I like cooking, I like funny things, I like video games. From developer Infinigon Games and publisher Team 17 comes Epic Chef, a story-driven adventure/life-sim game that combines a lot of what I like… but does it make for a good game?
“Epic Chef is a story-driven adventure game flavoured with life-sim farming, and crafting elements, blended together into one delicious dish via an interactive cooking experience – all served with a side of humour and elaborate cast of characters inspired by classics such as Mister Ajikko, or the writing of Sir Terry Pratchett. Grab your spatula and start on your journey to become… Epic Chef!”
Playing as Zest, you find yourself (literally) thrown onto the island of Ambrosia. Having recently come into possession of the deeds to a house and some land… which is said to be haunted. With the help of a guide-golem, you begin to plant seeds and grow some basic crops. Use those crops to grow and produce ingredients that you then use to make food. Build your home and land, grow more impressive crops, get better ingredients and make better food, open a restaurant. Become an Epic Chef. That is the basics of the game but there is a bit more going on here.
Epic Chef takes place on the aforementioned island of Ambrosia, which at first, is pretty small as most of the areas are locked away. As you progress, more and more of the island opens up. Ambrosia is full of NPCs that can and will offer you odd jobs to do that run alongside the main story. While cooking is a big part of the game, there’s much more to do. You can build new equipment for your home as an example. There’s a lot of exploration around the island and a lot of NPCs to meet and more.
Still, the cooking here is one of the biggest gameplay mechanics and it’s rather involved too. The basics are that you throw three ingredients into a pan and cook. Flip the pan to prevent the food from burning and give it a stir to release the flavour and pick up bonus points. The more points your food gets, the better it is… obviously. Still, there is more. Each ingredient has its own properties and flavour synergies. So mixing the right ingredients together soon becomes something you really need to learn. Make the best quality food, take part in cook-offs, upgrade your house and farm and be the best chef on Ambrosia.
While there is a lot to see and do around the island of Ambrosia, you do spend most of your time at home and tending to your farm. Planting seeds, growing crops, picking the fruit and veg, etc. This all does become a bit of a chore and really slows the pace of the game down. Still, Epic Chef isn’t a game that you blister through anyway. It’s a gentle jog in the park, not a sprint. There are a lot of various gameplay mechanics here and they are all pretty deep really.
The humour here is brilliant. Lines of dialogue and conversations really had me laughing a lot. When you meet the resident carpenter, you can’t help but find him hilarious for so many reasons, the main one being that he is, in fact, Jesus. Ambrosia is teeming with life and there is always something to do, someone to talk to, something to make you laugh. A funny and very interesting discussion on what makes a southern gate a southern gate (is it because it’s the most southern gate or because it faces south? If it is because it faces south, does it not also face north? So couldn’t a southern gate also be a northern gate?) really had me questioning my own sanity, in a good way. There really is a lot of fun to be had with Epic Chef but there are issues…
One thing that got on my nerves is that your character ‘runs’ but he is very slow at it. Perhaps that should read that there is a run animation, yet the character still moves slowly regardless. There is a long path you have to walk to and from your house to the heart of Ambrosia, and you’ll be walking this long path a hell of a lot too. This simple journey just takes too damn long and feels very unnecessary. If only you could actually run and didn’t have a run animation that really is just walking speed. There is no in-game map and finding your way around can be confusing, especially early on in the game. Pretty much all of the secondary tasks handed out by NPCs fall into the old fetch quest category. There really isn’t much variety in terms of side quests. The tutorials in the game are really very light and hardly explain a lot of the more complex elements of the game.
Overall, Epic Chef is a fun little life-sim. It is certainly funny and the game had a lot of personality. The cooking mechanics are far deeper than they first seem. Building and upgrading your house and equipment is familiar, if you have ever played one of these types of games before. Epic Chef is a very easy game to get into but also one that really needs your full attention to get the most out of it. Priced at around £20, this is a mild recommendation from me.
I did enjoy the game but elements of it felt a bit too ‘clunky’. NPCs are used for nothing much more than fetch quest givers. The long journey from your home to the main town is just simply annoying because you can’t actually run. Okay, you do get access to a mountable creature to help you get around, but it’s not really that much faster. Epic Chef really ‘borrows’ from other similar games and doesn’t do much new with the ideas either. There’s also no dedicated save feature. The game only saves when you go to bed and you can only do that after 10pm. So effectively, you have to play through an entire in-game day if you want to save your game… which can be really annoying. But, if you do like a life-sim, you may just enjoy Epic Chef.