Why Signature Dish Captures the True Essence of Cooking

Last Updated on May 16, 2023

Anyone who knows me well knows I love to cook. It’s one of my favorite hobbies and I always feel like I don’t get to do it enough. Putting a bunch of different things together in a pot or pan and coming out with something delicious just feels great.

Most cooking games don’t capture all the elements I love. But Signature Dish comes close.

Signature Dish is a game created for the January 2019 Global Game Jam by Sidney Flavell and DrMelon. It’s quite simple; there’s no sound, it’s sprite-based, and it only uses movement keys and one button.

But it captures one element that I find truly lacking in cooking games: The joy of experimentation.

Most cooking games usually have you working on a recipe, giving you a pass or fail depending on how well you stuck to it. But there isn’t really a win condition in Signature Dish. Just throw a few items around and see what happens.

You don’t even get to see what you’re making until you’re done. Experimentation is the core gameplay mechanic. Even if you make something terrifying and gross, at least you can laugh at it and show your friends.

“We kinda had a chat about if it was going to be like Cooking Mama, very process heavy,” Sidney said, when asked about the concept for the game, “And then [we] decided the important part of what we were trying to say with the game was about free reign and making something very specific to you. And also ’cause we thought it’d be really funny.”

The humor comes through in the game’s descriptions, seeing as how you can fry water and bake lettuce. There’s also a certain comfortable charm to the game. The sprite art is cute and straightforward, and the game design invokes the feeling of relaxing at home and making some good – or terrible – food for yourself.

“The food idea came about because we went away to go and eat something,” DrMelon said, “And we started chatting about how food/cuisine is kind of a part of home you can bring with you to other places.”

The player character is a cute little chef’s hat with arms and legs, designed to be reminiscent of Japanese mascot characters. DrMelon calls it “an avatar of kitchen helpfulness”, while Sidney states that “having a nice genderless cartoon buddy means everyone can project onto it!”

As for the limited state of their game, the two developers said they’re planning on working on it more in the future. Their plans include adding more ingredients like cheese and rice adding more meal results like sandwiches and salads to “tone down the amount of pasta dishes the game is generating,” and to integrate some social media functions so that sharing your frankenfood to Twitter is as easy as the press of a button.

I know I’m definitely looking forward to the next iteration of this game, but in the meantime, I’ll be over here enjoying a nice hot bowl of boiled egg and boiled egg and boiled egg soup.

If you want to check out Signature Dish, you can download it for free.

Follow Sidney and DrMelon on Twitter at @tackyvillain and @DrMelon.

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