You can now play this Pinoy ‘Cooking Mama’-style game

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Food is central to any culture and heritage. Especially in Filipino culture, food is not merely one of the requirements in any celebration or get-together; more often than not, it is the star of the celebration. There’s a reason why we usually greet people we welcome into our home with “Kumain ka na ba?” Food is what brings us together. Food is always a witness to our victories, milestones, celebrations, and even pains.

And this distinctly Pinoy gravitation toward food is what this new game by Meowfia captures. Titled Lutong Bahay: Lola’s Home Cooking, and promote a deeper appreciation for the rich and culturally diverse culinary history of the Philippines.

The game has been in development for quite a while now, but Meowfia finally released a playable demo of the game last December 22 as a sort of Christmas gift to everyone who supported and cheered them on to finish the game. Speed sat down with Neal Padama, the producer of Lutong Bahay, to know more about the development and intention behind the game.

Story and gameplay

The game is pretty straightforward, reminiscent of cooking simulation favorites like Cooking Mama and Cooking Academy. You play as the young Maricela, who learns iconic Filipino dishes from her grandmother and her grandmother’s friends from different parts of the country. During your journey, you not only learn how to cook each dish, but also learn more about the history and culture of each city you visit.

You get to sauté garlic, learn how to dice onion (the right way!), get up close with those nasty pig ears that go into your sisig, and so much more.

“We wanted to make a Filipino cooking game because it’s something that we never had growing up. The game’s premise is about an aspiring cook who wants to learn how to make dishes as authentically as she can, so she travels all around the Philippines to learn from the masters,” says Neal.

The graphics are adorable and nostalgic, featuring a warm-toned pixel art style that brings back childhood memories. Each shot is very well-made, and shots of the final product will actually make you hungry as you look at them—so you don’t want to be playing this game on an empty stomach.

In the demo, you’ll be able to try recreating three dishes: lumpiang ubod from Negros Occidental, pork sisig from Pampanga, and your lola’s signature fried rice. What we love about playing it is that the ingredients and the technique used in every dish is actually replicable in real life, so it’s very much like a virtual and interactive cooking demo that’s been gamified to appeal to younger Filipinos.

You get to sauté garlic, learn how to dice onion (the right way!), get up close with those nasty pig ears that go into your sisig, and so much more. Neal says: “Making new mechanics was challenging for us because we had to find that sweet spot where the gameplay feels like cooking, but it should also feel different from what we’re already familiar with.”

The result was actually incredible, which brings me back to my younger days playing Cooking Academy, “cooking” all sorts of food from different countries I’ve only ever heard on the TLC channel on cable. It’s surreal seeing Filipino dishes finally getting that same treatment, showcasing the effort and technique that actually goes into each dish. We eat these dishes every day that we almost take for granted the art and skill that goes into making a really good ulam. And it’s nice to see that kind of heart poured into a game like Lutong Bahay.

Since the game is still just a demo—a proof of concept, in its most technical terms—the end feels like an unsettling cliffhanger. And that’s actually good because it shows that the game was gripping and interesting enough to make you want more of it. The demo takes around 30 minutes, taking into account all the cut scenes, transitions, and the cooking action. 

Development

Lutong Bahay started as a thesis project of the creators, titled Taste of Home. The original concept took them around six months to do, and was initially just something the creators needed to do and finish to pass their course.

However, the game eventually went viral when they posted screenshots and a trailer of the game in 2019, urging the creators to expand and continue building the game. 

“We didn’t expect it to go viral,” says Neal. “While months may have passed since the initial trailer release of our exhibit build, we spent those months working on how the game may expand further, fixing bugs and errors that were found back then. In the end, we settled for a demo to gauge if there will be enough demand and support for a full game.”

Overall, Lutong Bahay was delightful to play. There are definitely many things to refine about the demo—the slow animations for example, can still be improved—but it’s a promising game that begs to receive some funding and support. 

I grew up, fortunately, with access to HTML and flash games on our desktop computer. And I learned a lot about food, fashion, language, and overall general knowledge not just from my daily subjects at school, but also from educational but fun games like Cooking Academy, Polly’s Makeover games, BookWorm Deluxe, and Hangaroo. 

I think if we pour more resources and spotlight on projects like these, which can actually be used as learning materials for younger Filipinos, that’s a good way to level up our current educational system. Especially in this generation where kids are more attuned to gadgets and technology, it’s time we pivot and make use of the talent and technology that we have to adapt to the times.

You can download and play the Lutong Bahay: Lola’s Home Cooking demo for free at Senshi Labs here.

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