Not Your Average Farming Simulator
Picture this, you're an aspiring adventurer who has just bought a plot of land to make a new name for themselves. Your ship arrives at the designated town and you're about to dock. An 'epic' beginning for an Epic Chef, you may say, until you get tossed overboard by the captain of the ship by being a stowaway. This is the humble beginnings of our protagonist, Zest, and this is where the story of Epic Chef begins. From this point forward, it only gets crazier from here on out.
The cover and the description on the back of the game's case had me fooled into thinking this would be yet another Story of Seasons-inspired title. Players can expect to grow crops, build facilities, do activities, and most important of all, cook to earn a living. However, for a game titled Epic Chef, the emphasis is indeed on the cooking. What the game doesn't warn its players beforehand is its humor being the main ingredient. It's not "cheesy" humor, but rather it's surprisingly rich and bold in flavor.
Meet Epic Chef's Protagonist, Zestbrush Threepwood
While I'm not sure if there's an inspiration between the two titles, there's an overlap between Epic Chef and the iconic Monkey Island series. For the younger crowd, Monkey Island was a series of adventure titles by Sierra where players controlled a wise-cracking pirate named Guybrush Threepwood. Much like Mr. Threepwood, most of his comedic timings rely on the world around him as well as his sarcastic nature. Many NPCs do not shy away from their ulterior motives, asking Zest for bribes with money he doesn't have.
There's a humorous exchange between Zest and a gate guard determining what constitutes as a "Southern Gate." If a gate is facing south, is it technically South? Depending on where you enter the gate, is it an East Gate if you're coming from the West or vice versa? This exchange goes on between the two characters for a solid minute until the guard gives Zest proper directions. Was this exchange necessary? Probably not, but it helps establishes Epic Chef's charm.
The City Is A Dangerous And Cursed Place
In other games, certain areas are blocked off from the player before the story requires it. An example of this is Pokemon Red where the old man will infamously block the player's path before they deliver the Professor's parcel to Oak himself. Epic Chef does this twice by having an all-out brawl featuring several chefs. When explained as to what is going on, there's a fight on whether "onions are useful as an ingredient." Another part of the town is blocked because of a botched witchcraft causing a tornado of magic to appear. The game could have easily told the player "You can't access this right now," but the imaginative road blocks add sustinance to the craziness the game provides.
Eventually the player reaches their humble abode, which is more like something out of Luigi's Mansion. The villa is a cursed ran-down mansion that is in dire need of repair. Rather than being bummed or scared about it, Zest takes it as an opportunity for growth. One of the funniest and most clever moments in the game begins with a Resident Evil pun, declaring that "no residence can be this evil." To further drive the point that this is a Resident Evil reference, the first time you open the door it cuts away to the game's iconic "first person door opening" cutscene. This scene does not repeat itself for the rest of my time playing it, making this a one-off thing that got a chuckle out of me.
Epic Chef's Cooking Is Easy To Understand With Hidden (Onion?) Layers
The farming aspect that one would expect from a game like Epic Chef is incredibly simplified, so much so that Zest breaks the fourth wall. Planting seeds and farming crops happens every hour in-game time roughly. There are no crops to water, nothing to micromanage, everything happens on its own accord. When asked why this is the case, the tutorial provider, a golem, states that this was the devs doing and to not question it. The developers, Infinigon, are mentioned in game here and the soil grows the crops at "500000%" the rate.
Epic Chef's bread and butter relies in its cooking gameplay, which is simple yet addicting when fully understood. Each ingredient has a modifier that, when paired with another ingredient, creates "synergy." Carrots are best cooked when a pan is empty, tomatoes are better when carrots are included, and then potatoes are added in last. The player stirs the pan to gather as many points as possible, yet prolonged exposure will burn the ingredients.
Each Battle Rivals That Of Bobby Flay Himself
Once everything is prepared, Zest will finish their meal and points are given depending on how it was prepped. Zest will occasionally face off against others in a duel, including one with a mysterious knight early on. Winning these duels unlocks more of the story and they are every bit as crazy as the game itself. If there was one criticism I had with the game, it's that the player is unable to save their game until some time has passed. The only way they can save is when it's time to progress to the next day, meaning the player will be waiting a while to take a break.
Fortunately, this is where the beauty of the Nintendo Switch comes in. So long as the Switch has battery life, the player can simply put the game into sleep mode and come back to it whenever. Of course if the battery dies or if the game crashes, that's a different story, but for this alone I'd say the Switch is the perfect platform to play Epic Chef. It's a funny, quirky, and satisfying game to play, nor does it bog the player down with overwhelming responsibilities. The humor most certainly carries this game as well. I'd recommend it even for those, like myself, who aren't keen to similar "life simulator" titles.
Epic Chef is now available physically on the Nintendo Switch.