Cooking Mama: Cook Off Review

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Publisher: Majesco
Developer: Office Create

Platform: Wii
Reviewed on Wii

"Mama says you're now big enough to cook your own food! I'll teach you to prepare delicious dishes from 10 different nations. Then you'll put your skills to the test and cook off against a friend. Ready to show Mama what you're made of?"

Kyle Ackerman

Your mother may be the kindest of souls, happy to provide gentle guidance. Perhaps when she first introduced you to the kitchen she helped you avoid burning your eggs and remade the cakes you burned. That's Cooking Mama... almost. Cooking Mama wants you to succeed in the kitchen, and is happy to admit when you've made something even "better than Mama." But make a mistake, perhaps going through a dozen eggs just to properly crack one into the bowl, and Cooking Mama's eyes burn with fiery rage as she redoes your failed preparations.

Cooking Mama: Cook Off is a collection of mini-games masquerading as food preparation, with the Wii remote serving as a universal kitchen appliance and Cooking Mama playing the role of instructor and taskmaster. As in the DS game Cooking Mama, all the minutiae of making food become games. Slicing pasta, filleting fish, cracking eggs, stir frying, or filling puffs with cream are all tasks for the Wii remote – do the right motions in the a few seconds available and you can cook as well as Cooking Mama. Complicated dishes may culminate in a frenzy of stirring, adjusting the stove's heat and adding last-minute ingredients.

Most of the games involve quickly responding to visual cues by rapidly shaking, moving, spinning or aiming the Wii remote. There are a few mini-games like assembling skewers that involve basic memory activities, or like frying, that require a little practice to get cooking times just right. Still, the main difference between Cooking Mama: Cook Off and the first Cooking Mama is that the Wii version can be exhausting. Swinging the Wii remote around is just plain a lot harder than manipulating the DS stylus. It's also Cooking Mama: Cook Off's main problem. Cooking Mama: Cook Off doesn't use the Wii remote as well as its predecessor used the stylus.

For many activities, the Wii remote works perfectly. It's easy to open a can, fan the barbeque's fire or dice vegetables. Other tasks are difficult because of the interface, even after tons of practice. Cracking eggs or pulling the head off a shrimp are hard. Using the Wii remote as a rolling pin to smooth out dough is nearly impossible. The problem has to be with Cooking Mama: Cook Off, because other games manage to perfectly implement the same motions.

Another issue with Cooking Mama: Cook Off is that the whole cooking thing wears thin. At its core, Cooking Mama: Cook Off isn't really any different from, say, WarioWare Smooth Moves. But there's something less satisfying about chopping vegetables than the lighthearted absurdity of Wario and his friends. It might help if there were some story or greater goal encompassing the cooking, but there isn't. You simply make recipe after recipe until you've unlocked every dish. Then it's just a matter of revisiting previously completed recipes to beat your previous scores or fill your kitchen with trinkets... and do better than Mama.

The colorful visuals are bright and appealing, and the instructions are only occasionally cryptic, but after extended play, the "mushy" controls can move Cooking Mama: Cook Off from fun to frustrating. Even so, this isn't a game that was meant to be played for hours on end. Cooking Mama: Cook Off should be pulled out at a party and kept on for only a few dishes. As a party game, it works, and the ability for two players to cook competitively (I think of it as "Iron Cooking Mama") keeps things entertaining for groups. Ultimately, Cooking Mama: Cook Off has all the fun of food preparation with none of the hassle of either cleaning up or eating.

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This page contains a single entry by Editor published on April 17, 2007 2:10 PM.

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