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Cooking Mama Review

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Developer: Taito Publisher: Majesco
Release Date: September 12, 2006 Also On: None

Putting me, your friendly Game Freaks 365 video game reviewer, into a kitchen is about as productive as chucking an infant armed with a combat knife on the front lines. I touch spatulas and pots and pans and things go wrong. Three-minute Ramen noodles take me eight. Ultimately Cliff Bakehorn fits with cooking as well as trying to put LEGOs together the wrong way. Well, Mama doesn’t care. She wants me to cook delicious meals. In Majesco’s cute little DS game, my gaming cooking skill was equal to that of my real-life skill, but I couldn’t help but enjoy it anyway.

Might I start by saying that never in my life has a video game made me hungry. They’ve made me happy, excited, angry and, in the case of Kingdom Hearts, cry like a baby. Cooking Mama made my stomach growl like an angry dog. There are dozens of recipes for gamers to prepare, including simple things like Instant Ramen and much more difficult dishes like shrimp curry (there goes my stomach again). Now, bear in mind that Cooking Mama is no simulation–far from it, in fact, it is closer to being a rhythm game than a simulation. Wolfgang Puck will still make a better meal, even if you earn gold medals in all of Cooking Mama’s dishes.

The audience that Cooking Mama appeals to will appreciate the simplicity of the game’s controls; almost everything is done with the stylus. The stylus is your virtual hand, fork, knife, spatula, everything. You’ll trace lines to cut vegetables, draw circles to stir, and tap things scattered around the screen to add ingredients, select pieces of food, and the like. Like real-life cooking, Cooking Mama is all about directions rather than difficult controls.

The game is set up in a way that is even more simple; each step in the recipe is its own mini-game of sorts. For example, you’ll begin to make rice by filling up cups of water and pouring them into a pot. Then you wash the rice, and if the recipe calls for adding other things, you continue in that direction. When stirring and cooking things in a pot, you’ll follow a rhythm-like line of commands, changing stove temperature, blowing on the DS microphone, and stirring when prompted. Mama grades you on each individual step, and making good meals is a matter of doing each step as efficiently and properly as possible. For example, filling up a pot with too much water makes Mama very mad, and she gives the fiery death glare and a Failure to any cook who messes up.

Sadly, some actions don’t work as well as others. I had the hardest and most frustrating time trying to peel vegetables, but had absolutely no trouble with the rhythm stuff. Fortunately the annoying task of blowing into the DS microphone is done better here than in other games, and at least with a cooking game it is appropriate.

There isn’t much lasting appeal to Cooking Mama, sadly. Sure, it’s fun to go back and play through all the recipes, earning gold medals and unlocking extra stuff, but there is nothing outside of that. Majesco was wise to release Cooking Mama at the bargain price of $20, because it isn’t worth more than that to anyone. The Nintendo Wii follow-up, Cooking Mama: Cook Off releases this April with multiplayer features, Wii remote controls, and more content–perhaps anyone who hasn’t invested time into Cooking Mama and is now considering it should wait for that release instead.

Visuals and sound effects are pretty simple. Cooking Mama has a ridiculously cute art design, that’s for sure. The ingredients and different parts of foods are hit and miss, but I don’t think sushi seaweed ever looked very good anyway. I am actually quite satisfied that Taito didn’t use more realistic images of food, because in hindsight, that wouldn’t have been a very attractive sight. Real food, before being prepared, rarely looks delicious.

For $20, you can’t really knock Cooking Mama. It’s a simple, cute game that I can guarantee for any younger or female DS owner. As mentioned before, the Wii follow-up is coming soon with even more Mama to go around, so DS owners with a Wii might consider waiting for that instead.

Graphics: 7
Sound: 5
Gameplay: 8
Creativity: 9.5
Replay Value/Game Length: 5
Final: 7
Written by Cliff Review Guide