505 Games – Cooking Mama review

Wii version of the hit DS game
Photo of 505 Games – Cooking Mama

A surprise hit on the Nintendo DS last year, Cooking Mama was tasty throwaway entertainment. Backed by a competitive price point, it’s the kind of open, accessible game that’s helped fuelled the Nintendo resurgence over the past few years.

Its move across to the Nintendo Wii, however, hasn’t been as plain sailing as it should have been. And that’s because while there are improvements – as you’d rightly expect – over the handheld iteration (although not many), it also adds some unwelcome flaws.

But we’re getting a little ahead of ourselves. Cooking Mama, as the name implies, is a game about cookery. Simply, you’re put in the kitchen and given a recipe. This recipe is sub-divided into a series of tasks you need to undertake to successfully make the dish required.

These tasks are mini-games, which generally involve gesticulation of the Wiimote, and cover rolling things, tossing a pan, grinding meat, chopping things up, can-opening and other little tasks. They’re fairly accessible at first, too, courtesy of lively presentation and the sheer fun that Cooking Mama appears to radiate.

Yet all isn’t well, and strangely it’s the Wii that’s at fault. There was a real precision to the control system on the Nintendo DS, with the precise stylus leaving you to play the game without having to battle it. That precision is simply lacking when you play with the Wiimote and the game often suffers for it.

For it can be frustrating to complete some of the seemingly simple tasks that Cooking Mama presents you with, and too often this simple, fun game gets mightily annoying. Worse, it feels unfair.

And what a pity this is, because the core game is unusual and enjoyable. When things do hang together, it’s the hoot the packaging makes it out to be, and there’s a real drive for your recipes to get a good assessment at the end of your cooking. There are plenty of recipes to tackle, too, and while the mini-games that make them up are very, very similar, the single player mode – if you can beat the controls – can be fun.

Where Cooking Mama earns its begrudging recommendation, though, is the split screen multi-player mode. Here you’ve got another human being battling the same frailties in the game, and that serves to make things much fairer and consequently much more enjoyable.

If you’re playing it alone, though, it has to be considered that the Wii translation is both uncomfortable and expensive (with the budget pricing policy of the DS edition not reflected here). It’s the kind of game that ultimately is sometimes good fun to play, but nowhere near as entertaining as it looks on the box.

Company: 505 Games

Good concept, so-so execution, but the whole enterprise is saved by a strong multiplayer mode.