Sifting Thyme is a mobile otome game by Nochi Studios. In the game you play as a nameable female or male protagonist who joins an elite culinary school. While at first quite nervous of joining a year behind the rest of your cohort you quickly settle in with a little help from the school’s three most handsome guys. But let’s not forget your adorable childhood best friend back at home who supports you from the sidelines. The game takes place over two years as you begin to truly flourish in the culinary field, and make lifelong memories.
At the time of writing 8 chapters of the game have been released and as such this review only focuses on content within these 8 chapters.
Number of Romance Options: 4 guys (at the time of writing the game is still following a main route, the game is planned to branch after chapter 9)
Release Schedule: Chapters are released monthly, at the time of writing 8 chapters have been released of a planned ~13 chapters + epilogue
Chapter play-through time: 20 – 30 minutes
I will be very honest in saying I’ve never had much of an interest in cooking. I love eating, but the actual cooking aspect never really clicked with me. But I was incredibly surprised by how interested I became in food, cooking techniques and the industry as I played through this game. Almost every chapter had something to learn from did-you-know tidbits about certain foods or in another discussing how a restaurant’s business model could change during a pandemic. In one of my favourite chapters the characters visit a facility focused on lab grown meat. I really felt like I was learning along with the characters as the chapter touched on how it was done, the current technology and potential ethics around it. I was thoroughly impressed by the research put into this game, and you can definitely tell that Nochi Studios is passionate about food!
Across all the chapters I did find that the story was very immersive and well written. You really had the feeling of being welcomed into a new school and slowly getting used to the community. At times I did find the banter between characters went on for a tad too long, but I can also appreciate how that added to the immersion of the story and getting to know the characters. As a visual novel, the game focuses on dialogue choices. After chatting to Nochi, I’ve found that so far there have been mini branches in the story based on choices, and around chapter nine we’ll be locked into routes. I’ll definitely be interested to see whose route my play through will go to!
Additionally, the social media images are a really fun mechanic within Sifting Thyme. As you play through the game you can receive text messages from characters (which you can respond to), and social media notifications on SnapChat and Instagram. This is also where you’ll get all your CGs from, usually pictures of the boys goofing around. I do hope in later chapters we do get some pics of the MC! I’ve found a lot of games have tried to include social media in their mechanics to varying degrees of success. But I’ve really enjoyed the way Nochi Studios has done it. Sending and receiving texts/ snaps/ images became part of experiencing the story rather than detracting from it.
However, I do think the story may have been a bit stronger if it was set at a culinary tertiary institution rather than private high school. As an Australian, I don’t know much about how schools work in America outside of TV show and films but in Oz we also have specialised schools such as performing arts high schools. However these are co-curricular schools, students undertake their performance classes in conjunction with their regular schooling, with maybe the performance curriculum taking up only one day a week.
But while playing through the game it felt like all they studied was cooking, there was no other content (no maths, science, history). All classes, assignments and exams were centred around cooking. As I was playing through I even started thinking they were at a university or college and would be reminded when they started talking about going to university in a few years. However, again, I don’t know how specialist schools work in America and it could be a very accurate representation of what it is like. But for me, I just felt the structure of their studies would make more sense in a tertiary context. Also, truth be told, now that I’m getting older I’m not as big a fan playing games in a high school setting.
Unfortunately while I adored most of the game’s cast I did find that Geoffrey walked a very fine line between being funny and being a nuisance. In the aforementioned lab visit chapter, the lab representative prepares a sample of lab grown meat for the characters to try. He also mentions that each sample can cost thousands of dollars. While the others are excited to try it out Geoffrey starts saying he doesn’t want to try it, he only finally does when someone tells him to pretty much “do it for the ‘gram” [note: he’s not a vegetarian nor a vegan, he does eat meat in the game]. Throughout the tour he also makes borderline snarky comments about the lab’s work. I’m gonna be harsh here, but the whole time I read this chapter all I could think of is what a brat he was. There’s a few other moments throughout the game where he just acts very immature and I just wanted him to go away so I could enjoy the story with the other characters!
Some other very small issues I noticed was that while the game does allow you to have multiple save files (which is fantastic) it doesn’t seem like you can skip read text. While playing I also came across one or two scenes that I found didn’t follow on from one another or seemed a bit shoehorned in. For example in chapter 5, the characters visit Tyler’s family’s cafe. While there Tyler and Leo head off somewhere and Geoffrey spies on them. A minute later he comes back very excited and says “you won’t believe what I just saw”, but says he’ll tell the MC and Jaime later. By chapter 8 this was never brought up again.
In chapter 8 there’s a scene where all the boys and MC are cooking in the kitchen, as the chapter progresses MC has time with each boy. In some moments the boys talk to one another so I had the impression everyone was in the kitchen together. Towards the end of the chapter things get a little heated between MC and Tyler, and all I could think of was MC snuggling Tyler while her side-boys watch on in horror. Just maybe one or two sentences to clarify certain parts would be fantastic.
Overall, I was very impressed with Nochi Studio’s game. The story was not only enjoyable to read but I also learnt a lot about the culinary industry. There were some small issues I had with the game, and I do hope that in future chapters Geoffrey matures as a character. But, I’m definitely looking forward to what Nochi Studios cook up next!
Thank you Studio Nochi for providing me with a copy of the game to review.