I’ll play just about anything where cooking is a major game mechanic. Epic Chef is part of the October 2022 Humble Choice, and while it wasn’t my top choice for the bundle, there was no doubt that I was part of the target audience for this one, so I volunteered to take a loot at it for UnwiseOwl’s group review post. The game has no DLC, and is regularly priced at $24.99, although it’s been marked down as low at $9.99.
Let’s start with the elephant in the room, shall we? Epic Chef has a very distinctive art style that may not be everyone’s cup of tea. It certainly isn’t my cup of tea. Every humanoid you encounter feels like someone took a 3D model and squished it. All of their heads are nearly the same size as the rest of their bodies. To me, it’s almost a bit creepy, which is unfortunate, because I like the look of just about everything else in the game, but man, the people just feel wrong.
But there is more to a game than the art, which brings me to the next thing I kind of feel like I should definitely talk about. Epic Chef desperately wants to be funny. It wants you to guffaw your way through the game. For me, the humor was hit or miss, but in the first hour, I encountered at least one gag that some people might find very offensive. If you’re uncomfortable with humor around religion (specifically Christianity), you might want to just give this one a pass.
Since I seem to have decided to take the tack of covering the game’s major cons first, I’ll wrap up with the thing that put me off the game – the save system. This is one of those games that only lets you save when you sleep, and to make that extra annoying, it restricts you from sleeping unless it’s at least a certain time of day.
This might not be so bad, but the days can be long especially as the game is still teaching you things. I lost almost half an hour of progress because I assumed that going to sleep would be the thing to trigger the save point. In fact, it appears that waking up triggers it instead, and on the second night, you will be woken up before a full night sleep so that the game can drop more plotline on you. Seeing as I’d been trying to save and quit for several minutes already, I exited the game and was brought back to the first full day of play – a day that’s full of little tutorial quests I wasn’t particularly enthused to have to repeat.
While I realize it’s a lot of potentially polarizing elements, there’s a pretty neat little life sim game here. You’ve bought a (possibly) haunted mansion in the town of Ambrosia, and in this weird little town, cooking is king. Not only is it one of the main ways of making money, it’s a pretty key component of settling conflicts. You’ll likely win your first cooking contest handily, but it will also attract the attention of the local culinary guild, who’ll pay you a visit and inform you that you’re required to pay a fairly steep registration fee if you plan to cook professionally – which you obviously plan to do!
In order to make enough money to pay the fee (and also, to get yourself a real bed instead of a wooden board), you can choose to grow crops, forage and gather, or do quests for the inhabitants of Ambrosia. If you’ve played farming-focused life sims in the past, the mechanics will all feel pretty familiar, although the cooking part is fairly unique, in that you’re looking to create synergies, stir at just the right moment to collect maximum flavor elements without sacrificing a scrumptious aroma, and taking care not to overcook anything. The explanations aren’t super-clear, but new concepts are introduced slowly enough that you shouldn’t get overwhelmed.
I don’t know if Epic Chef is a game I’ll be going back to anytime soon, mostly because of the stingy save points, because I’m of the opinion that any game that forces you play more than 15 minutes or so without an opportunity to save doesn’t fit my life. However, I was enjoying it enough that without this particular pet peeve, I probably would have stuck with it. Obviously, if you feel the same, this isn’t going to be your favorite game in this month’s Humble Choice, but if you’re okay with some vaguely unsettling character models, irreverent humor, and infrequent save points, there’s a fairly interesting game here.
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