orenoryouri1.jpg['Bastards of 32-Bit' is a weekly column by Danny Cowan that focuses on overlooked, underrated, and inexplicable titles from the era of the PlayStation, Saturn, and Nintendo 64. This week's column takes a look at Ore no Ryouri for the Sony PlayStation, published by SCEI and released in Japan in September 1999.]

Who's the chef? Me. I am.

To import-hungry gamers, the PlayStation Underground was one hell of a tease. Disguising itself as a quarterly disc-based magazine, the typical issue of Underground was little more than a series of videos and demos promoting the latest PlayStation releases. Occasionally, however, the magazine would feature import coverage, with some issues going so far as to include playable time-limited versions of titles available only in Japan. Trouble is, only a small percentage of these games would later see release in America, leaving many players forever curious about what existed beyond the first few minutes of gameplay in titles like Metal Slug and Puyo Puyo Sun.

One of the more popular imports to be featured in the magazine was Ore no Ryouri, or "I'm the Chef", as it was called in the one-level demo version played by Underground subscribers. The title's unique gameplay won it many fans among Underground members, but despite many subsequent requests for an American release, no English version ever surfaced.

orenoryouri2.jpgIt's hard out here for a chef.

Ore no Ryouri is commonly described as a cooking simulator, but the game's scope goes way beyond mere food preparation. You're responsible for all of your restaurant's cooking duties, yes, but you're also the guy in charge of washing dishes, counting money, and chasing down dine-and-dashers when the situation calls for it. Careful handling of food during the cooking portion is important as well; customers don't tend to react too well if their soup includes a fingertip you cut off while slicing vegetables.

The game's multitasking requirements may initially seem daunting, but tasks are made simpler by the fact that control is limited to a single button and the DualShock controller's analog sticks. Cooking in particular feels very natural, as control in most cases involves manipulating both analog sticks in roughly the same way as one would use both hands. Chopping meat requires fast movements to simulate quick strokes of a knife, for instance, and making a good ice cream cone involves a slow rotation of one stick in order to give it an attractive swirl.

There's also a story about a frog or something.To clarify: A mama who cooks.

Do well enough in a level and you'll soon face the area boss in a cookoff, where skillful cooking on one side will cause the lesser chef's restaurant to suffer a series of roach infestations and belligerent customers. Ore no Ryouri contains a fun two-player mode similar to these boss battles, along with a number of bonus extras and pointless minigames to round out the package.

While Ore no Ryouri may have never found an American release, the PlayStation Underground demo version is captivating enough in its own right, and is very much worth seeking out for fans of unconventional gameplay. Similar action can also be found in the game's spiritual sequel, Cooking Mama for the Nintendo DS, which was recently announced for release in the United States. Now if only some enterprising party would develop a cooking simulator that takes full advantage of the Nintendo Wii's control scheme...

[Danny Cowan is a freelance writer hailing from Austin, Texas. He has contributed feature articles to Lost Levels Online and 1up.com, and his writing appears monthly in Hardcore Gamer Magazine.]