Emulating many of the aspects found in Overcooked, Cannibal Cuisine lacks longevity but puts a darkly fun twist on the recipe. The Finger Guns Review.
The age old proverb goes that ‘Too many cooks spoil the broth’. Well, in 2016 Overcooked proved that too many cooks is in fact a near-perfect recipe for a fun filled culinary disaster that’s about as likely to get you laughing as it is to test the strength of your friendship with you nearest and dearest. Since then, the challenging co-op party game genre has blossomed into its own not-so-little niche within the gaming industry. Moving Out, Catastronauts, Tools Up, BFF or Die and many others have spawned in Overcooked’s wake looking to fill your party nights with fun and fractured relationships. The latest of these is Cannibal Cuisine from Rocket Vulture. After initially launching on PC and Switch last year the game has achieved its full release and has found its way to other consoles too, including the PS5 which is the subject of this review.
In Cannibal Cuisine, you and up to 3 friends take on the role of a cannibalistic tribe living on a tropical island. This tribe worships a hungry god called Hoochooboo and its feeding time. This god isn’t craving a Big Mac and Coke however. It wants human meat and it wants it now (or within a few minutes, at least). Fortunately (or possibly unfortunately, depending on your perspective) there’s a steady stream of tourists on your island that should make for a decadent dish to satisfy Hoochooboo’s rumbly tummy.
A Staple Diet
Much like Overcooked, Cannibal Cuisine is played from an overhead view via a camera that hangs above the playable area that fills the screen. Once the starting klaxon sounds, all active players are spawned in the level and a list of food combinations appear along the top of the screen that the Hoochooboo wants to eat. Each item on this list has a gauge which ticks down before it disappears and “fails”. The aim of each standard level is to fulfil as many of these requests as possible to earn points before the level timer runs out. The points you earn will win you a star rating once the level is over, graded from 1 to 3 stars. It’s basically the staple structure for the cooking co-op genre, as you might have come to expect it.
While each standard level in Cannibal Cuisine has a unique structure, there are a few constants. There’s always at least one Hoochooboo. This is where you’ll need to deliver your food. It’s basically the equivalent of the serving counter in Overcooked. Before you deliver said food, you’ll need to cook it. This is done at fire stations which are dotted around the level. Then of course there is the food itself. Most recipes in the game list fruits and vegetables as an ingredient. These are found on bushes which are also situated around the level. And then there’s the meat…
They Look Good Enough To Eat
The unique addition to the genre that Cannibal Cuisine brings to the (dinner) table is the source of the meat. Each standard level features a doorway. Through that doorway will walk steady stream of unsuspecting tourists in groups of 3. They’ll go about their business, completely ignoring your tribe unless provoked. Attack these tourists and deplete their health bar to zero and they’ll explode in a sploosh of blood and a single body part. Brains, hands, ribs and prime cuts are all left for you to scoop up, pop on the same cooking spot as the required fruit and/or vegetable until they’re ready to be served to the hungry, hungry Hoochooboo.
While it sounds morbid, this aspect of Cannibal Cuisine is cartoony enough that it’s darkly funny, not depressingly grisly. That’s a tone the game maintains through some light hearted comedy. For example, many of the combinations of ingredients have funny names. The recipe for a brain and an eggplant combo is called a “Egghead” on screen. Book ending each chapter of the main campaign are cutscenes too which come with their fair share of slapstick comedy.
The Munch Bunch
Of course, the tourists aren’t just docile cattle. Once they’re attacked, they’ll defend themselves. Each player has a health bar that’ll deplete if they take a pounding from their would-be appetiser. If that completely empties, either by being hit by a tourist or by falling fowl of the many pitfalls found in each levels, the player will die. They’ll respawn after a few seconds but some points are deducted from the score total. An inopportune death can sometimes be the difference between getting a star rating (thus unlocking the next level) and failure.
To prevent that from happening, the cannibal tribe can heal themselves. If you happen to get an organ drop from a tourist kill you don’t currently need, a player can pick that up and gobble it down. This restores health and keeps you in the game. Unlike Hoochooboo, the cannibals don’t need their meat to be cooked. They can chow down as soon as they pick up the brain/rib/limb.
