IGN Review of Cooking Mama 3: Shop & Chop
Cooking Mama is one of the best selling franchises on the Nintendo DS, and for good reason -- this game caters perfectly to the casual market. Essentially a mini-game compilation, this title loosely focuses on cooking simulation, but don't expect to become a better chef by playing it. If you're looking to learn how to actually cook you should check out Personal Trainer: Cooking. However, if want something with a quirky personality, try out Cooking Mama.
For newcomers to the franchise, the game is simple: recipes are divided up into steps -- the number varies depending on which dish you choose -- and each step has its own respective min game that utilizes the touch screen to accompany it. Complete the mini games successfully and you'll have a tasty meal. Fail however, and you'll have a very angry Mama to deal with.
This time around, there are five different game modes to choose from -- Cook with Mama, Let's Cook, Let's Match, Let's Shop and Cooking Contest -- but a majority of them are similar.
Cooking with Mama is basically like training mode. You can practice how to make things properly, and no matter how badly you mess up, you'll always make it to the end. There are 80 meals this time, and completing a recipe earns a new one for your repertoire, despite your skill. Cooking without Mama, and Let's Cook are less forgiving -- make enough mistakes and you'll have to restart the whole thing. Succeeding in Let's Cook garners more playable characters, but using a different person doesn't change anything. Should you perform extremely well in either mode, you'll earn a bonus. Earn five bonuses and you get an item -- different clothing for Mama or stickers to put in your diary.
Let's Shop is the only brand spatula-spankin' new offering. Instead of asking you to prepare food, Mama tasks you with acquiring certain ingredients from the grocery store. Seems simple, but this mode has an extremely strategic angle. Once you're actually in the store, you have to dodge other shoppers, moms with babies and sample salesmen, all while keeping an eye on the ticking clock. Should you accidentally run into someone, you'll need to successfully complete a mini game specific to that person -- i.e. pacifying a mother's screaming child or eating all of the free sample food. If you lose the game, a heart is removed from your heart meter. Lose all your hearts, and you're sent home to a disappointed Mama. The issue with Let's Shop is that there are only four different shopping challenges. Shopping is an addictive and challenging addition to the series, so it's a shame that there isn't more of it.
Cooking Contest is also new, but it's broken. While you can challenge yourself (how fun does that sound?) the interesting multiplayer aspect doesn't work. Theoretically, you can challenge your friends to a cook off, but despite trying it with several different DS's, the game failed to link up. We were able to transfer a demo from one DS to the other, so the machines were connecting, just not with the multiplayer.
A few other modes exist -- Let's Get Fancy, Change Design and Write in Diary -- which are meant to customize and extend your experience, but they fall a bit flat. It's fun to dress up Mama, but the diary mode is incredibly bland.
Overall, Cooking Mama's biggest drawback is its repetitive nature. There may be 80 recipes to unlock, but between practicing, cooking with Mama and cooking as a different character, you'll end up creating the same dishes several times. Unfortunately, even with an increased difficulty level, the tasks aren't engaging enough to play over and over.
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