My Healthy Cooking Coach
Release Date: 6/23/2009
Around Thanksgiving of 2008, Nintendo released an unlikely hit for the Nintendo DS: Personal Trainer: Cooking. In yet another example of outside the box thinking that paid off, Nintendo managed to win over a decent number of people who don’t normally buy games. The Lisa Kudrow marketing campaign made it a popular item for parents to use with their kids. Oddly enough though, the game didn’t inspire a 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 planarization. Until now. My Healthy Cooking Coach appears to be almost the exact same game at PT:C, but with different recipes and Ubisoft publishing the title instead of the Big N. It’s also ten dollars more than PT:C which is a bit of an eyebrow raiser as well. I mean, a DS title more expensive than a first party Nintendo version? That has to be a first.
So is MHCC just a close of Nintendo’s original (and cheaper) game, or is there something about MHCC worth adding a second virtual cookbook to your collection?
When you first boot up My Healthy Cooking Coach, you are given a neat little quiz based on your preferences, skill levels, items in your kitchen, favorite things to eat and so on. Once you are finished the quiz, your preferences are saved by the system and you then receive a daily suggested recipe. For example, my first daily suggestion was a lovely green pepper calamari dish and the next day I was given rosemary turkey. Both sounded delicious and are quite easy to make. If you don’t like the selection you can also go through your own personalized cookbook and the full listing of recipes, which are eaisly searchable.
Unlike PT:C , MHCC is not grouped by cultural cuisine origin. Instead it’s group by things like starters, main dishes and desserts. This makes it a bit harder to search if you are say, in the mood for pasta, but the menu does let you search by ingredient, personal preference or alphabetically.
For those who want a bit of well, GAMING, with their game, there are cooking games that revolve around making a recipe in a certain amount of time without over or undercooking the product. Although this game doesn’t really match up with the reality of cooking, it’s still an amusing side venture to have included with the purchase.
The game also sports a timer if you don’t own one, a shopping list so you can take the DS instead of pen and paper, a lexicon of terms and utensils and a unit converter for say, grams to pounds or Celsius to Fahrenheit . One big thing missing from My Healthy Cooking Coach that was in Personal Trainer: Cooking are the videos displaying footage of how to properly do various techniques in the kitchen. That was a huge plus for me and it’s a bit sad to see Ubisoft’s variant on this game lack this.
Although nowhere as multifaceted or in depth as PT:C, MHCC offers a great little personalization option in an attempt to make up for the bells and whistles Nintendo’s game lacks.
Modes Rating: Good
There aren’t a lot of visuals in My Healthy Cooking Coach. What you’re getting are mainly still images of food and a lot of text. The images are great and although video footage is lacking, you do get a photo for nearly every step of the recipe.
As you’ll be reading a lot of text, MHCC sports backgrounds and font styles that are complimentary to each other as well as easy on the eye. My Healthy Cooking Coach is well laid out and easy to navigate.
Obviously as this is a voice automated cookbook, MHCC isn’t designed to blow you aware with Square-Enix level graphics, but what’s here works well for the genre. What’s most important are the photos of food and preparation and MHCC does a decent enough job with that.
Graphics Rating: Enjoyable
The background music that plays when you peruse the options in My Healthy Cooking Coach is quite soothing and enjoyable for what it is, but as the point of this cartridge is to cook, it’s nice but needless filler.
The voice of the cookbook is what matters most. As MHCC is a voice activated cookbook that reads to you each step of the recipe while you are whisking or baking, it’s very important that the voice be clear, concise and used proper diction and pacing. I’m happy to report that MHCC’s voice actress does all that and more. She is quite easy to understand, even with the DS’s limited sound system. Just crank the volume up and you’ll be able to hear her from across the kitchen.
Although far less in depth in this category that actual games for the DS, My Healthy Cooking Coach does a nice job with the audio in every way it needs to.
Sound Rating: Good
4. Control and Gameplay
My Healthy Cooking Coach offers two ways to interact with the game. For the majority of your time spent with the product you’ll be using the stylus and touch pad to navigate through the various menus, modes and options. This all works quite nicely in the way one would expect ANY DS game to work. Once you actually START a recipe, the voice recognition software kicks in. Much like PT:C, the game offers several commands for your recipe. “Continue” lets you move on to the next step in the recipe, “Go back” lets you go back a step (This was “Last Step in PT:C) and “Repeat” has the program re-verbalize the current step you are on in case you missed it or were distracted. MHCC also adds a fourth voice command, that of “Instructions” which will give you an explanation of a technical term if one comes up. This is similar to PT:C’s “More Details” step. I do want to state that the voice recognition isn’t as good as in Personal Trainer: Cooking. Several times I had to repeat my words t get the game to move on, repeat, or go back. I found it only works properly if you talk directly at the DS. If your back is turned or you are bent over in a cupboard, it doesn’t work as well. PT:C NEVER had this problem, so I was a bit disappointed here, especially with the higher cost on MHCC.
What’s here is, like much of the game, a step down from PT:C in terms of programming quality, but it’s still works just fine and allows you to get through a recipe with little to no fuss. I wish the voice recognition aspects were a little stronger, but I’m still happy overall with the end product.
