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This is a fun and challenging cooking game with some authentic cooking techniques thrown in. The combination of Japanese visuals, real stylus cooking and of course Mama herself took me from skeptic to enthusiast in no time at all.
Having just endured the tedium of Imagine: Happy Cooking, Cooking Mama was like a breath of fresh air! I was quite curious as to how this would compare with its Wii counterpart Cooking Mama (and Cooking Mama 2), which I didn't enjoy all that much - finding it to tricky to perform the cooking tasks with the Wii-Mote and a generally confusing feel to the game.
The format is similar to the Wii but, as with most DS games, it uses a slightly simpler format, which here improves the game no end. What I like about Cooking Mama is that you have all the funky Japanese style look and feel of the game but you also get some proper cooking techniques to master as well. For example chopping an onion: you don't just chop it wily nily, you first cut it in half, remove the ends. Then make incisions down one side (without cutting all the way through), then turn round and slice - creating perfectly diced onions (or minced onions as the game likes to call them). This is exactly how I was taught to cut onions at catering college, and it's great to see a game (which is all it is at the end of the day) going for an authentic approach when it doesn't really need to.
This is exactly how I was taught to cut onions at catering college, and it's great to see a game going for an authentic approach when it doesn't really need to.
I found Cooking Mama DS had a good level of difficultly, keeping things both challenging and fun, I still haven't mastered how to sauté my ingredients in the right order without them burning, not sure what I am doing wrong there. Sadly Mama hasn't told me either! Quite a lot of the game is guess work, which for someone like me who likes to experiment in the kitchen - adds to the enjoyment.
There are recipes to cook from, or you can just practice. It's nice to be able to continue the recipe even if you fail one particular task. I also enjoyed working on my chopping, slicing and frying in the skills area. Making dumplings was fun; you add the filling, brush the edges with water then crimp the dumplings, again another authentic cooking touch to the game. This technique also applies to making 'meat pies' which after cooking them I realised were good old Cornish Pasties! . It gets you working hard with your DS stylus and there is quite a precise skill involved with a lot of the actions, like kneading or slicing. Chopping is great fun as you just tap away like crazy. I love the chunky chopping sound effects too, makes it feel really satisfying.
This technique also applies to making 'meat pies' which after cooking them I realised were good old Cornish Pasties!
There is a really nice part of the game where you have a pot of soup (or something similar) with a time bar at the bottom and with instructions, you have to follow each instruction as it passes - blow (literally) on the soup at the right time, turn the heat down, stir, and add some seasoning. It's tricky to get the timing right and the game gets harder and harder the more you do.
My only complaint is that there isn't all that much variation in the games and once you've done a few dishes and brushed up your cooking skills there isn't a lot more to do. I guess that is why they came up with Cooking Mama 2, definitely one I am going to have to try out to see if it manages to take the cooking challenges up a notch or two. As with many of these game the recipes to have a bit of a hybrid feel to them, being a strange conglomeration between east and west. This could cause interesting results in the part of the game where you get to combine dishes, I'm not sure how well many of the dishes would work together, but I guess it's up to Mama to pass judgment on that not me!
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