Besides changes in the cooking game-play itself, Tears is full of delightful foods, several of them new—sparking giddiness not unlike how I feel when discovering a new-to-me ingredient on the market. As Link traverses the immersive Hyrule in Tears, he accrues monster parts (only edible when cooked into elixirs) and meat by vanquishing foes. He also collects ingredients like edible herbs and flowers, rock salt, eggs, Glowing Cave Fish, “rich-scented” Hearty Truffles, and tomatoes that are described as Hylian, named for the doomed kingdom. Link is on a mission to save. (“Full of nutrition, and kind of trendy lately,” the last one’s descriptor quips.) Golden Apples are a “rare, very sweet fruit” that seem to have an “extra sparkle,” while eating Razorshrooms will “foster your competitive spirit .” Each ingredient offers benefits such as stamina restoration, stealth, or defense, which almost always improve when mixed and heated up.
As in real kitchens, certain experiments are triumphs: Fish plus a random green yields stamina-boosting, “fragrant” Steamed Fish. Tossing a Sticky Frog in with a monster wing yields a Sticky Elixir that helps him scale a slippery cliff in the rain. Yet other times Link improvises with, say, a Hearty Lizard and Fortified Pumpkin; suddenly, we hear glasses break and smoke rises from the pot, indicating we’ve made the dreaded Dubious Food. Depicted as a pixelated blob “because it’s too gross to look at,” and issuing “a bizarre smell,” we’re told eating it won’t hurt us—“probably.”
In Tears, Link might have to find milk, meat, and eggs for a Hylian’s special fried rice, or help a villager invent cheese again (long story) with a brand-new pizza recipe as his reward for learning to make cheese. Following these colorful, winding detours remind me why I keep cooking. After all, who hasn’t followed a long, strange food-related quest? Or made real-life Dubious Food on occasion—the sort we shovel in with a little reward beyond sustenance and the new found knowledge that this particular ingredient combo doesn’t work?
But then we stumble upon a trendy tomato or stamina-boosting allium, and our curiosity is piqued all over again. Maybe we even briefly forget that the world feels like it’s crumbling around us. Would those ingredients work together? Conjure a pot and find out.