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America's Test Kitchen: Let's Get Cooking
From: Nintendo
For: Nintendo DS
Genre: Educational, Family
ESRB Rating: Everyone (6+)
America's Test Kitchen: Let's Get Cooking
'Spears on the bias' might sound like a chivalrous attack strategy in a video game, but it's actually just a way to prep asparagus... in a video game.
Posted April 22, 2010
Judging by the artwork on the cover, America's Test Kitchen: Let's Get Cooking certainly looks like a DS game for moms and daughters - Nintendo has a thing for stereotypes. But man, if regular non-mom, non-daughter gamers were to try it out, they just might find a new world of ways to get a girlfriend. Seriously, a gamer that can cook is surely ten times more appealing than a gamer that can defeat Bowser. Or "10+ Charisma" if you speak Nerd.

Not that it's trying to appeal to traditional "gamers" per se; America's Test Kitchen: Let's Get Cooking is yet another "ungamer" title in Nintendo's Touch Generation line of digital dual-screen diversion, a things-that-mom-or-grandma-can-do-with-DS sort of deal. Ironically, if mom or grandma hasn't figured out the whole "cooking" thing by now, then America's Test Kitchen: Let's Get Cooking may be three decades late and twenty dollars short, no?

As it happens, it's not about teaching cooks how to cook, but instead an offering of new cooking ideas and techniques - or new takes on old ideas, anyway - and delivering them in a methodical, mentoring manner with all the patience in the world, making it engaging and entirely practical for accomplished and novice cooks, both.

No one step is rushed, from the grocery list to prep to cooking to serving, each instruction waits for you to hit a big fat "continue" button on the DS' touch screen or, more handily, to say "continue" near enough to the DS' built-in microphone to register as a voice prompt. That's pretty cool, especially if your hands are greasy, wet or otherwise gucky.

Not surprisingly, the noisier the kitchen ambience, the louder you'll have to speak (and if the phone rings, the game chimes its confusion and goes "come again?"). Speaking of ambient noise and other household distraction - and considering you're expected to let the game system sit on a countertop while your hands are busy - there's also the option to "repeat" a step or revisit the "last step" just by saying as much.

Within each stream of instructions, usually displayed as an image, text and verbalization and sometimes a video, there's also the opportunity to have it elaborate on the task at hand. When instructed to cut a veggie "on the bias," for example, the word "bias" is highlighted, ready for you to say "more details" for a jump to a subroutine explaining that "on the bias" is chef talk for "at a 45 degree angle."

In fact, you can visit all such informative ditties outside of the recipe routines, just to learn or bone up on home ec' techniques and the snooty lexicon of culinary conceits.

Further to the mom and daughter on the cover, America's Test Kitchen: Let's Get Cooking actually does a good job of making meal-making a family affair, one that could include moms and sons and dads and daughters if you're not into the whole stereotype thing. And seeing as there's a good chance a so-populated household might own more than one Nintendo DS/DSi/DSiXL, a single copy of the game lets you delegate tasks by wireless transmitting select segments of prep or cooking to another device - and it includes multiple user presets with an age-gate to optionally not include tasks requiring knives and heat (stoves or ovens).

To call American's Test Kitchen: Let's Get Cooking a game isn't really apt, obviously. It's an interactive cooking manual; an audio/visual tutorial series for beginners and seasoned cooks alike.

It's just $20, and for that it clearly delivers on its promise of giving families something fun and productive to do in the guise of a videogame, but serious, non-familial gamers lacking cooking skills would also do well to pick this up, because cooking is cool and the ability to make actual "food" is 10+ Charisma in the real world.
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Score:  4.5  (out of 5)