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Cooking Mama 3 takes us back to the kitchen minigames on the Nintendo DS. 80 new recipes, additional ingredients and a host of places to shop create fresh dishes and some great multiplayer cooking modes. The cartoon graphics persist through the six game challenges including the beginner friendly Let's Cook, and expert challenge Let's Eat modes. The stylus becomes your utensil as you chop, whiz, sprinkle, and tap your way through the 200 cooking different mini-games. Admittedly this is more of the same maybe, but in this case no bad thing.
I was a little unsure of the whole Cooking Mama idea at first. Maybe it was being married to a trained Chef, but it seemed odd to create a game so far removed from real life recipes and ingredients. But I soon realised this was missing the point. Cooking Mama isn't about teaching us to cook, or improving our culinary knowledge, it's about fun, frantic minigames. This, it delivers.
Those that have followed the series will know it has seen similar success on both the Nintendo DS and Wii, as well as a recent diversification outside with Gardening Mama. The DS however is the game's spiritual home and where it simply works the best. The tactile taps, swipes and circles created with the stylus make the whole experience feel much more connected to the action. The simple, bright visuals also suite the DS's diminutive dimensions and dual screens.
Cooking Mama 3 doesn't reinvent the wheel - and that's a good thing in my book. The same solid gameplay and quirky Japanese visuals quickly draw you into the experience. This time around we have an expanded recipe book with an impressive 80 new recipes - Eggs Benedict, Tulip Chicken, and Pumpkin Gnocchi to name a few. To accommodate this the game provides a range of new ingredients and places to shop.
These recipes are then spread through the six different play modes. Let's Cook is great for novices as even if you make mistakes the game ensures you still get to the end of the recipe. Let's Eat is more for experts as you have to perfect each stage without help. The resulting dish is then rated by a set of fussy in-game friends. Combine and Create is available when you've been playing for some time, it's an opportunity to combine steps and ingredients from different recipes and come up with original concoctions. Let's Shop has you heading out to the shops to collect the ingredients and equipment you need to prepare the next dish. Time Challenge is, as the name suggests a timed cook-off against 3 friends using local Wi-fi play. Picture Diary rounds things off as a place to collect pictures of your favourite dishes.
Much of this may be seen as tweaking the formula rather than bringing anything new to the table, but this is no bad thing based on the quality of the previous games. Attention has been well spent though. This release sports a gentler progression which is particularly good for younger or novice players. Whereas previously the challenges soon got out of hand, the Let's Cook mode ensures help is always on hand.
Along with the steady increase of difficulty my family really enjoyed the multiplayer mode. It was great fun on rainy Sunday afternoons to bunker down in the lounge and see who could score a recipe the highest in the shortest time. For us, it is these collaborative and competitive modes that add the most value to the purchase.
Cooking Mama 3 sticks to what it does best and offers one of the best minigame collections on the DS. The attention to detail, joyful approach to cooking as well as multiplayer modes make this well worth buying. Even those that have the previous outings will find plenty of new content on offer here, providing they want more of the same kitchen fun.
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