Hello Kitty and the Apron of Magic: Rhythm Cooking, despite sounding like something that's come through the wrong side of an awful, online band name generator, is actually a rhythm action title which focuses on cooking various dishes in time to music. Unsurprisingly the game features the titular character alongside a whole cast of friends who are always happy to jump into a cooking session with you, or your avatar at least, which is where the game starts off.
After choosing your preferred character from a few default selections, you are tasked with finding friends all over Apron Town to cook with. The more you cook, the more friends come to town. With more friends in town there are more options to cook, which after completion will mean that there will be even more friends in town… And so on.
The gameplay itself is extremely simple but importantly effective. Your job is to tap, slide or sometimes even madly scribble the stylus on the touchscreen along to on-screen prompts and cues from the timing in the music. Timing and accuracy are both key to getting the highest score possible, with any mistakes or out of time taps causing a significant drop in points.
To start with you'll have two recipes to choose from, both of which are extremely simple to help you get to grips with the game. As you progress you'll unlock more recipes which add new stylus techniques and the occasional off-beat tap to complete. It's a very steady rate at which the difficulty increases, and for older players will never cause too much of a challenge, but is nice to see nevertheless.
The songs themselves are what is probably the most interesting part of this game – and by interesting we mean beautifully bonkers. Imagine taking the script from a Jamie Oliver cooking show, writing some pop music to sit behind it and then getting a chipmunk to come in and record the vocals and you're pretty much there. Yes, really. It's the kind of sound that will be oddly charming to some yet unbearable to others and at times can easily make some laugh out loud moments. A particular highlight is at the beginning of the tempura recipe, in which the overly cute voice sings "first pull the head off, tear away the skin". An instant classic.
In between cooking your favourite recipes, you may stumble across characters wandering around town. These characters allow you to take quizzes – things such as spot the difference, match the silhouette and remember what you see type puzzles. This helps to break things up slightly, offering a welcome change in gameplay. Just like when you're cooking, making mistakes here will cost you – clicking on the wrong thing during a game of spot the difference, for example, will cause the clock to lose a large chunk of time, meaning your overall score will take a hit as a result.
Both of these game modes reward you with a number of stamps upon completion; the amount of stamps you receive will depend on how well you performed during the task. Collecting these stamps fills up your own set of cards, kind of like loyalty cards you receive from shops where after collecting so many you get a reward. The same idea applies here – each card you fill up earns you a character card which could feature anyone from Hello Kitty herself, to whole host of furry critters you've probably never heard of. There are 146 to collect in total which means you'll be cooking for a long time to get your hands on the whole set, but it's nice to feel like you are progressing by completing your collection.
The main problem with Rhythm Cooking is that there simply isn't all that much content on offer, and what is there gets extremely repetitive far too quickly. With an incredibly small roster of recipes to choose from and a limited amount of mini-game quizzes it won't take you long to see everything, meaning that anything you do from that point on feels a little pointless. In fact, the game makes this worse by forcing you to cook the same recipes over and over again before unlocking the next one – it feels like you're having to grind up levels in order to beat a really tricky boss, when in actuality you're just unlocking an omelette.
With some lovely ideas, a charming feel and solid gameplay, Rhythm Cooking could have been something excellent. Unfortunately, it is let down by a rather limited amount of content and a feeling of being stuck doing the same things over and over just for the sake of doing it.
Undoubtedly, the game's younger target audience, particularly those who are a fan of the Hello Kitty franchise, will get some enjoyment here – the characters, the easy to pick up gameplay and the soundtrack (whilst very likely to annoy their parents) will leave a smile on their face. As for everyone else – there are other titles available that offer the same idea but with so much more content, making this one a solid option for franchise fans alone.