Epic Chef is an action adventure epic that relies on the culinary talents of the hero to unfold. If you’re looking for more realistic cooking in games, this is a surprisingly deep entry, in that regard alone. If we’re looking at whether this odd title brings cooking and adventure together in a satisfying way, the answer, unfortunately, is only slightly.
There are a few areas where Epic Chef really shines. The writing is hilarious and self-aware and the way characters speak to each other feels simultaneously grounded and cartoonish all at the same time. There’s seldom a wasted line that doesn’t provide information, make a joke or (as this game often does beautifully) both at once. The ability of this game to wrap exposition in a joke is incredibly done and frankly, I never want a dry tutorial again now that I know it doesn’t have to be that way. The lunacy this game creates with its writing also feels very family friendly, in a very SpongeBob SquarePants way; while there are some very basic surface-level jokes that will appeal to younger gamers, Epic Chef isn’t afraid to break the fourth wall and make meta-jokes that appeal to older audiences.
The game is essentially a series of cooking competitions that progresses the story. You have to source your own ingredients by expanding your homestead garden. The homesteading in Epic Chef is much more satisfying than I’ve experienced in other games because it’s directly related to how you progress in your quest instead of the usual “grow vegetables, sell the vegetables” model.
The cooking mechanic is probably the most satisfying one I’ve ever experienced. While most cooking in games boil down to “throw ingredients in pot and press A”; Epic Chef puts the act of cooking very directly in your hands in a fun way: you use specific buttons to stir your dish and manipulate your pan, add different ingredients and sauces that complement each other in order to accumulate points for the various aspects of the dish in order to meet specific guidelines for the competitions, all in real-time.
- Brilliant writing
- Fulfilling homestead mechanics
- Groundbreaking cooking sim
The first flaw with Epic Chef will rear its ugly head rather quickly: this game is downright ugly. Like, bad even for PS2 graphics ugly. Unfortunately, this isn’t just limited to the art style, animation or lighting - it’s all bad. The character designs are pretty awful on their own but as with any artistic decision, that is a subjective matter. When you pair these debatably hideous models with overbearing performance issues, flubbed attempts at shadow-tracing and uninspired environments, it all adds up to a downright unpleasant visual experience.
The shadows ruin every cutscene they’re in: the passive shadows are already blocky and vague enough in the overworld, but in cutscenes they fall on the already-ugly character models and the end result is a flickering gray blob that covers most of the faces. Interior shots switch to a fixed-angle camera (like in old-school Resident Evil games), while the overworld uses a free-rotating camera. On face-value, that’s not really a problem, but when the interiors are so indiscernible and drab that it’s hard to tell where entrances and exits are, it only adds to the frustration.
The load times for this game (that already struggles to run on Switch hardware) are unforgivable: waiting more than a full minute for an environment that is so poorly rendered is incredibly frustrating. I wonder if these graphical/performance issues are as blatant and annoying in the other versions of this game: if they are, then this game is just hopeless, but if the major limitation is the Switch hardware, this game simply should not have been ported to Switch.
Gameplay-wise, there are also a few flaws that detract from the overall experience. The cooking mechanic is fun but feels like it should be a mini-game in a much larger game. It’s complex enough to keep your attention most of the time but it’s very repetitive after a while, especially since it’s the only fun you’ll have playing Epic Chef. It’s fun but it can’t carry the whole weight of this game on its back. The game also feels very much like a series of endless fetch-quests.
Lastly, the lack of a waiting feature is a glaring flaw in a game without 24/7 shops since you’ll have to go back home through painful loading screens and confusing layouts just to sleep until a shop opens again. The time passes agonisingly slowly if you choose to wait manually, which means there’s a lot of unnecessary backtracking.
- Hideous graphics
- Shadow and camera issues
- Poor performance
- Repetitive gameplay
Final Score: 4/10
Initially, I was so struck by the graphical flaws and annoying aesthetics, but I was pleasantly surprised by the baseline enjoyable gameplay. I really have a love/hate relationship with Epic Chef; when I’m cooking or reading dialogue, I really like it, but when interacting with the overworld or being forced to look at the characters, it's a painful experience that I abhor. A 4/10 is really the most I can give this game and I can only give it a score that high because of the core gameplay that is quite fun, but you have to force yourself through such awful interludes between those morsels that I can’t really recommend it, at least on Switch. Hopefully the other versions of this game address these problems and this is just a bad port instead of a bad game. I can forgive a game with bad graphics if it runs well enough but unfortunately, the Switch port of Epic Chef has both bad graphics and poor performance, resulting in a game with a good premise that is rendered all but unplayable due to these limitations.
Thank you for checking out our Epic Chef Switch review, thank you to Team17 (via Five Star Games) for providing the review code and thank you to our $5 and up Patreon Backers for their ongoing support: