Battle Chef Brigade is an oddity of gaming, pulled from the fever dream of Trinket Studios. Under impressive anime-styled charm lies an experience equal parts Final Fight and Bejeweled, complete with satisfying monster slaying and a match-three puzzle system deep at the game’s heart. A visual novel approach to storytelling keeps the player invested with charming characters to meet and defeat in “Iron Chef” style cook-offs. I promise I’m not making any of this up.
The story is a compelling mystery, involving monsters for locals to slay and the question of their safety for consumption. The fantasy world of Victusia crosses into unfamiliar culinary territory here, with a mythos rich in famous chefs who’ve mastered the arts of cooking the once thought inedible and cursed monsters of the wild. The player guides fledgling culinarian Mina Han from her life in her parents’ local eatery to her day-to-day at academy in Brigade Town, where she hopes to become a famous Battle Chef Brigadier.
The themes of the story weave seamlessly into the gameplay which is sliced finely down the middle between side-scrolling, beat-em-up sessions and a simple match-three puzzle system. The primary conflicts are cooking competitions, where the player is tasked with collecting ingredients by slaying monsters in the wild, then mixing those ingredients into dishes via a simple yet robust puzzle system. This must be done within a specific time limit, all while keeping the judges’ preferences and the theme ingredients in mind.
This results in surprising complexity. As the game progresses, the player gains access to new stoves, specialized cooking pans and other such tools which offer new options with which to experiment and specialize during these cook-offs. Your typical action RPG elements are present as well, with upgradable magic attacks and new weapons to purchase and experiment with for your hunts. The core gameplay loop of Battle Chef Brigade is addicting and fun, with competitions which frequently come down to the wire and not a moment to spare before presenting your concoction to a hungry judge.
The rest of the game takes place over anime inspired visual novel portions. Anyone with an otaku streak will find themselves right at home, as characters mingle, flirt and advance through their culinary academia. While the story isn’t terribly complex, the characters are well-written and unique, offering an exquisite charm to the already beautifully presented title. Between competitions and cutscenes, the player mostly engages in busy work in the form of small puzzles and brief monster hunts. Even these duller moments are made fun by quest-givers’ individual story arcs, which take small steps as the in-game days go by.
Battle Chef Brigade is a unique game with a great concept at its heart. The story is rich with compelling characters and a solid gameplay loop which makes for a lot of excitement. Noticeably, the game is missing head-to-head multiplayer, which would elevate it to a smart and exciting party game as well. Still, Battle Chef Brigade is worth your time and a bright spot of originality sprung forth from two genres previously thought exhausted.