Let’s face it, cooking is more than just a way to heat up a meal. Cooking is big business, cooking is a way of life and cooking is, most importantly, entertainment. Whether you’re eating at a fancy restaurant or trying to make slow simmered burgundy beef stew to impress your loved ones, cooking has a therapeutic quality both for those doing it and even more so for those watching it. MasterChef and the various reality TV shows based on the culinary arts are ratings gold.
So it’s hardly a surprise that our beloved games have invaded the kitchen. Who hasn’t had a screaming match with someone over a game of Overcooked? Or donned the VR goggles and played “Cooking Simulator”? Well Brunch Club has come along to offer a strange hybrid of those games with a lot of added puns.
In Brunch Club you need to complete various cooking related challenges either alone, cooperatively or against your sworn opponents. And the great news is that you can even play locally against or alongside your house-mates, wife or grandad, though I’d strongly recommend making sure that all the breakable objects are a long way away from the couch as Brunch Club is a maddening physics-based game. The development team at Foggy Box Games boasted “at least five minutes” observing real-world objects moving around to create their simulation and it shows. Toast flips over like a gymnast, rice balls move like little boulders and even a piece of steak slops and splats its way around the map under your control, albeit in a way designed to boil your blood.
You play the game as a disembodied “glow” which you can use to take control of nearly any object on the screen and then move them around, rolling them around the screen and even performing a small jump here and there. Some objects are cooking ingredients like slices of bread or eggs, others are there to help you prepare the food like knives or bowls and some are there to form ramps to get the food into place. Some are just there to get in your way! Objects can be moved away and even dropped off the table, but beware as on higher difficulty levels this will cost you a life.
In the standard “Main Course” mode you are required to perform objectives, normally shown at the top of the screen; things like fry three eggs and two pieces of bacon or butter six pieces of toast. You have a time limit and, as mentioned, lives on the higher difficulty levels. The challenges only increase on higher difficulty levels, from snipers shooting your ingredients to bombs blowing them up. It’s never dull in the life of a virtual brunch cook. Often the challenge of just getting the ingredients to their location is hard enough but the physics are relatively forgiving most of the time. You don’t need to put the hot-dogs in the bun perfectly – the game will usually give you the nod once the dog is close enough. And in the sandwich-making game “Night of the Living Bread” the completed subs aren’t too tricky once you’ve gotten all the ingredients in there.
Main Course is probably where you’ll spend a lot of your time playing this game and it works quite well in co-op, though at times there were some modes that didn’t have as clear a role for each player. And whilst the game doesn’t have friendly fire, you can easily get in another player’s way or even nudge them off a table edge, which can provoke groans or yells depending on the user involved. There’s a fun challenge to get the objects to their destination and then to wiggle or jump them to get them just right; the bread in the toaster requires a lot of finicky adjustments but never quite makes you want to pull your own hair out. On the other hand, every now and again your chosen object will get stuck under something and be nearly impossible to move, or an object will get stuck on a table edge and can’t be moved. That’s a level of challenge that can really cause you to grab the nearest blunt object and hurl it at your screen.
Level design is generally good with clean, crisp cartoony graphics that are make it usually very easy to tell what object is what. The sound design is fine, with some funny sound effects for some of the objects, though the tinny music gets annoying very quickly. There are issues like in the Night of the Living Bread where two of the objects look more or less the same in the “objective” window, or the maddeningly difficult sushi-roll game where once the rice ball contacts an ingredient, it is stuck with it and you can’t dispose of them. Then when the “recipe” needs changes, you are left with useless ingredients that you can’t get rid of. I’d sooner have a root canal than play that mode again.
There are plenty of other modes though and they really add a lot of life and fun to Brunch Club. The Five Second Rule is an interesting and fun challenge mode that runs alongside the Main Course. You can also throw out the cooperation with Face Off which sees you play a pared-down version of the main game but now you’re trying to score more points than your friends. This can be a lot of fun and feels somehow fairer when you know your opponents are just as helpless in the face of physics as you are, though you still may find yourself playing the sushi game again.
I can give a particularly strong endorsement to The Arcade – short and fun mini-games where you play against other players, in fact it’s one of the only modes that can only be played multiplayer. From a rice-ball football (Foodball) to a sort of sumo-battle between rice-balls or a race to see who can butter the most toast, these games are short, punchy and a lot of fun. You can easily play a round of five in about ten to twelve minutes and it doesn’t outstay its welcome at all. I’ve only played it with two but I’d imagine with four the chaos factor only goes up, in a good way. In Arcade, all those physics-based annoyances where another player has nudged you or made your life difficult change in nature as they’re deliberate now! The room to troll and torment your opponents goes up and this can lead to a lot of fun.
Brunch Club on Xbox One is a fun, short game to play with friends or, if you’re particularly determined or masochistic, to play alone and try to overcome the increasingly unforgiving difficulty levels. There’s probably a limit to how much gameplay you can get out of Brunch Club but with multiplayer games of Arcade not taking very long, you could find yourself firing this one up whilst you wait for other players to arrive, or even as part of a suite of party-games.