One of the great things about classics is that they’re readily available. While you’d be hard pressed to find a copy of Master Chu and the Drunkard Hu for the NES, a game almost no one has even heard of (myself included, until my wife showed me hers), you can get Mario 3 on your refrigerator and play Doom 2 inside of a keyboard. Sega is particularly giving with their legacy titles in the mobile arena, as is Square Enix, even if the latter charges an arm and a leg for the privilege. But while those games are timeless to some, new blood needs to come in every so often and keep them in check, even if they aren’t particularly unique mechanically. Le Parker: Sous Chef Extraordinaire (Free) is comprised of a lot of mechanics found in the aforementioned classics, but its presentation of those concepts is effortless.
Le Parker’s premise is odd, but welcoming. Despite the fact that the titular chef looks like a contemporary master of cuisine, the story actually has a weird fantasy type angle. Parker is a chef, that much is true, who has crafted a magical recipe (the lightest meringue ever), that is in the charge of the princess of a mystical land. But the king isn’t content with this arrangement and wants it all to himself, so he kidnaps the princess, steals the recipe, and banishes Parker. That’s where you come in with a series of platforming stages to essentially be the Mario to the king’s Bowser.
While the game has Mario mechanics (it even has the Power Balloon from Super Mario World, which inflates Parker and lets him float around like Kirby), it’s actually more like a Sonic game when it comes to its level design. There’s a lot of verticality to each stage, both in terms of subterranean hidden areas and unseen zones in the sky. While the latter spots are well-crafted to the point where they don’t feel too obscured, the former can be a pain to get to, as the camera often doesn’t zoom out enough to clue you in on them, and misjudging a jump can lead to a swift, instant death.
All the same, you can’t help but pick your device back up and try again. The music, the art style, it’s all calming and welcoming, and the subtle addition of the double-jump serves as a decent crutch when you’re exploring all of those secrets. Surprisingly there’s a lot of variety to the roughly 24 levels on offer, which don’t overstay their welcome and maintain a good sense of pacing. If you’re so inclined you can also share three separate save files on the same device, which is a rarity, and very welcome as you won’t have to erase a file to start all over from scratch.
If you’re up for the challenge you can go for nabbing all the collectibles, or best the time attack goals for every stage. They’re not necessary though and don’t gate progress, so if you want, you can just finish it normally. No IAP or predatory charges are the icing on the cake, and MFi controller support is the cherry on top. There’s no power-ups to buy, no energy to manage, nothing. If anything I’d love to see a paid expansion or level updates in the future just so I can play more. It feels like a full, complete platforming experience with one price point.
I had a lot of fun going back into old levels and trying to locate new areas, which weren’t all that frustrating outside of the occasional fall into the pit. As I touched on previously, having a double-jump and a floating mechanic really opens up the world, and in a few cases, it involved exploring areas that I would have never otherwise thought were possible.
Le Parker: Sous Chef Extraordinaire seems like a really out there game based on the trippy visuals and the odd premise alone, but it’s actually a safe bet if you grew up with retro platformers. It marries that ’90s aesthetic with its own voxel-like art, and manages to maintain a tight control scheme that relies on simple directions and a lone action button. Oh, and the low price and lack of hidden catches don’t hurt.