"Sit back, let the timer run out, and you will still end up with a perfectly presentable dish and one of 68 new recipes for your lack of effort. Doing well gets a good score, but Iím not really the kind of guy who calls up friends to brag about my delightfully moist, and letís not forget virtual, chocolate cake."
When I picked up the original Cooking Mama for the DS I expected a culinary showdown of Iron Chef proportions. I was set to dazzle the judges with my original techniques and daring combinations (a.k.a. my complete lack of actual skill). Instead, I ripped through a marathon of mini-games with no apparent goal besides the warm feeling of a job well done. The game was endearingly cute, but pointless. Cooking Mama 2: Dinner With Friends is not much more than a second helping, but it does have a little spice added to the mix.
Getting into the kitchen is as easy as starting the game and picking a recipe for one of the opening dishes, like pizza, apple pie, or corn soup. Mama guides you through the steps and on-screen arrows show you exactly how to manipulate the only utensil necessary Ė the stylus. If an apple needs peeling, swipe the skin off with a few downward strokes. When a fish needs to be filleted, just slide the knife along the dotted line. Cooking hasnít been this simple since the E-Z Bake Oven. So simple in fact, that you donít have to do anything.
Mama is a big-hearted pushover willing to pick up the slack for othersí incompetence. Donít worry if the oven gets set a few hundred degrees too high or more shell than egg gets into the mixing bowl, because ďMama will fix this.Ē Sit back, let the timer run out, and you will still end up with a perfectly presentable dish and one of 68 new recipes for your lack of effort. Doing well gets a good score, but Iím not really the kind of guy who calls up friends to brag about my delightfully moist, and letís not forget virtual, chocolate cake. For this reason, Iím glad that Dinner With Friends added a bonus system and updated game modes that pushed me to get faster and more precise with the stylus.
Each step of a recipe is timed, and quick preparation awards you with a bonus point. Collect five bonus points and Mama lets you choose a present. It might be a new recipe, a card with a picture of food on it (what?), or maybe a little something for Mama to wear. Perhaps the kids and hentai fans will get a kick out of her cheerleader outfit, but playing dress-up with Mama is too similar to the Bratz games for my taste. At least I can say I finally received a reward for all my time in the kitchen. I just need to figure out what these cards do, if anything at all.
After you get the hang of the basics, I suggest moving straight to Letís Cook mode. The gameplay is almost exactly the same, except Mama wonít be there to look over your shoulder and fix your mistakes. This time you will have to cook for the approval of her friends. Each step of a recipe moves seamlessly into the next, and failing to complete a single task means game over. I was hoping for a similar mode in which I could make my own concoctions, but Letís Cook still provides a decent challenge and the replay value Dinner With Friends needed.
The Cooking Contest mode is enjoyable if you have a friend to compete with, even though you wonít be preparing full meals. Instead, Cooking Contest is a series of timed mini-games to see who can make the most hamburger patties, cut the most corn from the cob, break the most eggs, and so on. Office Create was even kind enough to include four-person download-play. You can play Cooking Contest solo, but youíll have to be content with trying to beat your own records again and again.
If youíre looking for engaging plotlines, developing characters, or hard-fought victories, the Cooking Mama series is not for you. It thrives on overbearing adorability, quick accomplishments, and hopefully, the playerís drive to keep improving. At least the Letís Cook mode pulled me through a second day of Dinner With Friends, which is twice the time I spent with the original.
Staff review by Brian Rowe (December 01, 2007)
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