Taking on the role of an animal has become a bit of a gaming trend over the last few years. There’s been the chance to join the life of a fox in Spirit of the North and The First Tree recently; both of which have been delightful. We’ve been a dog in Toyko Jungle and a shark in the bloody brilliant Maneater. But now, with the Playstation exclusive Stray just around the corner, we have Chef’s Tail to satisfy our feline urges. What this game has that no other will even attempt though is that this cat is also a chef, a cook. It’s not the strangest thing about it though.
You start Chef’s Tail in a sort of isometric adventure mode, arriving on the shores of the river Styx with Charon – the famous ferryman of the dead – dropping you off. You are a cat and worker of the underworld, but it is also your job to set up shop in this little town; something which I guess is a sort of halfway home for ghosts. You rock up in a place to craft recipes, cook and sell the goods to hungry ghosts for money. Then you can open up more recipes to expand your cooking repertoire.
That’s the basics of this mad story, but there are other little narratives and stories that unfold as you walk around the little underworld town, chatting to the dead and a mysterious character called The Oracle. Chef’s Tail has a very family-friendly theme to it, especially in terms of its writing and characters and even though it’s mostly focused on dealing with ghosts and the dead, it’s all quite cute and wholesome. Many will like the world and the atmosphere it creates.
The game is all centered on this little underworld town by the river Styx, but it’s the controls which I need to get off my chest first. You see, it takes a while to get used to these as the transition from PC to console hasn’t been the smoothest. For example, to move the cat around you have to click on where you want it to go, and the cat will move like a point and clicker. When it gets to opening menus when you’re cooking, going through inventories, it’s even more annoying and rarely very intuitive. Thankfully with time, it does get a bit easier.
A tutorial in the opening stages will guide you through the basics of the game. This includes going around collecting some fruit from the trees, stuff like apples and lemons, and then taking those to your kitchen and shop, cooking with them via some tasty recipes. You start with the basics of a fruit salad – something which obviously requires bananas, apples, and lemons. You cook this up or slice it, and then it’s ready to sell in the shop. And magically, as you put your creation up for sale, ghosts will appear and it’s up to you to get out there and persuade them to buy your wares, all by purring at them. Yes, I said purring. The problem is, you’ll find some of your ghostly characters will not want to pay, attempting to steal your food. You can stop this if you’re quick enough, but you need to be on your toes.
As you progress and get money, you can expand your cooking; buying seeds will let you grow more plants around town, like blueberries or carrots and even purchase items from traders; stuff like frying pans or baking trays. Soon you’re making bread and cakes and all sorts of yummy goodness. You find some fetch quests too, set up by certain ghosts around town who will reward you with ingredients. You can even learn to catch fish from the river Styx – yep, there’s a lot going on there.
I do however think the game suffers a little after the initial short tutorial, failing to give much info about what to do next. I was lost for a while, searching around the small town looking for clues, talking to every ghost around.
Visually, Chef’s Tail utilises a nice colour palette and the town world looks pleasant enough, carrying on the family-friendly vibe at most times. It’s not a game that is ever going to push the Series X to the limit, but it does a solid job throughout. The same goes for the soundtrack which is nice and friendly.
Chef’s Tail is a game that the younger gamers out there might well have a great time spending a few hours with. It’s got a weird concept with the maddest ideas – that of a cat cooking for ghosts in the underworld. The gameplay is quite addictive and you’ll really want to check out the recipes on offer, cooking things up. The controls aren’t the best though and you will find yourself lost with what to do multiple times, but if you fancy yourself as a feline chef then Chef’s Tail could be for you.
Chef’s Tail is downloadable from the Xbox Store