Apron on, hair tied back, I leant over my stewing curry, beads of sweat beginning to show on my forehead. This had to be perfect or I’d have to start the tedious cutting and dicing of onions and carrots from scratch. Excitement started to build while I listened to it quietly bubble. It turned a more satisfying brown. And then? Well then the battery in my DS died. Bummer. So now, here I am, reviewing Cooking Mama for the world to see rather than celebrating one of my last gold medals, so I hope you’re happy. I’m most certainly not.
The plot is fairly non-existent, as is to be expected from a casual game. But as with other casual games, it doesn’t require a plot in order to be enjoyable for a few hours, such as when you’re hanging around school with nothing to do while your other friends are in lessons. But I digress. You are, I can only assume, a student or child of ‘Mama’ who is being taught how to produce a strange array of meals from instant ramen to Salisbury steak. She teaches you these in small steps such as cutting your vegetables first and then starting the next step of dicing them. All of these steps are timed, which can be a pain in the arse at times, but you get used to them, I suppose.
In order to prepare and cook your food, you’re expected to constantly smash and scratch your touch screen while strangers around you look around with their eyebrows raised as if to say ‘who is that strange girl?’ and ‘what is she playing? Some type of torture game?’. So readers, I warn you now, do NOT play this game in a crowded room, on your own, when you’re brand new to the college you’re sat in. Slicing and dicing require you to follow dotted lines with your stylus, and tap the on-screen knife epeatedly before the time runs out. In other cases Mama asks you to estimate and measure how much rice or water you need to fill the pan up to the desired mark. After mixing or kneading these two things together by following the arrows that pop up, she allows you to turn up the heat and start cooking (wait, was that a lame joke or a literal description?). Cooking or stewing follows the same formula. Add ingredients, blow into microphone, stir, turn heat down, stir, turn heat up, finish. Okay, so maybe it’s not that every time, but I’m not here to tell you how to play the game, rather to assess how well you can play it. So basically, it’s great. As long as you remember the countless skills that you’re taught, it’s a flawless and pleasurable experience. But you’re in serious
trouble as soon as you screw something up. Mama’s once kind, motherly faces morphs into that of a demon. Her (quite literally) flaming eyes bore into your mind, ready to crop up in your worst nightmares. She then tells you to give up as she’ll fix the damn thing so that you can begin the next step. Whoa mama, chill, you’re scaring the little ones here.
The graphics, on a lighter note, are much more child-friendly and come in bright, welcoming colours. The game is very much cartoonised which allows the developers to make your cabbage bright green as opposed to the off-white colour speckled with dirt that you’d usually find in the garden. Even the fire in Mama’s eyes are cheerful reds and yellows, almost as if to welcome you to spend an eternity in the deathly glow. They’re definitely some of the best you’ll find on the original DS games.
The background music is rather soothing as it tries to keep you from throwing the console across the room during your moments of failure. So far, this has been successful. As mentioned in my first paragraph, the game also includes typical kitchen noises such as the boiling of liquids or ‘clunk’ of knives against the chopping board. These all work very well to make one of the first really immersive casual games which, needless to say, I’ve barely put down. Mama never actually speaks in game which no-one’s complaining about because if she did, no doubt she’d frighten as many children as this guy. Warning: don’t look if you hate clowns or Stephen King.
So basically, this game kept me as entertained as much as a rattle would a baby. Which, by the way, is a hell of a lot. But the battery has finally charged so I’m not going to waste any longer tapping the keys of a worn out laptop. To the kitchen!