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Cooking Mama Cook Off Review

By Brian Beck, 3/30/2007

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I’ll just come right out and say it, I’m a big guy. I enjoy all kinds of food – Mexican, Chinese, Japanese are among my favorite non-American foods while I’ll eat pretty much anything seen as American. Cooking can be pretty fun since I learned most of what I know from my grandpa. In particular, I learned that using recipes and such leads to a lack of creativity – changing things up each time is the key.

The original Cooking Mama on the DS, then, was a game I really enjoyed. Sure, it wasn’t so much a simulation of the actual experience of cooking, but it was a neat little collection of cooking games that had a tendency to make me hungry after playing. When I heard the game was being prepared for a release on the Wii, I was pretty excited. With the new control method, I figured that there’d be a chance for more creative ways of cooking and some new game modes. However, while I was correct, playing Cooking Mama Cook Off made me wonder how well this formula translates over to Nintendo’s newest gaming hardware.

For the unacquainted, Cooking Mama Cook Off is the second entry into the now-popular cooking series that started on the DS. The original game came out at the budget price of twenty bucks but this version was a full priced Wii game. In it, you’ll be given a listing of steps to perform to cook various items. You may have as few as two or three steps while some dishes require 10 or more minigames to finish cooking.

The actual cooking is pretty fun. You’ll use the Wiimote in a variety of ways – one activity has you swinging it to crack eggs while another has you moving it forwards and backwards like a rolling pin. For the most pat, these actions are fun and the Wiimote picks up on them pretty well. However, I did have a problem with ones that require me to swing the Wiimote at a certain speed in the middle of slow and fast. I couldn’t just do a slower motion with my hand – I had to do some exaggerated motion with a follow through to get the game to pick up on the proper speed of swinging. If I stopped too suddenly, the game assumed I swung too hard and I failed that part of the challenge. The only other one that was hard was peeling items. On the DS, peeling was pretty easy since you had tactile feedback as you moved the stylus across the potato or other vegetable you were peeling. Cook Off is harder, though, since you’re just pointing the Wiimote at the screen. It definitely doesn’t ruin the game, but will get annoying.

The tasks themselves are pretty fun and can be challenging the first time through. Sauteeing meat and vegetables, for example, is hard until you learn the right order. Meat has to be in the pan longer to get sautéed to the right temperature while onions may brown really fast. Another challenge I liked was the one where you’re fanning flames on a grill. You have to coordinate the waving of fans to increase the heat, flipping of meat and removal of meat from the grill. All of this has to be done under an ample time limit. The only problem with the activities is that, once you’ve learned the trick to them, they become exceptionally easy. This makes for what is, sadly, a short single player experience.

After completing each of these tasks, you’ll be given from 0-100 points based on performance and 0-100 as a time bonus. If you fail, you don’t have to quit the activity as “Mama” will help you. A really nice touch that I saw here that wasn’t around in the DS version is that Mama has varying expressions when she offers to help based on what you’re cooking. Take the cake I was making – I stirred too fast and sent batter flying and Mama appropriately had batter coating her hair. It was a nice little touch and a bit of attention to detail that is appreciated.

While the single player may not last long (though it is fun while it lasts) Cook Off adds in a much-requested multiplayer mode. Now you and your friend can both play through various cooking challenges against each other. This’ll definitely be the meat of this game. While you can try to improve your scores, there’s only so far you can go before you eventually get bored. Playing with your buddy and mocking his or her lack of cooking skills can be a blast, though.

Overall, Cooking Mama Cook Off is definitely a game that is best played in short bursts. The game is nowhere near as deep as what many have grown accustomed to and is over in a few hours if you just sit down and chew through each of the cooking challenges. While it is fun for the casual gamer, it probably won’t appeal to the hardcore audience – and it doesn’t really try to. For the person in your family that enjoys cooking or the non-gamer you know and love, Cooking Mama Cook Off will be a fun pickup. For the more hardcore gamer, though, I’d recommend steering clear.

Overall: 77%



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