13 Jan, 2010

Cooking Mama 3 Review

DS Review | Come to mama.
Cooking: it's a mighty fine skill to have. It will remain useful and relevant to you for your entire life. You can impress your family and friends, and more importantly, you can keep your partner happy. And if you haven't got a partner, being a good cook will go a long way to getting you one, the way to the heart being through the stomach and all that. If you swear enough while you do it you might even net your own television show. Cooking is a fantastically complex art form infused with science, passion, diligence and creativity in equal measure.

So it's kind of a shame that Cooking Mama 3 doesn’t actually teach you how to cook. We concede that if you're a complete cooking invalid then Cooking Mama 3 might be a helpful aid to grasp the basics – turn the oven on to cook food, etc - but Cooking Mama 3's focus is on fun, bite-sized gameplay and not to serve as a practical tutorial.

The Cooking Mama series has quietly simmered away on both the Wii and Nintendo DS for a couple of years now, with a total of four titles appearing before this one. Cooking Mama 3 is the sequel to the two DS titles. It builds and improves upon the gameplay with new recipes and mini-games, adding a couple of (fairly useless) new modes but retaining the same essential experience.

You better clean that up before Mama gets angry. You won't like her when she's angry.

You better clean that up before Mama gets angry. You won't like her when she's angry.

The aim of Cooking Mama is to cook dishes by completing several mini-games in a row, each one representing an element of preparing the dish. Cooking Mama's main strength is in the number and diversity of these mini-games. There are over two hundred that you'll come across as you play the game, and though many are repeated variants, such as chopping up different kinds of vegetable, nearly all of them are on some level satisfying. Since the majority of the games are both basic and brief it's hard to get sick of any particular game. The ones that pop up most commonly, like chopping up an onion, tend to also be the shortest in length, so repetition isn't really an issue. Not all of the mini-games are strictly based around the act of cooking and preparing food, with mundane activities like cooking toast transformed into the challenge of catching the multiple pieces of toast flying out from the toaster and plummeting down the screen. It's simple, satisfying gameplay, with the stylus an able substitute for everything from a whisk to a frying pan.

How well you do at a mini-game depends on both speed and accuracy. If you don't make any mistakes and finish within the time limit, it's a gold medal for you. 'Even better than Mama!' says Mama, and oh, how you will beam with pride. If you can complete a mini-game fast enough you'll earn a bonus. Getting five bonuses will allow you to choose one of three spaces on a scratch card that will earn an item, usually something for Mama to wear or a new background.

Let's take you through one particular dish to give you an idea of what's happening here. We're going to make some delightful octopus dumplings, oh yes. First we have to clean the octopus with the stylus... chop off the tentacles with a clean swipe of the stylus and then cut those up by following the on-screen lines. Next is a bit of rapid shallot dicing by tapping the stylus to the screen as quickly as possible to mimic the movements of a knife. Next is a slow-reveal game where ingredients must be identified and then added to the bowl. After that is a slightly wonky mini-game in which you must trace the trajectory of a moving spatula with the stylus. Last but not least, we have to finish off our delicious octopus dumplings by squirting the right amount of batter into the tray for each dumpling by press the stylus down on the bag for the correct amount of time. Then wait for them to cook, flip them over by drawing mini horseshoes on each dumpling and voila, magnifique, and all those other French cooking words.

The perfect marshmallows. Mmmmm.

The perfect marshmallows. Mmmmm.

Cooking Mama 3 sports several modes though it's likely that you'll stick to the Cook With Mama and Let's Cook modes, which offer up the core experience of cooking dishes in order to unlock more dishes. Cook With Mama allows you the benefit of Mama's gentle guiding hand; you can make mistakes without actually failing the dish. You're also treated to a screen before each mini-game explaining in brief what you're meant to do (which in some cases is very helpful). Let's Cook is where the culinary auteurs will thrive, with Mama content to stand back and cheerlead (literally) while you cook up edible treasures all on your lonesome. There are no interspersing explanations in this mode, instead allowing you to jump from game to game directly. Very rarely is there the kind of frantic gameplay that you would get with something like WarioWare, but it's nonetheless the best way to play once you've gotten a grip on some of the more obtuse mini-games.

