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Cooking Mama Review

By Brian Beck, 10/7/2006

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My grandpa really loves to cook when there are multiple people at the house. Generally, though, he’ll cook far more than everyone there can eat and we’ll have leftovers. The food is really good and is great as leftovers a few days later. I’ve tried to learn to cook like him but, no matter what I do, I can’t pull it off. There’s just something about the way he cooks that I can’t match. He definitely makes cooking look easy to me.

If I can’t cook that well in real life, I can try to cook in a video game instead! Cooking Mama is a game for the Nintendo DS that really puts the touchscreen to work. You’re not going to be pressing on the D-Pad or the face buttons while playing – all the action is controlled by the stylus. Oddly enough, the entire package of Cooking Mama comes together to make a fun and entertaining game to play in quick bursts and also one you can pass to non-gamers in your life and hopefully get them hooked on the DS.

For anyone that has played Wario Ware Touched on the release of the original model DS, you’ve experienced a lot of Cooking Mama. What I mean by that is Cooking Mama is really, at its heart, a compilation of quick touchscreen activities that range from filling a cup with rice and dumping it in a pot to slicing up some beef. There is even a time where you have to play a sort of rhythm game to stew contents in a pot. Said activities will ask you to rapidly tap the DS to finely chop up some vegetable, move the stylus down the screen to peel a potato or rapidly draw circles to stir some ingredients or one of many other motions. The game will give you clues as to how to perform each of these motions, too – the only one that is a bit confusing at first is when you have to sauté some stuff. The activities are pretty varied and fun even after you’ve seen them multiple times though a couple can be a bit of a pain to learn at first.

Each of these activities are tied together with the premise of cooking a dish. There are some that are ridiculously easy – take Instant Ramen for example. All that you do for this one is turn on the water, let it flow until the cup is filled and turn it off. Other dishes are much more complicated however – most anything involved with a kind of meat, typically. The different recipes the game offers give a lot of fun challenges to those that aren’t very experiences with gaming. If you are a major gamer, however, you might find the challenges to be pretty easy after you’ve learned all the motions.

Outside of cooking these dishes, the game really doesn’t have much depth. Sure, there’s the opportunity to combine dishes, but that only makes two dishes back to back and sets them on the same plate. You can, however, make for some truly off the wall combinations that shouldn’t go together – that alone is worth a few laughs. There’s also the “Use Skills” part of the game. All you’ll do with this is have timed minigames that are based off of the skills you’ve learned while cooking. Instead of cooking a dish, you’ll be timed to see how many dumplings you can fold in a set time limit or how many hot potatoes you can peel. It would have been neat to see actual unlockable recipes to cook some of the dishes you see in the game after you, say, scored a 100 on said dish. It really isn’t that big of a deal though.

Overall, Cooking Mama is an oddly entertaining game. While hardcore gamers won’t get anything out of it and are likely going to poo-poo the game because of its simple premise and ease of play, they’re not the target audience. Cooking Mama is aimed at the non-gamer audience, much like a large chunk of the Nintendo DS library already is. This is the type of game that your non-gamer friends and family would try and enjoy. It is quick to play and has a collection element about it -- the anal players will want a 100% on each dish. It is also nice for very quick sessions when you only have a couple of minutes to play since progress saves after you finish a dish. Cooking Mama is a deceptively fun game that I’d recommend to all but the most closed-minded of gamers – at 20 bucks, it isn’t going to break the bank and you’ll get a good bit of fun out of the game. This game is truly original and a lot of fun. Hopefully we’ll see another version sometime in the future.

Overall: 90%



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