Cooking Mama has quickly grown from being an obscure Nintendo DS mini-game fest that nobody thought would catch the imagination of gamers around the globe to becoming one of the most well-known brands on Nintendo formats, with several iterations appearing on both Wii and DS now, taking the world, Europe especially with 2.5 million units sold so far, by storm. In fact, so powerful is the Mama name now, that even a gardening spin-off was released earlier this year! Now, though, it is back to the roots that made Mama so famous, with Cooking Mama 3 landing on Nintendo DS. Cubed3 takes a closer look at the new game to see what has been served up.
Developer Office Create must feel that whatever it touches turns to gold, since the same formula has now been regurgitated numerous times across both Wii and DS, yet the general public insist on eagerly snapping up each ‘new’ version. However, credit should be given where it is indeed due, and whilst Cooking Mama 3 still sports the same super-basic visuals that could easily be replicated on the 16-bit SNES, as well as a soundtrack that is so amazingly jaunty that it quickly jars the nerves and could well send some of the sanest folk into a psychotic break (spurring on a potential Killing Mama spin-off, perhaps?), the team has tried its utmost to pack as much content into this third portable outing as possible.
As soon as the game loads up, players are faced with nine different options to play around with, one of which is lets a demo version be sent to another DS system, or a Gardening Mama link-up be accessed, where vegetables grown there can be transferred across for use in this game. Two others are ‘design’ elements, letting budding cooks amend the colour scheme of all areas of their kitchen and the utensils within, whilst it is also possible to change Mama’s apparel and accompanying accessories. Once players have finished playing around with those customisation options, there is the ability to check an in-game diary where successful meal creations are stored, or dive into the numerous tasks on offer. There are the following to choose from: Cook with Mama, Let’s Cook, Let’s Match, Let’s Shop and Cooking Contest. Each time a player chooses what recipe to cook from any of these main modes (for instance, Korean Barbecue, Fried Shrimp, French Cruller, Baumkuchen or one of many others up for choice from a wide selection), they are given the chance to practice the cooking-related mini-games first, or simply jump straight in to the action.
The instructions for cooking will invariably be broken down into a few simple stages or, as the game grows in difficulty, a plentiful supply of different steps. Touch-screen actions range from touching a large batch of mince-meat to grab a handful and then drawing a circle numerous times to roll it into a ball, drag the stylus towards the rim of a dish to tap an egg repeatedly until it cracks and the contents can be poured into the bowl, or even rub the stylus up and down speedily to flip food into the air, then guide the pan swiftly to where shadows appear on the work surface in order to safely retrieve the items again. Adding to the experience for those that have played before or are more adept at mini-games on the whole, there are times where the on-screen guidance feature fades away, adding a modicum of extra challenge. One particular example is when having to slice food up into pieces that fit easily into a bowl – at first the correct length for cutting will be shown, but after the first attempt the remaining chops will have to be done from memory. Cut the pieces too big and they will simply not fit! To provide incentive to keep plugging away, bonuses, such as new recipes, can be unlocked and variations on the main theme are provided in the various modes mentioned earlier.
There is not really that much difference between the five modes, in all honesty, but Let’s Cook sees players trying to prepare tasty meals for friends and relatives, Let’s Match lets them choose specific ingredients to try and prepare something delicious, Cooking Contest tests general mini-game skills in speed rounds (solo or against friends wirelessly), and Cook with Mama is again merely about preparing set dishes. The only truly dissimilar mode is Let’s Shop, which has players dashing around a supermarket (using the touch-screen to guide the character clumsily around) in an attempt to collect new ingredients whilst avoiding pesky staff members or other customers (bumping into them causes a loss of ‘hearts’ and eventually another mini-game will ensue). It is clear the development team has tried its hardest to think of innovative new touch-screen uses, even throwing in some microphone usage for blowing on hot objects, and on the whole it succeeds in crafting a slower-paced version of WarioWare, except without the humour and zaniness that makes that series so appealing to the masses. Mama fans of old will be thoroughly entertained, whilst others may well be pleasantly surprised at how it can be a fun way to pass the time.
Making good use of the touch-screen, Cooking Mama 3 attempts to add variety to what could have been extremely mundane proceedings.
Bright and breezy graphics, but overall bland visuals that could be done on the 16-bit systems from the 1990s.
Chirpy tunes that are pleasant enough, if somewhat grating after a while. Also, Mama’s mock-Russian accent is very odd indeed!
None of the modes on offer are particularly time-consuming, but the market it is aimed at will likely have fun playing this with friends of a similar age, whilst others may be pleasantly surprised to find some mini-games are quite enjoyable!
Cooking Mama 3 is a nice progression for the culinary mini-game series that has become a roaring success around the world. Fans of previous entries will no doubt be enamoured by the various types of touch-screen fun served up, whilst those that perhaps saw the series as being too shallow in the past may well find some enjoyment here as well!
2.5 million European owners and counting can't be wrong...can they?
This third game's doing pretty damn well here in the UK as well, and at full price rather than the budget price-point the first two games thrived at.