Reviewed: December 27, 2008
Released: November 18, 2008
In 2003, Nintendo released a little gem on the world in the form of WarioWare Inc: Mega MicroGame$. WarioWare consisted of a rapid series of short (generally 5-10 seconds) micro-games, in which the purpose was little more than figuring out the one or two-button presses required to complete the task at hand. The game was wildly popular, and definitely had a hand in sparking the casual gaming revolution that Nintendo is currently enjoying on their Wii and DS gaming platforms.
In the five years that followed the initial release, the WarioWare franchise has continued to reign over the micro-game revolution with a series of releases for each of Nintendo’s gaming consoles, culminating in the absolutely superb WarioWare: Smooth Moves for the Wii. But that doesn’t mean that other developers and manufacturers haven’t taken their own crack at exploiting the genre that Nintendo has single-handedly ruled for half a decade – and one of the best to non-Nintendo micro-games properties has been the Cooking Mama series from Majesco.
The Cooking Mama series first hit our shores in 2006 on Nintendo’s DS handheld, and tasked gamers with performing short stints of touch-based controls mimicking the motions used to prepare and cook food items under the direction of the ultra-cutesy “Mama”. A year later, Cooking Mama made its way onto Nintendo’s groundbreaking Wii console with Cooking Mama: Cook Off – and although the game stumbled a bit in the controls department, the sheer enjoyment of the gameplay left many gamer enamored with the series.
Now we have the follow-up to Cook Off with Cooking Mama: World Kitchen. Surprisingly, instead of simply resting on their laurels with the popularity of Cook Off, the folks at Cooking Mama Limited have made a number of significant gameplay changes with World Kitchen that have paid off in fixing some of Cook Off’s shortcomings. The result is yet another enjoyable series of micro-games that everyone in the family will enjoy.
Each of the preparation steps will have gamers performing motion-based input to mimic the real-life motions for chopping, stirring, mashing, slicing, frying, and much more. Success is equally as dependant on the timing of the motions as it is on the preciseness of the motions being performed – and missing the proper timing will often result in poor grading, or worse all-out failure. Some failures will initiate secondary minigames, requiring quick decision making to save items from rolling off the countertop into the waiting jaws of Max, the kitchen dog.
Unlike the recently reviewed Order Up!, Cooking Mama does not meddle with its tried and true formula with any form of story mode – there are the recipes to be made, and that is all. And while I was a fan of the Sims-like management of Order Up!, I must admit that Cooking Mama: World Kitchen’s light and casual bent is refreshing in its own way.
Gamers have the option of replaying completed recipes in the game’s Friend mode, where gamers get to refine their technique without the watchful eye of Mama. The “Friend” designation comes from the virtual pal who acts as judge and jury of each recipe. While Friend mode definitely adds some replay value to the gameplay, the fact that it does little in offering any additional reward renders it a bit lackluster.
Cooking Mama: World Kitchen includes a multiplayer mode in which two gamers can work cooperatively to prepare the equivalent of a single full recipe in eight steps. While the inclusion of co-op play is nice, the fact that the entirety of the multiplayer mode can be completed in less than a half an hour ends the fun a bit too abruptly. Still, Cooking Mama: World Kitchen’s single player career is a very enjoyable on its own, and the 51 recipes continue to introduce new and interesting gameplay components beyond the typical slicing and dicing.
Mama’s artwork is decidedly Japanese in style, with cutesy bobble-headed, big-eyed characters that fit in with traditional Japanese manga and anime. The graphics do a pretty good job at presenting a three-dimensional kitchen workspace despite their overall cartoony appearance.
Unlike Cooking Mama: Cook Off, World Kitchen eschews the first-person cooking perspective for a third-person face-to-face perspective. While this drastic change in perspective was a bit off putting at first, a major overhaul to the game’s control scheme seems to soften the blow a bit.
Probably one of the most enjoyable aspects of the Cooking Mama series has been with respect to the audio – not so much because it is so good, but because it is so darn cute. Mama speaks with a stilted and broken blend of Japanese and English, announcing proclamations of “You can do it!” and “That’s great!” at completed tasks. True, the lines are heavily (and I mean HEAVILY) recycled throughout the course of the game, but Mama’s voice is so bewitchingly charming that few gamers will find fault.
All in all, Cooking Mama: World Kitchen is a blast, and any gamer with the faintest interest in the micro-games genre will find something to enjoy in Mama’s kitchen.