Hello! Welcome to the latest Geeky Brummie Gaming Roundup!
This week, Cooking Mama, a new controller, and all the latest releases!
The Curious Case of Cooking Mama Cookstar
One of the weirdest stories in gaming emerged over the last week. It’s a tale of missing releases, confused ownership and rumours about illicit cryptocurrency mining. And all of it surrounds that notoriously controversial series, Cooking Mama.
Wait…Cooking Mama? The cooking game? Seriously? Well okay…
So, Cooking Mama: Cookstar got leaked sometime last year, although details were scarce. Eventually a press release showed up out of nowhere from a company no one had heard of, Planet Entertainment, which mentioned a vegetarian mode and, confusingly, the use of blockchain technology. Blockchain is most commonly associated with cryptocurrency, so this was an unexpected announcement for a cartoon game about cooking. I would link to this press release, but my browser is blocking it due to a security risk. Yes, really.
Towards the end of the year, a trailer emerged, also seemingly out of nowhere, advertising an incorrect date, and the game disappeared again.
And now it turns out it got released. It hit a few physical retailers and the Nintendo eShop on 31st March. Although the odd thing is the physical retailers were inconsistent. While popular US chains like Target got copies, Amazon didn’t appear to, as the only place to get the game on there was through a third-party seller who apparently had been set up specifically to sell this game. European releases are even more confusing, with no consistent release date between them (GAME, here in the UK, suggests it came out yesterday).
Not that this release was widely known, as the publisher, developer nor Nintendo themselves announced its release. It was notably absent from Nintendo’s recent Direct, where it would have made perfect sense to draw attention to it.
But, here’s the thing, it is now no longer available on the Nintendo eShop. Its presence has been entirely scrubbed. Not even a pre-order page exists now. And no one is sure exactly where it went or why.
A few people did manage to get hold of the game in that time, or managed to land a physical copy, and discovered a fairly standard Cooking Mama game with one major problem; it was overheating the Switch. Connecting this with the blockchain comments in Planet’s bizarre press release, a rumour quickly spread that the game was secretly mining cryptocurrency through the Switch. Yes. A cooking game. Mining cryptocurrency.
If that sounds absurd, it’s because it is. Dataminers leapt onto the game in an attempt to solve the game’s mysteries and found no presence of blockchain technology at all, a claim backed up by a statement from the official Twitter account for the game. However, what the dataminers did find were a series of music tracks ripped from YouTube, largely because the tracks were labelled “YouTube Rip” in the system files. Which is hilariously stupid, but okay.
So what happened to the game? Was it the YouTube rips? Or something else entirely? The official account claims that “the whole world is upside down with delays” which suggests a Covid-19 related reason, but that doesn’t explain the absence because it did initially see a release.
Only plausible explanation comes from an informant, allegedly from the development team themselves, who paints a different, yet plausible, picture. Turns out, the game was never supposed to be released at all. Publisher Planet Entertainment doesn’t actually own the Cooking Mama IP, it’s being licensed from the actual IP holders, Office Create. In a recent consultation, Office Create didn’t like the state the game was in and wanted it delayed or even cancelled. Planet refused and insisted on its listed release date. The release date rolls around, Planet release the game against Office Create’s wishes, and Office Create contact Nintendo and demand the game be pulled from sale. A user on Reddit claims to have spoken to a rep at Nintendo who says they received word to pull it shortly from sale. While neither of these accounts are 100% confirmed, they line up and it makes some degree of sense.
But what about the overheating? That adds credence to the story too, as the informant claims that the game’s buggy state was a direct result of not optimising Unity for use on the Switch. It’s quite possible that this is what Office Create had an issue with and wanted fixing. It now appears that may be a legal scuffle between Planet Entertainment and Office Create, and the status of the game itself may be up in the air now.
So what was all that about blockchain? Buzzwords apparently. There are conflicting reports about when blockchain entered the conversation, but for the most part, the developers didn’t know about it, and the publishers just “looked into it” for some reason. And yet it still ended up in a press release without any real explanation. Which is odd.
This whole story has been emerging over the past week, and each new detail adding to the chaos and creating possibly the weirdest release of a game in history. And at the end of the day, all of this was over…a fairly standard and inoffensive Cooking Mama title.
The Last of Us Delayed, But Look! A Controller
Two big bits of news out of Sony this week. First up, with everything being a confusing and scary mess right now, it’s perhaps unsurprising that The Last of Us Part II is looking at a significant delay. As in, Sony can’t confirm a concrete release date now. Thankfully, this isn’t necessarily bad news, as Naughty Dog have confirmed the game is basically finished and the delay stems entirely from supply chain issues resulting from precautions enacted against COVID-19. With Sony not being able to produce physical copies of the game, the game’s release has been put on hold until that can be rectified. Which is fair enough, although you try telling that to some of the entitled whiners throwing tantrums in the responses to their announcement.
Second bit of news is that we have gotten our first glimpse of PS5 hardware. Not the console itself, but the controller, which is now called the DualSense because it uses haptic feedback. It also contains a microphone that I’ll be immediately looking to turn off, and the Share button has been replaced with a “Create” button which is probably just the same functionality but with what I assume is an improved video editor or something.
It’s also horrifically two-tone black and white in colour, which makes it look like something that fell off a Stormtrooper, so I hope alternate colour options are available. Design-wise it looks like the Xbox One and PS4 controllers had a baby, which is kind of expected. That’s all the PS5 news we’re getting for now though. I’m more interested in the game library. Come on, Sony, give us the goods!
Quite a quiet week for new releases this week. Only a handful of games to choose from, but it does seem like everyone was avoiding a certain big release this week which I’ll get to.
Biped released on Steam a couple of weeks back, but this week will see a release on PS4. It’s a little co-op puzzle game about robots that have independently controlled limbs. It looks pretty cute!
Speaking of games releasing on something last month that I missed, but are now launching elsewhere, Alder’s Blood arrives on Steam this week after its Switch release back in March. It’s a stealth-driven RPG set in a world of chaos where God has been killed. It looks significantly less cute than Biped.
And then there’s Disaster Report 4: Summer Memories for PC, PS4 and Switch. It’s been nine years in development, which started in 2011 and was subsequently halted due to the Tohoku earthquake and then publisher woes. It’s a game about surviving an earthquake and helping out other survivors. It’s a messy game with a lot of heart according to reviewers, so it’s quite possible that this is a bit of Deadly Premonition situation, and that’s fine by me.
Game of the Week
I mean, it wasn’t going to be anything but Final Fantasy VII Remake, was it?
It’s the biggest and most interesting release of the week. It’s the return of a classic game with a significant glow-up. And also it’s the first Final Fantasy game to have gotten people universally excited since Final Fantasy X.
You know the drill. Cloud, SOLDIER 1st Class. Teams up with some ecoterrorists, blows up a reactor. Next thing you know, world is under threat by a meteor as well as parasitic capitalism. Standard RPG fare, obviously. Only now we get to see Cloud actually become the most beautiful girl in the room instead of just imagining it because his polygons vaguely look like a dress. Perfection indeed.
And of course, if you’ve never played FF7 before, all of that confused the hell out of you. I’m sorry.
Of course, this week is merely its official release, and many have already gotten their copies early as a result of COVID-19 related shipping confusion. But now everyone can get their hands on it. Rejoice!
And that is it for this week! Stay safe everyone, stay at home, and I’ll see you next week with more gaming!