Kill monsters then cook them in Battle Chef Brigade

The year of games about food continues. We've had a game about talking animals going to war over who gets eaten, and a game about aliens making soup wrong, but now there's a new contender for the crown of strangest food-related game of 2017: Battle Chef Brigade

It's a fantasy version of Iron Chef, right down to the chairman who announces the theme ingredient before each cook-off. The cooking itself is a match-3 minigame, but that's only a part of what's got going on. You have to gather ingredients yourself, which means ducking out of Kitchen Coliseum and into an action-platformer where you hunt creatures and drag their bits back to throw in the pan. And between the cooking battles there's a town full of characters and a shop and some side jobs—a layer of RPG sauce drizzled on top of this HSP of a game.

It's also anime as heck. The protagonist, Mina, wakes up late every day, has the kind of can-do "I can be the very best!" attitude that is required by law, and runs a bit like Naruto (or the Anime Crimes Division). She travels to the big city to take part in a cooking tournament and join the Battle Chef Brigade by defeating opponents who are, like the cheerful orc dad named Thrash, mostly quite friendly.

Each bird you stab out of the sky or plant monster you uproot with a whirlwind spell turns into a cluster of elemental-themed Taste Gems when it hits the pan, and those gems can then be spun around in groups of four (I guess this represents getting in there with the spatula). Each judge prefers a specific color, so if someone is into the tasty, tasty flavor of Earth you want to combine a bunch of green gems to impress them.

The hunting is the part of Battle Chef Brigade that feels most undercooked (forgive me). But even though I'm not fussed by the combat it still gets my heart going, because the timer doesn't stop ticking down. When the theme for the second official match was 'dragon' and I had to run all the way across the forest to hack one up for steak it was plenty stressful, as was frantically transferring the dumplings I turned it into from pan to pan.

Each extra pan I bought was optimized to cook a certain thing, which meant it matched that color with only two gems instead of three. Fortunately you can always leave a meal in the pan when you need to run out to gather more stuff, since the only thing that burns in Battle Chef Brigade is me, when I fight a dragon. (I recommend playing with a controller, as the keyboard controls feel slightly off.) 

Though its individual elements may not seem like anything to write home about, they work well in combination—the screwball story and the high-tension cook-offs playing off each other like sweet-and-sour sauce. It's not about the specific ingredients, but about how they're put together.

Battle Chef Brigade is out now on Steam, Humble, and GOG.

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