled the irritation meter. If you’ve ever played a time based puzzler game akin to Pokemon Puzzle Challenge for the GBC or Yoshi’s Cookie, then you’ll do just fine here. If you’re new to any sort of time management game, you’ll have a steeper learning curve ala my friend Allan who tried the game when he was over, as he is a fan of Gordon Ramsay.

The game is a great casual game as each level is slightly harder and/or longer then the last, but it’s never too hard to alienate the player. Again, the game may be shallow to people like myself who review games, but for that casual sometimes gamer, HK:TG has just the right balance of difficulty and repetition to keep them interested but not frustrated.

Balance Rating: Good

7. Originality

Hell’s Kitchen: The Game isn’t the first cooking game, and it’s certainly not the best. There is nothing terribly innovative or original about the title, but it definitely differentiates itself from Cooking Mama and Gourmet Chef.

All HK:TG really does is test your pointing ability and your instinct as to what should go where when. It’s a very basic game using fundamental principles that have been around since the 2600 or Odyssey. It IS however, the first game to make use of a celebrity chef outside of Kitchen Stadium for the Sega Saturn and it’s also the first game I’ve ever had swear at me instead of swearing for the sake of plot ala an RPG or survival-horror game. That has to count for something.

Originality Rating: Mediocre

8. Addictiveness

Although there’s not much to the game and in spite of the fact I don’t really like Chef Ramsay, I found myself strangely drawn to the title. I know I’ve harped on the fact that HK:TG is nowhere near the level of quality of Gourmet Chef but for a licensed title, it is surprisingly fun. Again, the controls are simple and monotonous, but one can say the same thing about Tetris or Columns, and that doesn’t make them any less entertaining.

Although the game does drag if you play it for an extended period of time, the simplistic gameplay combined with the insanity of Ramsay’s ramblings and he so bad it’s good animations of spinning turkeys turning into a coop in a yellow bowls makes for great camp. Again, I wouldn’t play the game for more than an hour at a time, but for short bursts, the game can be quite enjoyable. HG:TK won’t be up for any awards at the end of the year, but if you think of it as a puzzle game rather than a cooking game, you’ll have more fun with it.

Addictiveness Rating: Above Average

9. Appeal Factor

Oddly enough I can’t think of anyone that would enjoy this game enough to pay forty dollars for it, but at the same time, I can’t imagine anyone who wouldn’t be amused by playing a round or two or the arcade game. Even hardcore Gordon Ramsay fans probably would regret buying this as you’d be paying forty bucks to here the same two dozen lines of dialogue over and over again and for approximately half of that, you could buy the first season of Hell’s Kitchen on DVD. That would be a far better investment for fans of Chef Ramsay.

So to sun it up: HK:TG is probably a good rental, but a poor choice for a purchase, unless you really want plan to use the recipes in the game.

Appeal Factor: Mediocre

10. Miscellaneous

The only real extras for the game are a video trailer for the Hell’s Kitchen TV show and the aforementioned cookbook. Unlike the cookbook in Gourmet Chef, this one isn’t portable, meaning unless you have your Wii and TV in the kitchen, you’re going to have to transcribe it.

If this game had been $10 cheaper, I’d have a much easier time recommending it. At forty dollars though, you’re paying for multiple versions of a bare bones game that has more point and click to it than an Adventure game. I can’t see anyone keeping this game in their collection due to what little it contains and the cost, so my best advise it to rent it, as even hardcore Gordon Ramsay’s fans will be let down by the content and how little the game actually has to do with the TV Show.

Miscellaneous Rating: Bad

The Scores
Modes: Mediocre
Graphics: Mediocre
Sound: Good
Control and Gameplay: Good
Replayability: Mediocre
Balance: Good
Originality: Mediocre
Addictiveness: Above Average
Appeal Factor: Mediocre
Miscellaneous: Bad

Short Attention Span Summary

This is not a cooking simulation, so be warned. Instead it’s a game of matching, clicking and time management while the voice of a celebrity chef berates you. Even friends of mine who love Chef Ramsay found the Career Mode boring, but had fun with the arcade mode. At forty dollars the game doesn’t have enough substance to justify the cost, but if you do decide to pick it up and play it, you’ll find Hell’s Kitchen: The Game to be a solid game that can be entertaining in short bursts, but provides little else.



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6 responses to “Review: Hell’s Kitchen: The Game (Nintendo Wii)”

  1. […] of my background as a cooking columnist, but this year I’ve already written critiques on Hell’s Kitchen and Gourmet Chef. Now I’m turning my attention to yet another cooking game based off a […]

  2. […] of my background as a cooking columnist, but this year I’ve already written critiques on Hell’s Kitchen and Gourmet Chef. Now I’m turning my attention to yet another cooking game based off a […]

  3. […] huge outcropping of clones. Sure there have been numerous cooking games like Jaime Oliver’s, Hell’s Kitchen, and Gourmet Chef, but none have outright copied the PT:C formula to the point of nigh […]

  4. […] seems interesting, Alex Lucard warns that it’s basically just the multiplayer mode from the full Wii game, only without things like character voices thrown in. Therefore, you’re paying $8 for a small […]

  5. […] certainly become a great place for cooking related titles. Although the Wii has seen games like Hell’s Kitchen or Food Network: Cook or Be Cooked, The DS has been the chef’s system of choice with high […]

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