Basically the minute we heard it would be coming out, we started pestering the folks at Destineer about Iron Chef America: Supreme Cuisine for the Nintendo Wii. Our copy finally showed up last week, and after a weekend of carpal-tunnel-baiting with the wiimote, we can issue our official verdict: Meh.
We were fully prepared to like this game. We really wanted to like it. We love the TV show ‘Iron Chef America’; we love the Wii; we love the game Cooking Mama, which ICA was rumored to closely resemble. That rumor is half true: Iron Chef America does resemble ‘Cooking Mama,’ mimicking the step-by-step gameplay. But saying it “closely” resembles it is taking it a little far, since ‘Cooking Mama’ has given us many rollicking hours in cutthroat omelet competitions with friends and loved ones, whereas with Iron Chef America, we had to bribe an unfortunate acquaintance with homemade toffee for him to sit through a single round. The game is Just. That. Boring.
To be fair, the developers did try to mimic the format of the TV show. Like the television version, a challenge is introduced with a secret ingredient, you pick your dishes, and then you’ve got a set amount of time in which to prepare and plate. All the while, Alton Brown is providing running commentary, and ultimately a set of judges (alternately snide, clueless, deranged, and pretentious — just like on TV!) render an apparently arbitrary verdict and declare a winner. Sadly, though, this makes for way better television than it does interactive gameplay. And while we were psyched about smacking down a virtual Cat Cora (anyone else out there so deeply annoyed by her?), it turns out you’ve got to mow down a couple dozen stock chef characters before you can unlock the actual Iron Chefs themselves.
As we played through (we chose as our avatar the character our friend dubbed “Slut Chef,” whose jacket is strapless and who apparently carries around her own amply bouncing milk supply), we felt a growing sense of déjà vu. From challenge to challenge, the game barely varied. Every ingredient that we played offered a “pita” option (okay, to be fair, sometimes they called the dish a “chapati”), with identical gameplay: Chop the ingredient, grill the pita, plate it with olives and a pickle. And unlike ‘Cooking Mama,’ where chopping was a serious matter of wiimote dexterity (not to mention aching triceps), Iron Chef America was happy with just vague up-and-down motions.
By the end, we found ourself less interested in the actual playing, and more interested in the increasingly snarky commentary that our friend hurled at the screen, Rocky Horror-style. At a certain point his rage overtook his patience and he wandered into the kitchen, wiimote in tow. His screenshot of an unchopped onion half just sat there, Alton Brown’s disembodied virtual head babbling about knife safety, until the clock ran down and we won by default. Unexcited by this pyrrhic victory, we turned off the Wii, flipped over to a tivo’d episode of 30 Rock, and picked up the phone to order something, anything that didn’t involve pitas.