About a year ago, Cooking Mama offered something fresh to DS owners, a low budget cartoony cooking sim that offered some casual and unique entertainment. One year later, Cooking Mama 2 is more like eating left-overs rather than a whole new meal.
Gameplay is actually quite simple and appeals to a more casual gaming crowd. The player is taken under the wing of Mama, an all-knowing cooking master who looks slightly like an American but speaks like a Japanese-Italian. With its cartoony flare and big-eyed characters, the game’s presentation is quite quirky and fits well with the mood of the game.
Mama will take the player through a number of different recipes, which is played out in a series of mini games – a cross between a Mario Party and WarioWare. Each mini game captures the essence of actually cooking something due to the all stylus control. Peeling apples, stirring stuff in a pan, and chopping onions are just some of the things the player will do with the stylus. Each recipe, however, is built upon several steps – several mini games – but one mishap can completely screw up the entire meal. Screw something up, and the player will feel the wrath of Mama, almost like how the King of Cosmos punishes the Prince. It almost seems unfair that one mistake can completely ruin your score, but I guess that is how it is in real life.
Completing an entire meal only takes a matter of minutes, keeping the game casually quick and well suited for the portable DS. However, when participating in the main cooking mode, the player is presented with an initial screen that tells the player what to do (how to use the stylus) along with a continue and back button before you actually play the mini game. Like the inexperienced chef that I am, I failed miserably at a heating of the pan mini game. But this step was several mini games into the recipe. After failing, I tapped the back button, assuming that I could go back and simply re-try this part of the recipe. Instead, it took me back to the main page, canceling all the work I put into that particular meal. Needless to say, I was quite upset at the fact that I had to restart an entire meal due to a lacking menu system.
Some mini games are more difficult that others. In fact, even after several attempts, I still could not figure out some mini games such as the separating the yolk from the rest of the egg mini game. I read the instructions and followed the onscreen stylus motions, but I received absolutely no points. While most instances on how to use the stylus are clear, there are those occasional times when completing a mini game is a lot harder than it needs to be.
There is a single card multiplayer mode, but it isn’t exactly set up in the most convenient way. Instead of cooking an entire meal, players select to play one mini game at a time and merely compete for the best score. But because each mini game can literally last seconds, it seems that players can spend more time in the menu screen than actually playing the game. And just as an extra bullet point, a demo apple pie recipe can be send to an idle DS system.
All in all, the game is really no different from last year’s title. The game’s engine is pretty much exactly the same just with new recipes thrown in. Now the player has the option to collect different unlockables and dress Mama in new outfits, but it is not a significant achievement over last year’s game. Yes, the game features many recipes to unlock, but it really isn’t anything the previous version did not do. Using the same adorable character sprites, the game has a decent amount of presentation value although it does not push the system to the limits in any way, shape, or form. But I must admit, if I hear Mama say “Even better than Mama” one more time, I swear I will not stop poking her in the eye with my stylus until she is dead and I cook up a nice batch of soylent green.
Cooking Mama is not a bad game. In fact, it is perfectly suited for the DS as the mini games are fun, entertaining, and short. But I cannot help but think that this game is a simple update from last year’s budget title release (Cooking Mama 2 costs $30 instead of the original title’s $20 price point). The number of recipes can offer a lot to the player that has the dedication to complete them all, but after a few hours, the novelty will wear off. If you are new to the series, Cooking Mama 2 will entertain you for a weekend, but if you played the first title or the Wii version, this sequel might taste like old leftovers.