No amount of Long Pig can save you if you fall in a spike pit though. As you progress through the game, the levels get ever more complicated. In the first zone for example, streams of water separate the staples of each level. Fall into the water and you’ll die (I guess swimming lessons aren’t top priority of the cannibal education system). To allow you to navigate these levels, you’ll have to use barrels that float along and bridge the gap. In later levels, there are spike pits, traps that’ll push you off platforms, lava flows and fire taps to navigate around.
There are some levels that even feature two separate Hoochooboo heads too. In these levels, orders are colour coded to the Hoochooboo where they need to be delivered. Serve up the wrong order to the wrong peckish god and it’ll spit holing fire balls at the entire team which will deplete their health bar.
Table For 4
As you might imagine, co-operation is damn near essential to success in Cannibal Cuisine. Maximising your available time by working together to bring ingredients together and delivering them on time is the only route to the 2 or 3 star rankings. More than just hurriedly gathering and delivering resources though, Cannibal Cuisine is about timing. Food left on a cooking pit after it has been fully cooked will eventually burn up into ash unless it’s taken off the heat. In fact, leaving food on a cooking station past its fully cooked state for any amount of time reduces the points you’ll be rewarded when delivering it to its final destination.
Much like the best in this genre, there’s no explicit strategy dictated by the game. Instead, all of that is decided off the screen by the players. Whether you and your team volunteer for roles in the cooking process, take responsibility for quadrants of the screen or you simply shout at each other about what you’re doing, that’s totally up to you. That’s where the fun comes from. And it can be a great fun.
Feeding into the co-operative nature of Cannibal Cuisine are a set of abilities. These are chosen from a series of 4 at the start of the match, each of which offers there own benefits. There’s a dash that can zip you across gaps like spike pits, a stomp that’ll stun tourists for a few seconds, a healing totem which restores the health of the cannibals and fire breathing that speeds up the cooking process. Getting a good blend of these abilities – level depending – can make things much easier.
All of this can be played in mixed or exclusive online and local multiplayer. The online play feels seamless to play, regardless of whether there’s only 1 or a full 4 person online party. You can still play Cannibal Cuisine alone – the lowest star ranking is always achievable if you make as few mistakes as possible – but the game is pretty dry when played solo. It’s a much better experience with friends.
At the end of each chapter of the main campaign is a challenge level. These offer a different type of test and each is unique. The first, for example, is a straight up brawl against waves of tourists led by a tough tour guide. In the second area, a spikey roller forces the players along bridges and over bounce pads to avoid being ran over. While these are a fun diversion, none of these feel much like a “challenge” at all. I understand the desire to make the most of the game’s mechanics and systems but most of them feel a little lacklustre and require little effort.
It also has to be said that, compared to the best games in this genre, Cannibal Cuisine is a little light on co-op content. It took my family and I 3 hours to complete every level in the main campaign. Part of that was us pratting around. There’s plenty of variety in the structure of the levels along that path but they’re never as mechanically complex as those in, say, Overcooked 2, either.
Included in the PS5 version of Cannibal Cuisine is the free campaign update, ‘The Scarab King’. Swapping the tropical island for a desert visage, this 6 level Egyptian themed expansion is some of the best content in the whole package. It’s trickier, really pushing the cannibals against a new enemy type – mummies – and new challenges.
For those who really want to test their relationships with their friends and family, Cannibal Cuisine also has competitive mode. In the Versus mode you’ll be playing against each other in order to score the most points. It’s the same structure as the co-op mode – kill the tourists, add some fruit/veg, cook it all up and serve to the Hoochooboo – but you’ll all be drawing from the same pool of tourists. In this mode, you can also attack one another. It’s a human eat human world out there and this mode allows for a more cutthroat feel to the play. I know this first had. I might have had to apologise to my eldest son over some deviousness I pulled. Again, this mode is fun but there are only 4 maps in the game which will quickly lose their lustre.
If you’re a fan of the likes of Overcooked and you’re looking for a new title to spice up your games night, Cannibal Cuisine is certainly worth your time. Despite its familiar aspects, it adds a little of something new to the formula via its darkly funny theme. It’s not as polished or as packed with content as the genre leaders but it’s still a dish worth tucking into.
Cannibal Cuisine is available now on PS5 (review version), PS4, Xbox One, Xbox Series S|X, PC and Nintendo Switch.
Developer: Rocket Vulture
Publisher: Rocket Vulture
Disclaimer: In order to complete this review, we were provided with a promotional copy of the game. For our full review policy, please go here.
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