|System: DS||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Indies Zero||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Nintendo||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Nov. 24, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Nathan Meunier
Though the advent of cooking video games is still a very recent phenomenon, the range and scope of food-related ventures in the gaming world have fluctuated and expanded rapidly in recent years.
Cooking Mama may have kicked off an entirely new and exciting genre, but others have taken the chefs hat and ran with it. While initial cooking game efforts focused on mini-games, the latest trend has slowly shifted towards attempting to impart some level of culinary skill upon players. Nintendos very own Personal Trainer: Cooking is easily the cream of the crop of such endeavors.
To call Personal Trainer: Cooking a game is really a misnomer. Theres no gameplay involved. Instead, its a highly interactive, full-featured digital cookbook and training program. Budding chefs who cringe at the thought of thumbing through an old-fashioned, dusty cooking tome to hunt for recipes will find this compact digital package easy to navigate and actually fun to use. Jamie Olivers recent attempt at a cooking game was a bust, because it spread itself too thin attempting to be both a game and a digital cookbook. Nintendo cuts to the chase and focuses solely on the cook book and training elements. The result is more thorough and less gimmicky than Olivers offering, and its ultimately very successful.
Some may argue theres little need to make a cookbook in video game format, when you can get thousands of recipes in bound form for far cheaper at any book store. In most regards, Personal Trainer: Cooking makes the food planning, preparation, and cooking process far more palatable to those of us who do not possess latent culinary abilities. Navigating and deciphering a cookbook can raise lots of questions that arent easily answered by novice chefs. This can be intimidating to folks who dont know their way around the kitchen. Fortunately, the interactive experience the title provides goes far beyond simple reading. The game does its job well, making you feel like someone who knows what theyre doing is standing right there guiding you.
Whether youre pre-planning your meal, shopping for ingredients, doing prep work, or actually cooking the food, Nintendos software holds your hand every step of the way and provides crucial information and clarifications to many questions that might arise. Not only does it offer 245 different recipes from around the world and step-by-step instructions on how to prepare them, it also jams in loads of little helpful features, tips, and even video instructions to make the process less daunting and more enjoyable.
Perusing recipes is simple, thanks to the straightforward interface. You can search by ingredients, country of origin, keywords, and by more specific requirements like cooking time, difficulty, and calories, among other things. Instead of hunting and pecking with the stylus during specific searches, two small boxes let you quickly draw letters when doing a specific search. The handwriting recognition software works quite well. Once youve narrowed down the kinds of dishes youre interested in by category, you can sort them further by name, picture, by country, or their meal type. Dragging the stylus over a particular dish selected brings up a beautiful picture of the food on the top screen thats accompanied by important information like cooking time, caloric content, and a brief narrative on the dish.
The variety of foods featured in Personal Trainer: Cooking are divided nicely between salad, soups, noodles, rice and bread, meat, fish, veggies, side dishes, and desserts. Certain countries like France, Italy, and China have their cuisine featured more prominently than others, but the mixture theres still a good range of meals and side-dishes to pick from.