We don’t care if you’re a slobby bachelor who eats ramen noodles right out of the bag–practically everyone knows at least a little something about cooking. And after playing Glu’s Cooking Star, you’ll know more… assuming you’re good enough to unlock some of the game’s real-life recipes.
Yes, Cooking Star is a cookbook as well as an iPhone game. We can’t speak to the quality of the recipes (yet), but the game definitely hits the spot for short play sessions.
The meat of Cooking Star, so to speak, lies in its eight cooking minigames. Each minigame is attached to a particular dish, like Kebab, Borscht, or Burger (we guess this particular cooking school teaches “Neo Americana” cuisine or something). Each has five levels of difficulty, measured by a star rating. One- through three-star dishes are really easy; four and five stars, not so much.
Most of the minigames are fun and make good use of touch and tilt controls. For instance, cooking Kebabs involves flipping your iPhone over to turn the skewers and shaking to season. Tofu requires you to “slash” blocks of flying tofu into pieces in mid-air, using your finger as the blade. Our favorite is probably Chowder, where you stir the bubbling pot while knocking bad ingredients to the side with your finger. It’s a bit like rubbing your belly while patting your head.
Not all of the dishes are created equal, however. One of them, Borscht, strikes us as filler–it’s just a stupid rhythm game that has no connection to cooking. We also noticed that some of the tilting minigames, like Rice Ball and Meatballs, have trouble recognizing the lateral angle of your iPhone. This can lead to a lot of botched dishes.
You play through each recipe in the game’s Story Mode, where you’re an aspiring chef who’s learning the ropes from a master cook. There’s no real story; your mentor just swaps a few quick lines of dialog with you every time you earn some stars. We’d like to see this bare-bones framework fleshed out a little more, or abandoned altogether.
But playing through Story Mode is how you unlock new gameplay modes and recipes. There’s Today’s Special, which challenges you to complete five dishes of a certain quality, and Challenge, where you just go for a high score during an endless minigame. Nailing five-star dishes and satisfying Today’s Special opens up a trove of dozens of cookbook recipes–a neat bonus for a cooking game.
Cooking Stars sparkles in terms of graphics and sound. The kitchen is bright and inviting, like a cable cooking show. Also, every dish has its own jazzy ditty playing in the background. It’s polished spotless.
We can easily recommend Cooking Stars at its current sale price of $1.99, and would probably buy it all the way up to $3.99 or so. It’s good, quick fun and fairly replayable–especially if you want all of those recipes.