Control and Gameplay Rating: Enjoyable
With 250 recipes and the ability to personalize your cookbook, you could actually use this game for nearly a year without every repeating a recipe or needing another cookbook. Although My Healthy Cooking Coach is nowhere near the gateway to other culture’s cuisines that Personal Trainer: Cooking was, the recipes contained within are a lot healthier and a lot friendlier to vegans and vegetarians. Only a handful of recipes are over 500 calories, which is again, makes MHCC a far better choice for those looking for a healthier menu option.
If you’re serious about using this to improve your diet or to learn how to cook, this title is worth the price tag, but only then. If you’re merely curious, stick with PT:C.
Replayability Rating: Good
If we compare PT:C and MHCC yet again, there is one noticeable difference. PT:C is geared towards giving your taste buds an international flair, while MHCC is instead designed for low calorie and healthy options. Both have their uses and for a budding chef, I see no reason why you couldn’t own both and still get a great deal of use out of them.
MHCC does a great job of balancing recipes for all age groups and skill levels ensuring that anyone with an interest in learning to cook can do a decent job with this cart. MHCC makes learning to cook a lot of fun and it also is completely free from the lowest common denominator claptrap the food network has become.
Most importantly, I should note that even though I was a bit put off by the price tag compared to PT:C, My Healthy Cooking Coach is reasonably priced compared to normal paperbound cookbooks. I recently paid $20 for Chen Kenichi’s cookbook and it had less recipes than this. Most quality cookbooks are far more expensive than these virtual cookbooks and offer less recipes to boot. Here we get a ton of recipes and it’s a more green option to boot. Nice!
Balance Rating: Good
Here is My Healthy Cooking Coach‘s only real downfall. Aside from the recipe selection and a title change, this is almost exactly the same game as Personal Trainer: Cooking…just not as well done tech-wise and more expensive. At the same time it also boasts a great recipe selection for the health conscious. I’m a little shocked Nintendo didn’t go, “Dude, you stole our game!” with how similar these are.
Yes, the game is pretty close to being a clone of PT:C, but the recipe selections and the fact this is only the second voice activated virtual cookbook on the market makes it worth a look, even if it lacks originality.
Originality Rating: Bad
My Healthy Cooking Coach isn’t designed for long stretches of gaming. It’s designed to do a meal a day, if that. It’s a gateway into healthy and fun cooking rather than going out and eating fast food or unhealthy options all the time. As such, it’s just a matter of seeing how long the average gamer sticks with this title. PT:C had a great opening, but I don’t know anyone that actually uses it anymore. It appears to have been a casual fad that Ubisoft is on the tail end of, hope to catch the fumes. At the same time I still encounter people who play Wii Sports and Wii Fit with regularity, even though the majority of gamers have given up on them. So no doubt people are still using PT:C with some uniformity – I just haven’t encountered them.
With a little patience and stick-to-it-ness, My Healthy Cooking Coach can easily become a nicely little part of your daily routine, providing you with new meals that are both beneficial to your waistline and your pocketbook.
Addictiveness Rating: Mediocre
9. Appeal Factor
Honestly, with Nintendo’s name on the box and a price tag of ten dollars less, Personal Trainer: Cooking will be the preferred options for many. Heck, PT:C has even become a system seller and Nintendo has bundled it in with a DS. That was both unexpected and awesome because it’s first hand proof of how much gaming has changed this generation, both in terms of what interests the average consumer and how our mental shift has gone from considering portable systems “handheld gaming consoles” to “handheld interactive players.” God knows I use my DS for language coaches and cookbooks for than I do video games, and I’ve still got a Neo*Geo hooked up in my TV room.
If you enjoyed PT:C, then you’ll enjoy My Healthy Cooking Coach. Look at it as a more expensive specialization and you’ll be fine.
Man, who would have thought a year ago that a cookbook would sell well enough on a gaming system to become a pack-in?
Appeal Factor: Good
As a big fan of Ubisoft’s “My Coach” series, I was happy to see it branch out into cooking. I was pretty happy with the recipe selection in this game and most of my friends that cook preferred the selection here to the international options provided by Nintendo. Surprise, surprise. I do wish Ubisoft would have included video footage and offered better voice recognition, but I’m still more than happy with this title and all that it offers.
In terms of bonuses, the game has ten unlockable recipes that can only be found when the game is used in a DSi. This is a bit shady in my opinion, but god knows the DSi has nothing to really sell it over the NDS yet anyway. You also get an unlimited coupon for 20% off (and free shipping) at Oxo.com, which is a great website for cook utensils and the like. I have to admit, several people I know were quite excited for that and the coupon will probably pay for the game itself, especially if you use it to buy a block of knives. This was an unexpected and fun little pack-in for the cook in your household. Plus, unlimited uses!
Miscellaneous Rating: Good
Control and Gameplay: Enjoyable
Appeal Factor: Good
FINAL SCORE: ENJOYABLE GAME!
Short Attention Span Summary
Although My Healthy Cooking Coach lacks several of the bells and whistles exclusive to Personal Trainer: Cooking, it does boast a nice personalization setup giving you recipes that are geared towards your palette. It also shuns PT:C “Intro to International Cuisine” theme and instead gives you 250 (260 on the DSi) recipes geared for a healthy low calorie lifestyle . At ten dollars more than PT:C, it’s hard to recommend this game over Nintendo’s offering, especially as Nintendo offers video footage of proper cooking techniques and better voice recognition software, but MHCC is still as cheap (if not cheaper) than most paperbound cookbooks and makes a great supplement to your virtual cookbook library and takes up less space to boot.