Epic Chef Review: Welcome to Flavortown
Things are looking up for Zest; he just got a deal of a lifetime on a house — nay, mansion — and it has all the amenities anyone could ever hope for. The place is furnished, the farmlands are magically fertile, the house is haunted, the… wait, haunted? Huh, how about that. Well, guess that explains why the seller was eager! Zest ain’t ‘fraid of no ghosts, so, undeterred, he takes up the tools of the farming and cooking trades and begins his life anew in the town of Ambrosia.
Such is the premise of Epic Chef, a story-rich comedy adventure game packed to the brim with charm, personality, and things to do. Similar to My Time at Portia, Epic Chef has players running around a sprawling town farming, befriending, crafting, and partaking in cooking battles that absolutely bring the heat. Available on PC and consoles, Epic Chef packs a plentiful amount of things to do into a friendly-looking title, but does it deliver on all its promises? Let’s talk about it.
First things first — Epic Chef has a lot going on. If you’ve played games like My Time at Portia, Stardew Valley, Little Dragons Cafe, Harvest Moon, etc., you can already surmise what you might be getting into. Most of Zest’s day will be spent tending to the fields, crafting machinery, building structures, and, of course, cooking. Although every mechanic is easy to learn, they’re also easy to master, meaning there isn’t an extreme amount of depth to the daily routine. Instead, Epic Chef seems to place more importance on story progression and character dynamics, the mechanics an end to furthering the plot and social development. Now, that’s not to say that the mechanics aren’t enjoyable — to the right person this will be that same repetitive fun farming sims typically offer — but it’s worth mentioning that they somewhat take a backseat to the story.
As for the story, Epic Chef has a quirky, cheeky vibe that instantly reminded me of classics like Radiata Stories and Okage: Shadow King. There is a lot of guffaw-inducing juvenile humor that shamelessly pokes fun at just about anything, from anti-tropes like Zest being comically dismissive of the haunted house claims to a money-obsessed man who uncannily looks like Jesus (even down to the namesake). There are times when the jokes will hit and times when you’ll let out an audible groan, but the fact that Epic Chef committed to an underutilized sense of humor is laudable.
Although I had a pretty good time farming, crafting, and cooking in Epic Chef, I’ll admit there are a few issues that I couldn’t ignore. For one, Zest walks like he’s underwater, which has got to be one of the most annoying things in any kind of game, ever. Now, it’s possible to go a bit faster later on by way of mounts, but it really can’t be overstated how much something like a slow walk cycle can really kill any desire to play a game. Additionally, the game saves only when Zest sleeps, and he refuses to rest until 10 PM or later. Not being able to save at will isn’t the worst thing in the world, but I know it can be a point of contention for some players.
I’m personally a huge fan of subtitles in everything, so while font isn’t the biggest offender for most, Epic Chef’s stylistic font choice is questionable. The letter “t” looks like a “b” and the letters are all really close together, so if font and subtitles also matter to you, the lettering may strike you as either annoying or downright illegible. Finally, the components of the game, while enjoyable, feel really pared down overall to focus more on the overarching story, so if you’re not big on narrative games then Epic Chef might not be your bowl of arachnid soup.
Epic Chef has a lot to offer players who want to inject a charmingly humorous adventure narrative into their farming simulator. With crops to harvest, structures to craft, and cooking battles to win, Epic Chef attempts a diverse range of gameplay, and, to its credit, largely succeeds. If you’re looking for something that isn’t afraid to mix and match mechanics and is unapologetically fun, Epic Chef thinks you should don your metaphorical chef hat and get cookin’.
Final Verdict: 3.5/5
Available on: PC, XBox One, PS4, Switch (reviewed); Publisher: Team17; Developer: Infinigon Games; Players: 1; Released: November 11, 2021; MSRP: $24.99
Editor’s note: This review is based on a retail copy of Epic Chef provided by the publisher.