Mad Chef for iPhone and iPad
I’m pretty sure that if I ever walked into a restaurant where a knife-throwing maniac had seized control of the kitchen, all you’d see of me is a little cartoon puff of smoke as I fled the premises. Fortunately, what would be a scarring experience chronicled in a horrified Yelp review in real life makes for a terrific game on iOS devices, as Foursaken Media proves in Mad Chef for the iPhone and iPad.
You control the titular Mad Chef in this casual game, and you’re not angry—just dangerously unhinged when it comes to practicing proper knife techniques. As patrons order meals at one of your eateries, an array of ingredients flies across the screen. It’s your job to hit the right ones by flinging a knife—or an axe or a starfish or whatever other sharp object happens to be at hand—in the general direction of the targeted food.
Aiming your knife is as simple as tapping on the food as it floats by—which is to say, pretty simple, though the ingredients can fly fast and furious as you progress through the game. Mad Chef goes a little easy on you, though: If a head of lettuce, a carrot, a bottle of ketchup, and a baguette are clustered together, and you really need the baguette to complete an order, the game is smart enough to hit the highest priority item in a group. That eliminates a source of potential frustration without making the game too easy to enjoy.
You need to complete orders within a set period of time. Make a wayward toss with one of your knives—and that can happen quite easily in the heat of battle—and you’re docked time on your orders. Completing as many orders as possible without wasting ingredients earns you money and tips, not to mention reputation points. You can use the money to upgrade your restaurant, adding new recipes, skills, and power-ups. Reputation points help you expand your restaurant empire.
Because Mad Chef isn’t just about flinging knives at the same old ingredients in the same old setting: You can open up to five restaurants in the game, in addition to a survival mode at a take-out restaurant. It’s this varied gameplay that will keep you coming back for more.
There’s an undeniable gross-out factor with some of the food in Mad Chef. You’re preparing dishes in which central ingredients include pigeons, horse meat, roaches, and seagulls; Top Chef wannabes who dream of assembling the perfect Beef Wellington may want to check their expectations at the door. Still, the cartoonish graphics and little touches go a long way to reducing some of the ickiness. Have one of your knives hit a squid for example, and the unlucky cephalopod explodes in a burst of ink. Ketchup, mustard, and hot sauce bottles similarly burst into a rainbow of colors when you make contact. The bulbous, pop-eyed clientele in Mad Chef add to the kooky fun, and their cries of outrage when you toss an errant knife in their direction are more fun than I’m willing to admit in public.
Still, the game has its share of flaws. The survival mode sometimes has a hard time recognizing when you’re trying to spear an ingredient and when you’re trying to switch between assorted take-out windows. Because of that flawed mechanic, the take-out restaurant is my least favorite element of Mad Chef. The iPhone version of the game vibrates when you miss a target with your knife or botch an order. That can take a toll on battery life, though—certainly more of a hit than I’d expect from a casual game. (You can turn off the vibration feature in the game’s settings.)
These are relatively minor, entirely fixable complaints, however. Mad Chef offers an entertaining way to pass the time on your iPhone or iPad. The gameplay is every bit as sharp as the knives the chef is heaving through the air.
[Macworld.com editor Philip Michaels plans to chuck all this app reviewing one of these days and return to his previous life behind the counter of a deli.]