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May 2021

Cannibal Cuisine

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC
Genre: Online Multiplayer
Developer: Rocket Vulture
Release Date: May 20, 2020


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PC Review - 'Cannibal Cuisine'

by Cody Medellin on July 31, 2020 @ 12:30 a.m. PDT

Chop up vegetables, fruits and tourists and serve your divine delicacies in arcade style with up to 4 chefs!

It may not have been the first game to do it, but Overcooked! sparked interest in a different type of party game. By taking something as normal as cooking and giving the player some outlandish scenarios, the controlled chaos became a hit with both seasoned and casual players alike. The game spawned a few other titles that took the concept to other places, like furniture moving, home improvement and spaceship management. It even produced its own sequel, but none of them have taken things to taboo levels. Enter Cannibal Cuisine, a game that tries to turn people-eating into a wacky affair. If it weren't for a host of issues, it could have worked.

Cannibal Cuisine puts some effort into its premise. On a faraway tropical island, the god Hoochooboo has awoken from his slumber. Along with his various clones, he has taken over the island and has one demand to keep him at bay: human meat. While the island shaman tries to figure out how to fix things, he tasks you with appeasing the god by feeding it tourists to buy the shaman time for a solution. The subject is edgy enough to be noticeable among the sea of family-friendly themes, but don't expect anything deeper than that.

If you're familiar with Overcooked!, then you already know the core gameplay loop of Cannibal Cuisine. With three minutes on the clock, you're dropped into a level and given an endless order of dishes that Hoochooboo wants. From there, you gather up the ingredients and place them on the spit to get cooking. Once they're done, you take them away from the spit and feed them to Hoochooboo before the order's timer expires, and you repeat the process until the overall time runs out. You'll get a star ranking depending on how many points you gained, and you progress to the next level, where the recipes differ and obstacles try to thwart your progress.

The most obvious change to the formula's core loop has to do with the main ingredient: people. Although many of your dishes include fruit, vegetables and spices like bananas, chili peppers, and eggplants, the meat consists of brains, hands, and human steaks. The dishes have cute and punny names, like Egghead or Steak Plant, but there's no mistaking what you're cooking. To obtain the meat, you cut the tourists until they die, and then you transform them into a random meat product. It's brutal, but since one hit doesn't kill them, they'll fight back, so you have a high possibility of dying at their hands. You can replenish your health by eating the raw meat instead of cooking it in a dish.

Cannibal Cuisine lets you choose one of four abilities that can come in handy for each level. Dashing is pretty self-explanatory, as you can use a quick burst of speed to get away from a crowd and skip over gaps unharmed. Instead of eating meat, you can place a totem on the ground so that anyone near it will replenish health. The stomp ability stuns tourists, so you can get in some free hits, and the ability to breathe fire can speed up food's cooking time. Interestingly, none of the abilities come with cooldown meters, so there's nothing stopping you from spamming the abilities with reckless abandon.

Unlike other games in the genre, Cannibal Cuisine has boss fights in the form of challenge levels. Instead of cooking, the levels either have an obstacle course or a battle against an angry horde of tourists. Each level restricts you to one life, which changes your game plan significantly because recklessness is heavily punished. The levels are a nice change of pace from the cooking, but those who aren't so dexterous will lament these mandatory levels.

Finally, the game features some quality of life changes that genre fans will appreciate. Online play is available for both the campaign and versus modes, so even though it isn't ideal to team up with strangers for this type of game, the option is there. The game doesn't require you to return utensils to their proper places, so no one has to worry about someone running off with a skewer, and there's no need to wash them, either. While not ideal, burning food doesn't mean that you must throw it away to cook more stuff. As for stars, you only need to gain one star to unlock the next level, so there's no need to revisit earlier levels to grind for XP so you can move forward.

Despite those aforementioned positive changes, there are a bunch of big and small negative things that drag down the experience. On the minor side, you unlock nothing as you progress through the game. Other games faced a similar lack of unlockables, but they mitigated this by unlocking new characters. While the game sports a total of 24 levels, all of them only take place in four environments, so despite having some nice environmental hazards like fireballs and rivers, the levels get old rather quickly.

If you're a more casual player of the genre or new to it in general, you'll find Cannibal Cuisine to be rather punishing. The game seems to expect that you know what to do, as there's no tutorial. The damage output from tourists is very high, and the first level throws hazards your way by having you cross a river with fast-moving barrels. The penalty for delivering the wrong dish is an attack from Hoochooboo that almost always spells death for all parties. Meanwhile, missing recipes results in a harsh point penalty; a large number of points are needed to reach one star, and the thresholds for a two- or three-star rating are almost impossible if you aren't playing with a full four-player crew that knows what they're doing. In short, the game does a lot early on to turn away newcomers to the genre instead of embracing them.

If you're more experienced with the genre and enjoy a challenge, you'll still find some annoyances. The HUD is rather messy, with the timer placed at the bottom of the screen and away from the recipes, forcing you to dart from one area of the screen to another to get an idea of what's going on. The icons for each food item are so miniscule that you'll accidentally create the wrong dish because you have no idea what's already on the skewer. The game does a poor job of letting you know when you respawn into the world or when you're holding on to an ingredient. There's also no audio indication that you've eaten some meat, so unless you know to look for a sizable blood patch to indicate you've eaten, you'll be blind to health refills. Movement is the biggest bugbear; even after a patch, don't be surprised if you slip off a platform and into a river or a bed of spikes because movement feels too loose.

Presentation-wise, it borders on serviceable. With the sound effects lacking any punch and the voices nonexistent, it falls on the music to carry the audio. The best way to describe the soundtrack is that it's fine; it isn't memorable, but the constant drums aren't bothersome. Graphically, the game is as colorful as its contemporaries, and the frame rate remains stable even if you bathe the ground with blood. It doesn't help that everyone in the game seems emotionless. There's no sense of fear or rage from the hapless tourists that are butchered, and the cannibals seem elated that they completed a challenge, which also affects the player's enjoyment.

The concept for Cannibal Cuisine is fine: a grotesque spin on the Overcooked formula with some quality of life changes. However, there are enough issues here to sap away any enjoyment from the concept, especially if this is your first exposure to this type of party game. Unless you're a veteran of these games and want to deal with the artificial challenge, it'd be best to leave this one alone and opt for the more polished titles in the genre.

Score: 5.5/10

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