IGN Review of Cooking Mama
Anyone looking for intense action, over-the-top explosions, or nail-biting storylines, why the heck click on a link that says "Cooking Mama?" This Nintendo DS game has enjoyed a nice comfortable time on Japanese shelves due to its quirky not-for-the-hardcore game design, and Majesco, through its current partnership with Taito, has localized the title for the US crowd. It's a game that's nothing more than a series of challenges that tests your ability to follow instructions, but at the same time it's been designed in such a way that it really fits the whole idea of the Nintendo DS platform.
Cooking Mama isn't a cooking simulator, so don't expect it to teach you how to make some yummy dishes. It might have the side effect of giving you the idea of how particular meals are prepared, but it's doubtful that you can apply any skills learned in Cooking Mama to real world cooking.
The game is nothing more than a set of casually laid-out challenges where each "level" is a certain meal. It can be as simple as making instant ramen to something more involved like pork curry and rice. Each step in the recipe has been paired down into a touch-screen mini-game. Most are retardedly simple: slicing an onion on the lines, or quickly chopping chives, or shredding some garlic. The complex tasks are the ones you have to watch out for: cutting tough meats, weighing specific ingredients, saut?ing diced vegetables, or performing specific tasks in "rhythm." Even though most of the game is a simple matter of paying attention and following the instructions, the tougher techniques can turn a gold metal meal into a bronze medal yuckfest.
The big question: is any of this fun? Though the entirety of this game is simply doing what you're told as quickly as possible, it's actually an amusing game if you're not expecting much out of it. More importantly, though, it's been well-designed as a portable game, as the developers have given it a good "pick up and play" presentation: turn on the system, make a dish, get your rank, turn it off. All progress is saved, and the more dishes you complete the more that become available. So there's a discovery element to Cooking Mama: what sorts of dishes are hidden to unlock? It also has a bit of challenge due to a "margin of error" element -- as good as you are at following directions, there's that one portion that can screw up that important gold medal.
And as you add more recipes to the queue, you're also building up the skill set of mini-challenges that can be practiced and played outside of the cooking "game." Here, you can try and top the high score or go for the maximum, and if you pull off the top score possible it'll be noted with a nice, satisfying chef hat. For a simple set of touch screen challenges, the designers give the production a good amount of legs. A nice bang for the twenty bucks.
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