A Cooking Game
Cooking Mama is a video game from Majesco Entertainment for the Nintendo DS system that makes excellent use of the touch-sensitive screen capabilities of DS. Under the guise of "cooking," you explore over 200 timed mini-games – similar to the kind of play found in the WarioWare games – during which you "cook" a recipe.
How to Play
For example, a recipe may start with your chopping up of ingredients, a mini-game that lets you use your DS stylus as a knife and chop objects by tapping the screen. To flip a burger that is sautéing in a pan, you draw a line down the handle of the pan. While those actions don't sound like compelling gameplay, the fun comes in perfecting them in a timed environment that requires execution at very specific times. Since a recipe is made up of four to 12 mini-games, executing each without mistake can be a challenge.
Mentoring you through this cooking marathon of 76 recipes is a cute doe-eyed anime girl called Cooking Mama. But don't be fooled by her sweet appearance; she turns into a flaming-eyed taskmaster when you fail. And fail you will, unless you take the time to "practice" a recipe before you attempt to "cook" it for a score. Cooking Mama grades you on a 100-point scale; and for those who do well, she awards gold, silver and bronze medals for gourmet cooking.
As you slice, chop, knead, grate, sauté, fry, and stew your way through the first 15 recipes, you will eventually unlock the remaining 61. And while things like chopping are easy, peeling a carrot using the DS stylus is a challenge, and probably more so because the controls aren't responsive enough. Some of the mini-games can get quite demanding, as you are required to add ingredients, stir, and adjust the heat either up or down at just the right time as indicated on a scrolling timeline. And some of the mini-games don’t come with enough instructions, which forces you to experiment.
The novelty of this game play will sustain players through preparing many feasts. But eventually, as with all mini-game-based software, the novelty will wear off. “Cooking Mama” would have had more longevity if it had a head-to-head multi-player cook-off mode. This is a game that is best played in small bursts – a recipe or two at a time. It’s perfect for waiting in line or during road trips.
While kids may start to understand cooking terms, don't count on this game to turn them into chefs. The recipes never list the amount of ingredients; following a recipe is really all about playing the 200 mini-games. But the recipes are based on real foods from around the world, so kids will be whipping up everything from traditional Fried Chicken to Japanese Fried Octopus Dumplings.
The Bottom Line
This game succeeds because it is wacky – too bad cooking a real dinner isn’t this entertaining.
All tech products are judged on a five star scale by looking at the following factors: fun, education, ease of use, value, and technical.