Being someone who has little to no culinary skills, the idea of playing a game where you have to cook sounded more like a chore to me than anything else. Yet Cooking Mama’s premise is exactly that: you’re given a choice of recipes and then you work through preparation, mixing, frying, etc. The preparation stage involves cutting up ingredients, dicing them up or peeling items. You use the iPod or iPhone’s touch interface to mimic the motion in real life. In cooking stages, you’ll adjust the oven based on time-based instructions so it’s like a culinary version of Dance Dance Revolution. The range of motions gets more complicated like flipping things in a skillet or melting butter or sautéing onions.
Miss too many things and you’ll fail the stage. Fail too many stages and you’ll botch the recipe. There is an overall timer for each stage. Not completing the stage in time will also lead to failure. Completing a recipe will open up the opportunity to cook another recipe. For the most part, the steps in the recipes mirror what you would do in real life. However, don’t presume that you’ll learn something about cooking based on Cooking Mama. Once all the recipes are unlocked, though, there’s not much more to Cooking Mama. Downloadable content would have extended the lifetime of the game.
Cooking Mama is filled with a delightful sense of style. Mama herself is charming and the English dialogue matches its Japanese origins. All of the food is depicted in a cartoon manner and a pleasant musical score accompanies the game. The game translates nicely in terms of pacing for mobile gaming. Each stage doesn’t last for too long and finishing a recipe strikes the right balance of accomplishment and time spent completing it. Some of the stages when you first play the game are a bit unclear. Unfortunately, the stage progresses so quickly, you won’t figure out what to do until you replay it a few times. Kneading in a bowl was a tricky stage for me that way.
Cooking Mama will find fans on the Apple platform. For someone whose first idea of entertaining at a party is to hire a caterer or go out for dinner, I didn’t find playing the game a chore or boring. It has its own little micro challenges which add up to a decent game. The only limiting factor is the number of recipes included. Like my real life, cooking the same recipes day after day can get boring and eventually make you want to eat out.