Iron Chef America: Supreme Cuisine
Reviewed by Meagan Lemons
Review Date Platform Genre Rating Production
2008-12-20 Nintendo DS Simulation E10 (Everyone 10+) Destineer Studios

I never saw the Iron Chef America television series before I played this game but I'm a fan of Cooking Mama, so this game had a lot to live up to for me. The game tries to recreate the television show and present an interactive imitation for fans, but it will probably lose the interest of those who aren't familiar with the show.

When you start up the game, you will have the option to begin the career mode. After creating a profile and choosing one of two character models, you are pitted against your first opponent and assigned your special ingredient. From there you can pick from about ten different dishes with that ingredient in them. You have the option to pick more than the required number of dishes that you must choose in order to proceed, which will give you less time to complete each task, but there isn't an obvious benefit to doing so.

It's disappointing that the dishes in each challenge are only slightly different from those in other challenges. There only seem to be a few ingredients which are used in each one and only a handful of different ways to prepare them. The tasks are repetitive (for example, nearly every dish uses onions to make) and sometimes they're not clear, such as in the grilling and frying tasks. The instructions for how to complete these tasks are vague, so I failed them many times before I gave up and decided to just let the food burn. Then I discovered the green exclamation point that pops up to let you know the food is done (there is no mention of this in the task instructions).

It's difficult to tell how you're doing on each task and dish, because there aren't any progress bars to speak of. Except for the one on the top screen that compares your overall progress to your opponent's, though it doesn't seem to be tied to the scoring at all. The stylus actions are also a bit finicky and frustrating, particularly on the slicing tasks.

The scoring phase of the game feels uninspired. After completing the three to six course meal, you are graded by three judges on taste, plating, and originality just as in the TV show, although it isn't clear how each category is scored in the game. I found it disappointing that no matter how many dishes I made, the judges only commented on my best and worse and either loved or did not hate my first dish and despised the second, despite how well I did on it. Once, I scored over 90% on every dish I created and they still hated my lowest-scoring dish. What are these guys' problem, anyway?

I also feel that the scoring phase is too long. After you've completed all of the tasks in each challenge, you have to sit through no less than twenty screens of judging and "suspense" to find out how well you did. This is a big part of the television show, but it just feels tedious in the game, especially when the dialogue is more or less the same each time, with a little variety in the judges' comments. A fan of the show might appreciate it more.

After defeating each challenger, you unlock the next one and are able to battle him or her. The game is pretty short though, with only fifteen challengers in total. There are achievements to be unlocked, but most seem very easy (usually completing a number of this or that task). Some achievements are harder, such as beating the "optimal time" for every task on a dish or defeating the final challenger with a perfect score, so there is actually some replay value here.

There are also different modes to play. Quick Play allows you to play against any challenger you have unlocked so far with any secret ingredient. If you're having trouble with certain tasks or dishes you can enter the School, which is the game's practice mode. There are multiplayer capabilities as well: Pass Play will let you play with or against a friend by passing the DS back and forth, or you can connect wirelessly to your friend's DS.

I found that the art style doesn't seem to work with the game. It isn't really cute or comical, which is what they seemed to be trying to do with it. I can appreciate that they tried to stylize the characters instead of making them look realistic, but big-headed clay people was the wrong direction. The first character you meet in the game, Alton Brown, is really quite scary-looking with rubbery hands and a huge polygonal head - but then again, he seems pretty scary in the show as well.

The music is lacking, at best. The two or three tunes come straight from the show itself and are meant to create the same drama and suspense, but it gets repetitive very quickly. It doesn't sound good coming out of the DS speakers, either, which makes it more annoying than suspenseful.

Fans of the Iron Chef and Iron Chef America series will probably find something to like about the game, since it follows the format of the television show and allows players to play out their fantasy of being a challenger in Kitchen Stadium. But Iron Chef America: Supreme Cuisine is certainly no Cooking Mama, which will disappoint gamers who pick it up hoping for that kind of experience.

Special thanks to Julia Lebedev, Amanda Young and Destineer Studios for providing a copy of this title.