Personal Trainer: Cooking Review: Gotta Eat Them All

You may or may not have seen my drunken attempts at first pronouncing beef bourguignon and then cooking it with the help of my DS.

If you had seen it, you may or may not have been able to figure out if I liked Personal Trainer: Cooking. Your confusion may or may not have been caused, in no small part, by my cooking companion: Big-Ass Glass of Whiskey.

If you'd rather not base your decision on whether to buy Personal Trainer: Cooking on my rambling about the dangers of bay leaves, and more on my sober thoughts on the game, hit the jump. Otherwise go have another laugh at my expense.

Loved
Wonderful Interface: The design of Personal Trainer Cooking is mostly flawless. Not only is it easy to jump in and out of a recipe, but there are plenty of ways to sort and search for what you're looking for. The whole thing, from shopping, to looking for recipes, to the actual cooking have been designed with a non-gamer in mind. For once, that's a good thing.

Speak Slowly and Clearly: Not only can you cook by reading the recipes steps on the screen, Personal Trainer Cooking also has options to let you have the recipe read out loud to you. It also has voice recognition, so you never have to touch your DS while your hands are burdened with knives or ingredients, and you can even adjust the speaking speed of your helper chef.

Neat Ingredients Shopping Option: Once you decide what you want to cook you can add all of the ingredients for your upcoming meal to a built-in shopping list for later use at a grocery store. Invaluable.

Cooked a Meal Achievements: Once you've cooked up a meal, the game gives you a little stamp to pop onto the calendar to show off how much cooking you've done. Sure it's silly and you can easily cheat, but I still kinda like it.

Detailed Descriptions: I've been cooking since I was about 5. No exaggeration, I still have my first cookbook. But I still get a little lost sometimes on some specific directions. What do you mean by medium heat when I'm cooking with gas? Or exactly how rough is roughly chopped? Fortunately, this guide has the option to go into very detailed descriptions on just these sorts of things, with pictures even. Perfect for the amateur chef.

It's Friggin' Cooking, With a DS: And it's about friggin' time. I don't mind cookbooks, but it's nice to have all of the options available in a digital version of something when you are hunting up for a new something to cook. And the DS seems perfect for this sort of thing.

Hated
How Much Of That?: This is, by far, my biggest pet peeve. While cooking the recipe will call for "onions" but not remind you how much you need of said onions. Not a biggie usually, but when most recipes in the program seem to call for odd amounts, like 2/3 of an onion, it can get tiresome having to back track every time you need to add a new ingredient. How hard would it have been to just spell it out?

Bad Ingredient Names: Just what the hell are baby onions? And don't tell me onions that have been grown close together, because frankly that doesn't do me a bit of good when confronting the local vegetable man at a grocery store. Maybe the option to have alternative ingredients would have been nice.

Odd Recipe Selection: One of the main reasons people keep buying new cook books is because they want to try something new. But the choices for some countries are borderline insulting. Bangers and Mash for the UK? Really? Mac and Cheese for the U.S.? Come on, I'm sure they could have found some better options out there.

Could Do With Better Search Options: I like that you can search by ingredient, by country of origin or by recipe title, but a bit more work would have made this a much better program. What about, for instance, being able to search for recipes without a certain ingredient? This would let you find stuff for vegetarians or people with food allergies. Also, I'd love to be able to plug in multiple ingredients and see what comes up.

Personal Trainer: Cooking is a surprisingly useful bit of software for the DS. Not only did I cook two dishes I'd never tried before using it, I quite like how they turned out. The game is well put together and can serve as a useful guide to cooking for anyone from the first-timer to the enthusiast. Sure, I have a few small problems with the "game" but I still think it's one of the best cooking games around for a portable.

Having said all of that, I can't help but wonder just how much easier Personal Trainer: Cooking made cooking. Wouldn't it have been just as easy or easier to use something printed? Perhaps, but I also think that this is a great way to introduce an audience, maybe even one new to cooking, to the joys of preparing your own meal. What I'd really like to see is a second iteration that has a much more eclectic mix of dishes, maybe some I would never think to prepare without a ton of hand holding.

Personal Trainer Cooking was developed by Nintendo EAD, published by Nintendo, released in North America on Nov. 24 for the Nintendo DS. Retails for $19.99. Cooked two complete recipes, used the device to shop for ingredients for both. Sorted and searched through available recipes.

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