It’s always exciting when Schell Games announces a new virtual reality (VR) project as the studio really walks a unique path. Titles like I Expect You To Die, Until You Fall and HistoryMaker VR have cemented its place within the industry for making high quality, innovative games. With a penchant for delivering educational VR experiences such as the latter, Schell Games continues that trend with its latest project for Meta Quest, a historic cooking game called Lost Recipes.
Cooking in VR has always been popular, whether as a side feature in Job Simulator or a fully blown cook-off in Clash of Chefs VR. Almost every time you cook in VR it’ll be a modern dish like burgers or pizza but in Lost Recipes, you get to learn how and what people used to prepare hundreds of years ago.
Lost Recipes offer the chance for you to experience three separate civilizations; Greek, Chinese and Maya, the tools they used and the regionally specific ingredients. In Greece you’ll be making flatbreads and grilled meat, heading to China you’ll steam fish and make classic green tea. Whilst the Maya segment introduces chilli and other flavours to complete the rich culinary teachings.
There’s a basic narrative that you’re a ghost chef in training, tasked by other ghosts to cook these various recipes under their tutelage. It gives a bare-bones structure to the proceedings whilst serving up a nice portion of cultural flavour as the three ghosts you talk to are all voiced by native-speaking actors.
What stands out is the amount of historic detail Schell Games has put into Lost Recipes, from the exquisite design on the bowls and the accuracy of the cooking implements to the sound of pouring out the various liquids and the crackle of the fire. In fact, the recipes are so well laid out and explained that you could write them down and cook them for real with a bit of finicking.
This being a Schell Games title you’d expect quality gameplay, and you get it. Finely dice some garlic, no problem; how about cutting a slab of pork into even cubes, you can with a steady hand. Most importantly, you can take your time. There are no rowdy customers demanding their grub or food orders flying across the kitchen. Just chill and enjoy the art of cooking, without burning anything of course!
You still need to do a good job though, being awarded a maximum of five stars by your friendly ghost pal. You’ll get deductions if you put too much of one ingredient in or undercook the meal. As this is more of an educational experience you’ll be informed about where to improve to master the recipe on the next attempt.
Lost Recipes is also very accessible even with the minimal options available. You can move around each room via teleport points or simply grab the counter to shimmy along. Grabbing the side also lets you adjust for seated or standing play. There’s no smooth locomotion which is a bit of a shame but not the end of the world, and there’s no need for a left-handed option because everything can be used in either hand.
However, Lost Recipes is isn’t quite the Michelin starred VR culinary experience. The fundamentals are on point but it feels very bland and lacking in content. There are a total of 10 recipes across the three civilisations (Greece has 4, China has 3, and Maya has 3) which can all be prepped and completed in 1-2 hours. Once they’re done that’s it unless you’ve missed a star or two. You can have a play about in the kitchens yet there’s no encouragement to do so.
Lost Recipes is a technically proficient VR cooking title and achieves what it sets out to do, teach you about ancient recipes. There was no sense of satisfaction at its completion though, like you have truly accomplished something or learnt a new skill. Great for a history class learning about food but as a gaming experience at home it didn’t rise to the occasion (sorry). What it does need are some more recipes to pad the gameplay out. For now, though, you might be best looking for cooking inspiration on YouTube rather than trying to remember the difference between Mukbil Pollo and Loukoumades.