A casual game that both challenges and chides you is finally here, and it's time to cater to your toughest customer yet: Chef Gordon Ramsay. Hell's Kitchen is a resource management sim based on the gritty reality-television cooking competition show of the same name. Take control of both serving and cooking as you seat customers and prepare meals to meet chef Ramsay's high expectations. Perform well and raise your rank from dishwasher to Senior Chef, but if you fail you suffer Ramsay's fiery, scornful wrath.
Fans of the Hell's Kitchen television program will immediately recognize the stern chef whose frowning mug watches you at every moment during the game. Even if you've never seen the show, however, Hell's Kitchen serves up a challenging and unique experience. You manage the restaurant's floor and kitchen as you seat customers, take their orders, cook their meals, and clean tables after all is finished. Your goal isn't to satisfy customers and earn lots of cash, it's to appease the almighty Chef Ramsay and earn his approval. Quite a dramatic change of pace from the rather cutesy simulation games we're used to.
Everything in Hell's Kitchen is managed with the mouse, and visual cues tell you when patrons need your attention. In the serving area, click on the front desk when people are waiting to seat them at a table. Next you'll hand out menus and take their order. After the waiter slides the order down the belt, click the button on the left side of the screen to shift to the kitchen where round two begins.
In the kitchen you'll combine foods by preparing them and cooking each in the appropriate piece of cookware. A set of pots and pans are laid out on burners before you, each with icons showing what foods should be dropped inside. When the pot is filled it begins to cook and the timer starts counting down. The goal is to have all dishes ready at about the same time so you can serve warm food to the customers. Leave it sitting on the counter for too long and Ramsay will have a few words to share with you...
After the meal is prepared, return to the dining room, serve the food, clean the dishes when the customers are ready (most of the time you'll serve a second course by repeating the above process), and cross your fingers. Chef Ramsay will give you a star ranking after each round and praise/berate you accordingly.
Analysis: I never thought I would be afraid to mess up in a resource management game. In titles such as Ice Cream Dee Lites if you botch an order you get nothing more than an impatient look from a cartoon drawing. Here, however, a 3D rendering of Chef Ramsay glares at you, and one too many missteps will elicit one of his famous lines of... er... "encouragement". Unlike the television show, the game doesn't feature any objectionable language, so I suppose I still make out better than the actual participants.
The multi-tiered tasks in Hell's Kitchen sound complicated in writing, but it all works out quite smoothly when you're in the game. Chef Ramsay doesn't coddle you with a lengthy tutorial, so expect to be thrown right into the mix with only short tips to point you in the right direction. One really nice bonus that many players will appreciate is the inclusion of Chef Ramsay's recipes before each level in the game. Read, salivate, and print them immediately, or review them in the recipe book from the title screen.
The visuals in Hell's Kitchen are great, and the dark atmosphere is yet another welcome departure from cheery, cartoonish games that dominate the genre. Characters are fluidly animated with some very exaggerated mannerisms. Repetition is the only real drawback in the game, as when it comes down to it Hell's Kitchen relies too much on switching between dining room and kitchen and doesn't bother to mix up the gameplay in either area too much.
If you're ready for something different in a resource management game, Hell's Kitchen delivers without dropping you in unfamiliar territory. Hope you can stand a little slander from the master chef himself!