We did have a beef with a few of the mini-games, like one where you need to hook fish along a pole as close together as possible, but so much as touching one fish with another makes both go hurtling towards the ground. It seems out of touch and inconsistent with the simple, smart design shown in the other mini-games. A few of the stirring mini-games seem not to pick up the movements of the stylus as efficiently as they should, and there are also several mini-games that require you to blow into the microphone, usually to cool something down. Unfortunately unless your name is Gusty McBlowhard you'll need to get up close to the DS to make even the most robust exhalation register in-game. It's rather hard to peer at the bottom screen to see the effects of what you're doing when you've got your face in the DS. The mic simply isn't sensitive enough for this particular purpose.

New to Cooking Mama is the Shopping mode, a bizarrely infuriating game where you have to navigate a supermarket in order to collect grocery items. Blocking your path are shop assistants and other shoppers, who wander around with no apparent aim other than getting in your way. Running into them, which happens often because of the clumsy stylus controls and the predatorial habits of your fellow shoppers, forces you into a brief mini-game. The mini-games are decent enough – you'll be doing things like eating samples or knocking a woman's groceries back into her trolley. The problem is that beating the mini-game doesn't actually change your position relative to the NPC who caused it, making it incredibly easy to have the game set off again seconds after you just beat it. Aside from that, wandering around a grocery store to find steak and milk icons is just absolutely no fun to begin with. It's a joyless mode that will send you scurrying back to completing recipes faster than two-minute noodles. There's also a pointless Diary function that allows you to decorate pictures of food which is unlikely to appeal to most players, and a Cooking Contest mode that is unfortunately nothing like Iron Chef, but does allow you to tackle mini-games individually and try to rack up a good score.

Watch your fingers!

Watch your fingers!

Visually Cooking Mama 3 is simple, cute, and cartoony, with a Japanese aesthetic that is economic yet thoroughly charming. Being able to customize the colours and patterns on everything, down to what Mama is wearing (we would have really appreciated a Nigella Lawson skin for Mama but alas) is a nice touch. The music is appropriately cheerful and bouncy but will also fray your nerves the longer you spend in its company.

Cooking Mama 3 isn't a game with huge lifespan potential. Think of it as a one night stand with Mama. The time you have is relatively brief, but you'll enjoy it. Every time you beat a recipe you'll be greeted with a new one, and this process seems to go on forever, with more and more delicious dishes appearing on your to-do list. It does end eventually however (at around eighty) and once it does, there's not a great deal of reason to go back unless you just particularly enjoy the soothing process of making pumpkin gnocchi or crab cream croquettes.

Cooking Mama 3 stands tall as a charming collection of mini-games that are numerous, diverse and for the most part fun to play. But Cooking Mama is this and this only, making it a tasty gameplay snack but hardly a rich gameplay feast.
The Score
In this hectic video game world of killing aliens, zombies and enemy troops, sometimes it's nice to just cook a lasagna instead. 7
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

Related Cooking Mama 3 Content

New Cooking Mama 3 trailer
12 Nov, 2009 Hot Mama!
Cooking Mama 2 Review
01 Mar, 2008 Chop, dice and blend on your DS.
Cooking Mama 2 Review
29 Feb, 2008 Undercooked?
4 years ago
Time to get my cook on!
4 years ago
OMGF!! I am so excited about cooking via handheld shenanigans! this has to be the most ingenious use for the DS yet so far!
I can't wait until i get my hands on this title.
I am so suped up for this game!!

*re read with the exact opposite of what i wrote*
4 years ago
^ Me thinks Ugh is on Zarnoss's account....
4 years ago
Nah it's me but honestly i really can't get these games.

I cook and i go to the shops get some real ingredients and cook..mama style even!!

Kind of blows my mind these games exist.
4 years ago
Hey its the same as all those music games.

If you cant do it in real life and want to feel like you can - do it with much less effort virtually and feel good about yourself hehe
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  Pre-order or buy:
    PALGN recommends: www.Play-Asia.com

Australian Release Date:
  13/11/2009 (Confirmed)
Standard Retail Price:
  $69.95 AU
  All Interactive Entertainment
Year Made:

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