Review – Lost Recipes
Schell Games is the kind of developer you eventually look forward to anything they come up with, no matter the genre. They have estabilished themselves as one of the more respectable VR devs in the industry, all thanks to titles like their I Expect You Die franchise. That was probably the reason I was actually eager to give their brand new title, Lost Recipes, a shot. Cooking games aren’t exactly my bread and butter (there’s a pun hidden there somewhere), but I knew they would find a way to make said genre more appealing. And I was right.
In Lost Recipes, you control a ghost chef of sorts. It’s never exactly explained if you’re dead or if you’re some kind of psychic, but let’s face it, this isn’t the focus of the game. You’re not playing a cooking simulator for its plot, are you? Anyway, you’re here to meet some ancient spirits who want to teach you recipes from their respective ancient civilizations. Learn the dishes, prepare them, and offer them to said spirits, who will then reward you with a star-based scoring system. That’s pretty much it: learn a few dishes from ancient civilizations. Oddly enough, I assume you can eventually do them in real life, as none of the ingredients showcased in these recipes are exactly hard to find.
The core gameplay loop goes as follows. First of all, pick a dish. You’ll be transported to either a Chinese, Greek, or Mayan kitchen, and you’ll be greeted by a ghost who’ll teach you about said recipe, as well as its importance within its respective culture. From then on, just follow the steps highlighted in a hovering cookbook. Dice some onions, make bread, grill some recently cut slices of pork, prepare some wine, make oolong tea, and so on. In no moment did these cultural monologues feel condescending or boring. The voice acting is excellent, with each ghost possibly being voiced by local, or someone who’s really good at doing foreign accents.
The controls themselves are… fine. By no means is this the best example of motion controls I’ve seen in an Oculus Quest game (and I’ve owned a headset for just a month), but it could have been worse. It’s certainly way more responsive than most PSVR games, even if its physics feel a bit dicey at times. I have never felt like I was cutting pork properly, or handling a skewer on top of a grill with enough precision. It wasn’t a complete dealbreaker, however. What did annoy me though, was how the game handled movement. You need to walk around the kitchen at all times, and the only way you can do that is by teleporting. There is no option to freely walk around the kitchen, and I hated that. Why did you implement smooth camera controls, but did not allow us to freely move around the kitchen?
The presentation is simple, but it’s not downright bad. Lost Recipes isn’t the first VR cooking game ever made, but it’s far from being the ugliest. Most of these cooking titles featured really ugly low-poly graphics, hardly managing to make food look like, well, food. That’s not the case in here. Sure, the game is still somewhat low-poly, but considering the fact some of the dishes actually made me feel hungry, I can only assume the game was doing something right with its presentation, right?
The game’s biggest flaw, however, is its brevity. I liked the premise and the overall gameplay loop, but Lost Recipes only offers a total of nine dishes, three from each culture tackled in the game. That’s disappointing. The entire game can be beaten in about an hour. Once you complete all dishes, sure, you can go back and try to get five stars in each of them, but that’s basically it. Even for VR standards, when you’re usually not able to play a game for longer periods of time, Lost Recipes was beyond short. I tackled it in one sitting. The game left me wanting more.
Lost Recipes showcases one of the biggest strengths offered by virtual reality. Were this a console game, I would have probably hated it. It was the added novelty of doing my own dishes with decent motion controls, all while learning a bit about ancient history, that made this game way more entertaining than I could have ever imagined. Sadly, it’s ridiculously short. I would have loved to spend more time cooking more dishes from other ancient cultures. I hope Schell Games can remedy that with a DLC pack or a sequel in the future. I’ll definitely look forward to either.
It’s low-poly, but it looks good enough. If a game like this manages to make me salivate over my dishes, then it must be doing something right.
Physics are a bit dicey, and I don’t like the lack of free movement, but the controls are simple and responsive enough.
The entire game is voiced by what I assume are locals carefully explaining their traditional recipes in an educational but never condescending manner.
Fun Factor: 6.5
The premise behind Lost Recipes is actually really fun, considering the genre. I am just saddened by the fact it can be beaten in an hour.
Final Verdict: 7.0
Lost Recipes is available now on Oculus Quest 2.
Reviewed on Oculus Quest 2.
A copy of Lost Recipes was provided by the publisher.