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New videogames lure players into the kitchen

A new crop of video games is encouraging fans to ignore their parents' advice and play with their food.
/ Source: Reuters

A new crop of video games is encouraging fans to ignore their parents' advice and play with their food.

Fans slice, dice and feel the heat of the kitchen with a new crop of foodie games that includes Atari's "What's Cooking? With Jamie Oliver," Majesco's "Cooking Mama World Kitchen," Ubisoft's "Hell's Kitchen: The Video Game" and Nintendo's "Personal Trainer: Cooking."

Jamie Oliver, television's "Naked Chef," sees his new title for the hand-held Nintendo DS as an interactive cookbook with games.

"I'm looking at this as a digital book with a game rather than a game with a digital book," said Oliver, who has published about a dozen cookbooks and is an active campaigner to improve school meals in Britain.

Oliver's video game title, which hit shelves in October, includes more than 100 mostly exclusive recipes accompanied by mouth-watering images from food photographer David Loftus. It also features games that allow players to "cook" some of the recipes.

"What's Cooking?" players can really get their hands dirty because voice recognition technology on the DS lets them move forward or backward through a recipe's steps.

The game also includes a shopping list creator and recipe storing and swapping capabilities.

Oliver, a father of two, said his 6-year-old daughter is already pro at the game.

"My little Poppy loves it. She finds it a bit freaky that her dad is saying, 'Come on, come on, play the game.' Welcome to the test kitchen," he said.

Kitchen queen
The title that launched the North American food game craze was "Cooking Mama," a Japanese import that hit our shores in 2006. It uses the touchscreen and stylus on the DS to let users "cook" everything from pepperoni pizza to cabbage meat rolls. Players also can blow into the DS microphone to "cool off" hot dishes.

"'Cooking Mama' was a surprise hit" and the game that launched a new cooking game genre in the United States," said Sam Kennedy, editorial director at video game fan site

The newest title, "Cooking Mama World Kitchen" for Nintendo's popular Wii console, is just out.

Kennedy said the interactive features in Nintendo's DS handheld (as well as its Wii console) have expanded what a game can be -- and that the real recipes in games like Oliver's add authenticity to the genre.

Kennedy he would know. He had his team try some of the recipes in "Cooking Mama" to see how they turned out.

"They didn't work at all," said Kennedy.

Nintendo, which has sold more than 22.5 million DS systems in the United States, has also gotten into the game.

Its new cooking title called "Personal Trainer: Cooking" has just been released.

That game is based on a popular Japanese title called "Cooking Navi," said Leslie Swan, Nintendo's director of localization.

Among other things, Nintendo's cooking game includes videos that teach special cooking techniques and features 245 recipes from around the world.