What’s Cooking Mama?
Cooking Mama 4, aka Cooking Mama 4: Kitchen Magic! in the US, by 505 Games marks the series’ first appearance on the Nintendo 3DS. Join the cute Cooking Mama digital chef to help her create various dishes from around the world in a series of mini games using the Nintendo 3DS touch screen.
Cooking Mama 4 is split up into five sections and will see the player using the Nintendo stlyus to chop vegetables, slice meat, flip food in frying pans and arrange the outcome onto a plate. Much like the previous Mama games, gameplay consists of choosing a recipe and then going through the various stages of preparation using the top screen for guidance and involving rhythm and replication in the bottom screen to simulate cooking skills. If you’re familiar with the series from Cooking Mama, you’ve probably got a fair idea of what is expected from you within the game.
Let’s Cook involves various cooking skills to master and a number of dishes to try these skills out on. There are 200 mini games with this title and enough cooking recipes to keep you occupied for a fair amount of time. Each aspect of a meal will have a time limit and a certain amount of patience will be required. You’ll be rewarded by your efforts and progress through Mama with a series of awards such as bronze, silver and gold medals, depending on how well you’ve made the selected dish. The game allows you to practice beforehand, so you can get familiar with the controls of the mini game before trying to impress Mama. You’ll receive a star everytime your cooking goes well, collect 3 stars to earn a special bonus from Mama.
I won’t go into detail on each dish, but I have to mention some of my favourites from the game. If you’ve ever fancied yourself as a bit of a Baker, then try your hand at Cooking Mama cookies, pastry shaped Cooking Mama heads. First of all you’re invited to come into the kitchen and carefully touch the sieve to sift flour. Be careful or else the flour will go everywhere. If you do happen to spill it, the 3DS screen becomes completely covered in flour and you have to blow into the 3DS microphone in order to blow the flour remains away. Eggs are same, if you try and tap them too hard against the bowl, they completely smash and turn your 3DS screen yellow as trails of egg remnants come oozing down, and Cooking Mama gives a disheartening frown, not her usual wonderful smile. Once you’ve used the piping bag to give her a sad or elated smiley face, the cookies are placed in the oven until golden and brown.
The game allows you to experiment with loads of new ways to interact with cooking in the kitchen. Everything from baking a cake with pretty Cooking Mama decorations and candles, to grabbing a crab and pulling it’s claws off to make Wonton. Some of the recipes require you to cook recipes with certain ingredients, weights and cooking requirements, while others may have you carefully chopping up vegetables or frying up meat. At the end of each meal objective, you’ll be graded and will receive a special present from Mama in the form of a heart shaped box. These gifts can be additional items for Mama to wear, new recipes or various items for the kitchen. The more recipes you cook and prepare, the further you can progress with new unlockable recipes in the future. Try your hand at everything to help Mama in the kitchen, because new items and gifts are unlocked all the time. Once you’ve had some practice in the kitchen, you might want to try your hand at helping Mama with daily routines around the home.
Let’s Help! enables players to indulge in other household tasks around the home. This time you can use the vacuum cleaner to clean up dirt, while trying to avoid objects that may get in the way. Touching each arm of the first person vacuum cleaner allows you to hoover up dirt from the left to the right side of the screen. If hoovering isn’t your thing, then try your hand at putting a bunch of toys away in the toy box, but don’t allow them to drop to the floor. They kind of come flying out from nowhere, but frantically tapping the screen on the toy sends them in the right direction. Other times you’ll be cleaning and washing dutch ovens. All the helping tasks are performed in a time limit and you’re awarded with points.
The creativity doesn’t stop there as you can choose what outfit Mama wears from a colourful selection such as sailor suits or pretty aprons. You can even customise her look by placing earrings on her or getting her to wear glasses. New outfits are unlocked throughout the game for you to choose from. There’s also the chance to select different colours for the kitchen utensils, for a more personal feel, and there are a variety of vibrant wallpapers and interior kitchen worktops and furnishings to select from to keep your kitchen up to date and pretty.
In Let’s combine, you can take the recipes you’ve cooked and unlocked and combine them with other ingredients to make something new. This section allows you to really show your creative side with some wild and wacky combinations to create, but the gameplay remains the same as the main game, taking a little of the shine off this creative cooking.
There will always be a place for Mama in the hearts of younger and more casual gamers, but Cooking Mama 4’s real fault lies in the fact that the format has changed very little over the years. More recipes, more customisation and more mini games, but the overall formula remains more or less as it was in the first Mama game.
The use of 3D in the game is something that I am not really sure about. The majority of the game is simply in 2D, which makes absolutely no use of the 3DS’ main feature. Occasionaly the player will be rewarded with a 3D animation, which is quite nice. I can understand why the developers didn’t want to go full 3D, this is a game for the younger gamers after all, but I can’t help but feel that they missed a trick here.
However, after spending some time in the kitchen and finding the game difficult to put down, I can happily say that Cooking Mama 4 is still a ‘Vonderful’ game, even without the awesome accent, that is perfectly suited for aspiring Mama’s and lovers of mini games.