I think it’s pretty fair to say that Overcooked! is the undisputed king of the cooking sim genre. There have been many who have sought to emulate its success, but few have come close. Cannibal Cuisine is very clearly inspired by it too, but offers a slight twist.
The Hoochooboo gods are hungry and have a taste for human flesh. So rather than offer yourself up, it’s the unsuspecting tourists who will become the main course instead. Luckily, morals don’t come into play here so your character has no reservations about slicing up the visitors as they arrive.
Despite using human meat in your dishes (and the odd bit of fruit and veg), Cannibal Cuisine is structured in a near identical way to Overcooked!. You’ll be required to rustle up a series of fairly simple dishes against the clock, composed of two or three ingredients each. To source your main ingredients, you’ll need to slice up some tourists. However, they can fight back and if they take you down it will cost you valuable seconds as your respawn.
There are 20 levels in the main campaign to chop, slice and dice through. There isn’t really a narrative beyond this, but then Cannibal Cuisine doesn’t need it. At the heart it’s a cooking sim which is more of a party game, with short sharp bursts of frantic fun. That’s the aim anyhow.
Things do get more challenging as you play too, as the variety of dishes and ingredients increases. Not only this, but you will face more hazards such as spike pits, balls of molten lava and crumbling platforms. At times there will also be two Hoochooboos to feed, each dish colour-coded to a specific one. For some reason, I found this particularly difficult to wrap my head around in the heat of the moment.
Your character has four special skills to choose from, and you can choose one per level. These include the option to stun enemies, breath fire to cook dishes quickly, dash to clear gaps and place totems to heal your teammates. Being honest, you’ll use “Dash” more than any other skill. The rest feel like something of an afterthought, such as the healing totem which feels validated only by having an achievement available.
To explain, you can take damage from the tourists as you try to slice them up to generate ingredients. In theory, this is where a healer should come in handy but your respawn time is still relatively quick, so it renders running back and forth to the healing totem pretty pointless.
There are three stars available for each level which are not easy to get. As you cannot amend the difficulty, it’s somewhat of a relief that you only need to achieve one star to progress to the next level. Achieving three stars is no picnic however, and barring an achievement there is no real reward for doing so. As a result, I didn’t find myself motivated to revisit levels with the sole purpose of nabbing that top score.
At the end of each “world”, there is a challenge to overcome. These are varied and offer a welcome change from the core gameplay, including outrunning a huge spiked roller Indiana Jones style, or using mines to stop tourists nicking all of your food. The end of the campaign is marked by a fairly frustrating boss battle however, which is simple in theory but more challenging in reality.
This is because of the less than accurate controls. There are two main issues here. Firstly, the mapping feels counter intuitive. A is used to attack, B is the action button (to pick up and drop things), X is for your special move and Y is used to eat food whilst you are holding it to restore health. Instinctively, it feels wrong having the action button mapped to B, it should be A. As a result I spent ages pressing the wrong button, and it took a good while to adapt. Even then, I’d still reactively go for A instead of B at times. What doesn’t help is that you can’t amend the controls or check the setup after being shown initially.
There is also a lack of accuracy with the controls, which is important given what is being asked of you. Rather than place something down you may end up booting it into the abyss when dashing, or combine it accidentally to an existing dish and ruin it. You’ll often slip to your doom when perched on the edge of a platform, place an item on the floor instead of the stove, or struggle to pick up the right item if there are many bunched together. This makes the final boss especially frustrating because you’ll continually chuck food onto the floor instead of placing it where needed.
These issues aren’t overly problematic at first but do become a headache when the complexity ramps up as you’re against the clock. In some of the later levels, if you’re playing with three or four friends (locally or online), there are segments simply not large enough to accommodate you all. What results is an absolute mess of ingredients, utter confusion within your team and one by one you all repeatedly plunging into the drink. It’s a laugh, but not always for the right reasons.
On the subject of multiplayer, this is of course where Cannibal Cuisine is at its most enjoyable, but the difficulty is dialled up accordingly. It’s a fusion of fun and stress, as you bark orders at your colleagues to whip up dishes and gather the correct ingredients. You will need to be super organised to have any hope of achieving three stars however, because the scores are even more challenging than when playing solo.
There’s no option to play against random opponents online, however the multiplayer side of things runs smoothly as the game does overall. Its pleasing cartoon style reflects the light-hearted tone and party game vibe. You can also play a versus mode which is essentially a split-screen battle in how the level is laid out. Each player is given their own half of the map to cook in but share the tourists which normally congregate somewhere in the middle. At the end of the timer, the player with the most points wins.
To celebrate its release across consoles the free expansion “The Curse of Scarab King” has been thrown in as a bonus. This introduces switches and gem disabling traps which offer a slight twist on the gameplay, all wrapped up in an Ancient Egyptian skin. This certainly makes this extra set of levels more of a challenge than the base campaign at times, but unfortunately the aforementioned issues also persist.
Cannibal Cuisine looks pretty pleasing on the eye, the cartoon theme also being given the optimisation treatment for Series X|S. Unfortunately then, the soundtrack isn’t quite as pleasing. Instead, it consists of a short segment of music which repeats and becomes irritating before long.
However, it’s refreshing that all the hats, weapons and costumes are available from the start. There’s no unlocking required. On the flip side, that does provide one less reason to play Cannibal Cuisine through to completion.
Despite borrowing heavily from Overcooked!, Cannibal Cuisine strikes more of a party game tone, with mixed results. The gameplay lacks finesse, and despite providing a few laughs with friends, you’ll find it difficult not to revert back to the inspirational rival.