I have a few confessions before I start the review: I don’t watch America’s Test Kitchen and I don’t usually cook to recipes. Which might seem confusing, considering this is a review of the DSi XL’s America’s Test Kitchen: Let’s Get Cooking game, which is based on recipes, right?
Well, sometimes the promise of a game is far more than at first glance. What I really liked about the America’s Test Kitchen: Let’s Get Cooking game is the fact that it enables group collaboration during food preparation and cooking, and it even allows customization for age appropriateness (i.e. use of heat and sharp objects). I’m dedicated to teaching my son how to find his way around a kitchen, and anything that can help streamline the process is of great interest to me.
Over the weekend I made two of the recipes: Cilantro-Lime Spinach Dip (pictured above) and a Freeform Summer Fruit Tart. The game and the console were provided by Nintendo, as well as the groceries: an easy, fun review of epic culinary proportions.
My first project was the dip, and I made this alone to familiarize myself with the program. Essentially, the game works by giving you step-by-step instructions for each recipe, complete with videos and information on the ingredients and cooking processes. If you’re in a rush you don’t have to access any of this extra content, but it’s great for people who are either just learning how to cook or want a refresher course on kitchen basics.
And, I should add, the bigger screen makes a huge difference with the DSi XL. It’s easily visible across the kitchen and definitely makes perfect sense for a game such as this.
Because the spinach dip required no cooking, the learning curve was fairly easy. The program is voice activated which allows for hands-free movement through the game, but I found that it often thought my banging around the kitchen was speaking. So I turned this feature off, and just went through the recipe manually. Of all the features in the game, the voice recognition is probably the least impressive.
However, taste-wise, the spinach dip was incredible! So delicious. We fed it to our D&D group that night, and it was pretty much devoured to the very last bit. I was pleased with the overall balance of flavors, and the texture. My only personal preference would be to take out the garlic. While the initial flavor was good, I probably could have turned a vampire with my breath afterward!
The Freeform Summer Fruit Tart I admit, I approached with a little trepidation. I mean, pastry dough is hard. Even for me, and I’ve been cooking and baking since I was 12. I enlisted the help of my three and a half year old, Liam, and Caroline, my mother in law, to test this one out. I loved that it was primarily fresh ingredients—berries like blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries—baked in a sour cream pastry crust.
While my kitchen is about the size of a closet, we were able to work well together in spite of the lack of space. The game assigned tasks appropriate for Liam (who spent more time eating the raw berries than really concentrating on the task at hand, but he definitely felt as if he were a part of the whole process) and the more complex tasks to Caroline and me.
We worked very well together, and the recipe definitely takes the headache out of group cooking. Not only did everything go smoothly, but the final product was beautiful and remarkably delicious. My guests had fewer words to say about it and more general “Ooooh…” and “Yum!”
The game comes preloaded with enough recipes to last you and your family a year (over three hundred), and is truly a blast to use. We all had a marvelous time, and the recipes were absolutely delicious. That, for me, was the big test. I’m a constant tinkerer in the kitchen, and I often mistrust recipes not of my own devising, but there were no worries here. Highly recommended, not just for the fun factor, but for practicality. This would definitely come in handy for a last-minute dinner (as you can search by ingredients, and most of the recipes are with common ingredients) that everyone can lend a hand with.
Wired: Great recipes, delicious outcomes, easy to navigate software, excellent family game even for younger kids
Tired: Voice recognition software is a little buggy.