Cooking Mama Cook Off (Wii) – Review

Cooking Mama Cook Off - CoverThe first Cooking Mama game for the Nintendo DS was a nice short little stint that used the DS touchscreen well to simulate cooking; it wasn’t a must-have game, but after the intensity of games like Warioware, it was a nice chance of pace. The transition of the game to the Wii was pretty much a no-brainer; the Wii Remote would allow a wider range of actions than just what the DS would be able to provide while still sticking to the core gameplay. Unfortunately, Cooking Mama: Cook Off for the Wii, developed by Majesco and distributed by Taito, suffers from several problems in the transition from portable to console, and with the rather hefty price tag for the limited amount of game, it’s definitely a game to rent instead of to rush out and buy.

Gameplay: B+

Like the DS game, you play as “Mama’s helper” in the kitchen as you prepare 55 different recipes (though many are locked from the start). Each recipe has a number of steps (as simple as a couple of steps, some being 10 or more steps). For each step, you’re given a brief description of what the action you need to do with the Wii remote to complete the step. Most of these are similar in concept to the DS version; two examples include mixing dry/wet ingredients in a specific order, or stirring and adding elements to a hot dish on the stove, but all use the remote in some fashion. A few are new to the Wii version, such as tapping open an egg. Many tasks have helper guides during the task to demonstrate the motion or the button presses you need to complete the task right. You can also opt to practice any recipe to make sure you understand the instructions and get the motions and timing down. To this extent, the game is like a tame version of Warioware minigames.

Cooking Mama Cook Off - Typical Cooking ScreenThere’s a timer for every task, so the faster you finish, the more points you get, though if you fail to complete the task in the time allotted, you’ll get no points while Mama corrects the error so you can keep on playing through the recipe. Some tasks also have a quality-of-work score (eg, breaking too many eggs when trying just to crack them open). If you get a good enough score, you’ll get a bronze, silver, or gold medal for the recipe. But even just finishing a recipe will open up another for you to try, so you can progress and open up all the recipes rather quickly. The game also provides a tougher challenge mode for any recipe where you have no breaks between steps.

Cooking Mama Cook Off - Verses ModePart of the theme of the game is that the food is from cultures all around the globe (though primarily Asian, Western European, and American dishes), and completely some recipes unlocks them in a special “vs CPU” mode, played in split-screen (top and bottom halves). Each step is done by you and the computer, with a race to do the best job throughout all the steps. Some of the help that you’d normally get on the previous steps isn’t available here, so it definitely helps to have played through the main game to know basic steps. Though you may lose against the computer, you’ll be rewarded with a special object to place in the kitchen (used as the backgrounds on various screens), though ultimately you’ll want to try to best them all. The computer is by no means fast, though it tends to be perfect, so it’s basically a matter of being perfect just a bit faster than the computer. Of course, even better is that this verses gameplay can be done with a friend on the same console, which provides even more competition to see who’s the best virtual chef.

While the addition of the verses gameplay is great, the main gameplay suffers from a less-than-stellar use of the Wii remote. The controls are mostly intuitive, which is good, but they also seem to be very touchy feely, and some of the more advanced maneuvers aren’t easily pulled off. I will note that I had the same problem with SSX Blur in pulling off Ubertricks until I practiced quite a bit, but here, even with practice, there’s more a hard line between success and failure for some moves, mainly those that require more dramatic movements of the Wii remote. For example, the steps involving breaking an egg require moving the remote at a very specific speed; too slow barely cracks it, moving it too fast makes a mess. As a result, I found myself breaking a lot of eggs because my first swing would be too light, and the following swing would be a smasher. There’s other moves that don’t make the translation from DS to Wii that well: peeling vegetables is a prime example. Since now you’ve got to point instead of touching the screen directly, the separation between the remote and the screen can make it hard to drag the cursor straight down as needed for perfect peeling, so just like with egg breaking, I found myself failing a lot of the peeling tasks initially, and even with practice, I still have trouble pulling them off. I think if the game was just a tad more lenient in the motions of the remote, this game would have been a lot more fun and probably better than the DS game, but as it is, I think from gameplay alone I appreciate the DS version better.

Value/Replayability: C

When compared to the DS game, Cook Off has just the right amount of content – it’s still on the short side, easily taking no more than 5 hours to unlock all the recipes with more time to perfect them. But unfortunately, the game still is priced as a next generation Wii title ($50 USD), which is inarguably too much for such a short game. As the only special feature outside of the single player game is the two player co-op, buying this new is definitely not recommended.

Graphics: A-

One thing that does improve from the DS version to the Wii is the presentation. The game uses bright sprites for Mama and most of the menus, while all of the cooking action is done in reasonably simple but functional 3D elements. The splitscreen presentation for verses mode is also good that it’s still easy your side of the kitchen as you work. For what this game is, the graphics definitely work.

Audio: B-

Most of the audio is pretty good. The music is improved versions of the DS version so will be familiar to those that have played the first. The cooking sounds of the kitchen will also make your mouth water at times. But the oddest decision was Mama’s voice which, while in English, has an extremely heavily Japanese accent. I would think for English localization that they would have gone for a more American voice actress, because several of the lines are difficult to understand. This is, by far, the most glaring unexpected issue with the game.

Overall: B

The Wii conversion of Cooking Mama may have been a great addition to the Wii game list, but the game suffers from simple issues that likely could have been corrected without too much change. The controls, while generally intuitive, give very little leeway to the player and some actions normally done on the DS touchscreen just done work well as a Wii remote action, and the gameplay amount doesn’t support the next-gen console game price. The verses mode and improved graphics are nice, but it’s too little to displace the negatives. It’s still fun to some extent, but I’d definitely recommend renting this or waiting for used copies or sales to pick this one up.

2 Responses

  1. Cooking Mama Cook Off Review

    The transition of the game to the Wii was pretty much a no-brainer; the Wii Remote would allow a wider range of actions than just what the DS would be able to provide while still sticking to the core gameplay. Unfortunately, Cooking Mama: Cook Off for …

  2. A short comment just to say THANKS for the games post, this is exactly what I (used)
    to be on the lookout for!!

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