Hyperbolic, abrasive celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay brings his trademark verbal abuse — but thankfully none of the show’s moronic contestants — to the videogame adaptation of “Hell’s Kitchen.”The game employs Ramsay’s high-intensity style to make an unoriginal but competent restaurant management simulator crazier and more fun than it has any right to be. Casual players who want to be authentically cursed out while running a kitchen should make this adaptation at least a modest success.
Since “Cooking Mama” debuted two years ago, the idea of a culinary game on the Wii has conjured up nightmarish visions of wrist-fatiguing, motion-controlled chopping, slicing and dicing. But in the vein of casual PC classics like “Diner Dash” and “Cake Mania,” “Hell’s Kitchen” tasks players with managing the various aspects of a busy kitchen and dining room via simple point-and-click mechanics.
“Hell’s Kitchen’s” primary career mode requires players to switch back and forth between a dining area rapidly filling with guests and a kitchen where ingredients need to be prepped, dragged into their respective cooking vessels and monitored to make sure they cook for the correct amount of time. It can get pretty complicated, as games of this successful genre often do.
The Arcade Mode allows players to simply manage the kitchen, juggling increasingly complex dishes. In both modes, it all takes place under the watchful eye of a stern Ramsay, whose fully voiced feedback lets players know if they’re handling things well (“Finally I’ve tasted something delicious”; “I’m a very proud man”) or chides impatiently when something gets bungled (“Move your ass!”; “It’s rubbish!”). The determining factor in success or failure is whether the chef is pleased with the player’s restaurant management — when the literal flames of his impatience max out, the game’s over and an explosive Ramsay exclaims, “Do not touch another thing in this kitchen!”
Those looking to replicate the show’s train wreck appeal in which incompetents are constantly berated may be a bit disappointed. Since that wouldn’t exactly make videogame players feel good about their purchase, this version of “Hell’s Kitchen” features a moderately gentler Ramsay who’s much more willing to dish out the praise.
A game that hinges on the management of so many complex elements looks absolutely overwhelming in its later stages, but early on, “Hell’s Kitchen” does an excellent job of training players in one element at a time. With so many things to keep an eye on, the game benefits from an intuitive layout that isn’t cluttered with too many confusing details. It also wisely eschews presenting a creepy photorealistic Ramsay; he’s slightly stylized, but still true-to-life with his signature glower and finger-jab.