Have you ever cooked with numbers? Not in a tax evasion sense, we’re not talking about confessions of creative accounting here. I’m talking about cooking with numbers in a very literal sense. As in boiling and stewing and frying and marinating numbers. Never tried it, no? Well, you wouldn’t be the first one. Despite the obvious difficulties associated with cooking numbers, Finnish indie developer Selfhug Studios have forged ahead and provided us with what I assume is the world’s first puzzle game combining the fine, seemingly disparate, arts of cuisine and arithmetic. It’s name is Number Chef and it’s free and out now for both iOS and Android.
Well, the good news is, it works. It works because it’s not really about cooking, but quite a lot about maths. In fact, the game is 90% maths, logic and equations, with the cooking motif used for garnishing (ah thank you). Oh, but it’s pretty garnishing. This game looks amazing, and the funny thing is, it doesn’t need to look amazing. It’s a math-based puzzle game, it doesn’t require attractive graphics in order to convince players its worth their time. And yet it does, and it’s all the better for it. You take up the role of a put-upon chef who is handed down numbers to cook up. Yes, that’s really all there is to it. You cook the numbers. I told you I was talking literal, didn’t I?
But if the game is not entirely convincing on a concept level, it definitely is on a gameplay one. You are given a jumble of numbers, and through adding or subtracting those numbers, have to total the target number provided to you at the beginning of the level. You’ve got as much time as you like to figure this out, and you’ll have to work both backwards and forwards in order to reach the answer. Odd numbers are added together while even numbers are subtracted; you simply drag the numbers over each other to produce the intended sum.
It’s a unique system and one that becomes fairly intuitive once your brain starts firing on those cylinders. The puzzles start off easy; level one requires you to reach a total of 4 from four 1s, so obviously you just add those suckers together. But things quickly become much more challenging and the game opens out into a fiendishly complex, yet addictive, addition to the smartphone puzzle genre. With over 150 hand-produced levels, and no annoying ads trying to sell you add-ons and shortcuts you don’t really need, Number Chef certainly comes out on top; a genuine puzzler that wants to stump you and charm you simultaneously.