Cooking Mama by Majesco Entertainment is a cute, stylus-based cooking game for the Nintendo DS. With the accomplished chef “Mama” looking on, players practice their cooking skills by transforming raw ingredients into culinary masterpieces.
Although everyone can agree that the graphics are adorable and the title’s novelty is tempting, is this game really worth buying? Is Cooking Mama an appetizing gaming accomplishment, or a culinary clunker?
GAMEPLAY: Mastering the Stylus
Cooking Mama is easy to understand, and even easier to pick up. Players select a dish they want to test their culinary mettle on from Cooking Mama’s menu. To make a recipe sucessfully, players must win a series of timed mini-games in which they prepare ingredients, mix them together, and cook them up using the stylus as a universal chef’s tool. Most mini-games are easy, but some, like peeling carrots, are much harder than they look.
The completed recipe is given a Bronze, Silver, or Gold rating depending on how well the player fared on the mini-games. Mama unlocks a new recipe to try after each one is complete, to a certain point.
THE GOOD: Graphics, Audio, and Pace
Cooking Mama brings a lot to the table. The graphics are colorful, cute, and bright. The top screen features a smiling, friendly Mama, who offers players advice and encouragement. At first, players will be tempted to fail mini-games just so they can witness Mama’s hilariously disappointed expression, her fists clenched and her eyes literally en flambe.
The sound design earns a big thumbs up as well. Be sure to turn the volume up on your DS when frying, sauteeing, chopping, or boiling up your latest creation. The sizzling, percolating, and cutting sounds are expertly done and really add to the gaming experience.
The game itself is also extremely easy to pick up and can be initially addicting. Each recipe only takes a few minutes, so it’s easy to play while on break at work or while waiting to be seated at a real-life restaurant. Cooking Mama also very successfully integrates the stylus as the main mode of control, and offers some replay value as it is easy to complete most recipes but difficult to get a gold rating on the first try.
THE BAD: Lack of Depth, Multi-Player Mode
Although the title has a lot going for it, there is still room for improvement. The main problem with Cooking Mama is that the game has very little depth. It doesn’t include much real information about cooking aside from listing some of the ingredients necessary for each dish, and gameplay is restricted to completing recipes.
Unfortunately, the game’s multi-player mode is very disappointing. Players can’t assist each other with recipes, and are only able to transfer the recipes that they have completed in the single-player game back and forth.
In the end, Cooking Mama is charming to begin with but won’t be engrossing for long. Players might find themselves shelving the game after only three to four hours.
THE VERDICT: Is it Worth Buying?
Cooking Mama is great for casual gamers, or those looking to add a simple game they can play while killing time to their collection. The stylus-based controls are well implemented and the graphics are attractive, but the overly simplistic gameplay hurts this title in the end. Since the game is relatively cheap at $19.99, however, it should deliver enough bang for your buck.