Review: Cooking Mama: World Kitchen (Nintendo Wii)

Cooking Mama: World Kitchen
Developer: Cooking Mama Ltd.
Publisher: Majesco
Genre: Simulation
Release Date; 11/18/2008

If there’s one thing the likes of Emeril and Rachael Ray have taught us, it’s that cooking can be entertaining. Maybe not for everyone, but there’s definitely an audience out there that likes to see how its done, picking up the little known tips, or even watching the masters simply do their thing through the good, bad, and even in the case of “Hell’s Kitchen” – Ugly!

But if there’s one thing long time gamers know, and my old collection of NES games can attest, its that anything that becomes even remotely popular – there’s going to be a video game release in its future.

Over the last couple years, cooking as a video game has found its market, and none have been more popular than Cooking Mama, which boasts sales of over 2.5 MILLION copies across multi-platforms. That’s right, 2.5 million copies of a COOKING genre, so there should be no surprise that the franchise has released a sequel to the original Ninteno Wii Cooking Mama, and this time we’re going on a “World Tour.”

1. Story/Modes

World Kitchen features three different, but very similar modes. You can “Cook with Mama” through several recipes ranging from Hamburgers to Desserts, and Mama and her adorable…or annoying depending on your tastes, Japenese/Broken English voice is there to provide encouragement through success and failure as you go along. The end result gives you a grade and some points and generally unlocks a new recipe to try out – even if you miserably fail, you’re still going to get rewarded, which seems a little strange.

“Let’s Cook” is essentially the same thing as “Cook with Mama” except a little boy or girl watches you cook of your shoulder, and apparently your goal is to impress them. I cooked a Hamburger with both Mama and “David” and everything was pretty much identical, except the end result, which without spoiling it for you – there’s really not much of a difference and its definitely not worth cooking twice if its your motivation to play.

The 3rd mode is a competition where you’ll perform a cooking task head-to-head against either a real life friend or a computer. This is where you can have some fun with friends, or it also provides an alternative to the other two extremely similar modes. But overall, there’s really not much to choose from to give the game any kind of longevity.

Story Rating: Mediocre

2. Graphics
Clean, smooth animation and “cute” graphics really fit the overall feel of the game. The characters are all unique, and you can create an animated version of yourself to take into the modes. There are more visually stunning games on the market to say the least, but for World Kitchen they just fit perfectly for what its trying to accomplish.

Graphics Rating: Great

3. Sound

This entirely boils down to whether or not you like Mama’s accent. Many will find it cute and love hearing her extremely limited English vocabulary, her sweet words and attempts at motivation. I reviewed Hell’s Kitchen about a month ago, and needless to say Mama is the anti-Gordon Ramsay. No matter how terrible you are, she still provides support. The music is light and appropriate, and like the graphics, the voices and sounds fit the feel of the game. No complaints here.

Sound Rating: Very Good

4. Control and Gameplay

World Kitchen is the ultimate remote waggler. You chop, slice flip, and toss the Wii-mote all over the place to get the cooking done, and while it’s a great concept, unfortunately the response can fall short. It reminds me of a WarioWare game where you’re in a frantic mode to learn the controls as you go..and basically that’s exactly how it happens. You get an indication of what to do at the bottom of the screen, but its very limited, and you never really seem to get your turning or chopping to react exactly how you’re imitating it with your hands and arms. I found myself getting really frustrated because I thought I was doing it exactly right, only to have the food fly at the screen – literally, its an effect of failure in this game and I failed often, and I don’t think I deserved it! Some motions do work better than others, but overall the whole control scheme needs to be a little more responsive for a game like this to truly be fun and not a chore.

Control Rating: Poor

5. Replayability

There aren’t a lot of options, so it simply comes down to if you find the very basic modes enjoyable. You can continue to unlock recipes, and the game doesn’t really advertise to be anything more than a “casual” game, so I don’t think this is something that’ll have many people going back to again and again.

Replayability: Poor

6. Balance

Very limited, and the extremely similar modes are obviously to blame. This is a “casual” game if there ever were such a thing and a very shallow one at that. Just sort of plow through all the recipes and then if you really feel like it, do the same ones over again.

Balance: Bad

7. Originality

Cooking Mama is a pretty unique franchise, so that gives it some definite points in this category. There are several cooking games on the market, and this franchise has been the most popular. However, this is a sequel, and calling it World Kitchen doesn’t really add a whole lot of new to the tried and true formula of the DS and previous Wii version

Originality: Decent

8. Addictiveness

Playing against a friend in some of the two-player modes can be fun, and if the controls were more responsive it could definitely help its cause. But overall, I don’t see a whole lot of people just dying to get through all the recipes, no matter how encouraging and nice Mama is to you. It’s a great concept, but the execution just needs more polish.

Addictiveness: Poor

9. Appeal

I’ve already mentioned the 2.5 million in sales, so there’s no doubt an audience. I think I found part of said audience in my 14-year old sister, who apparently owns the Nintendo DS version and was thrilled to see me bring this home to my parent’s house over the weekend. To keep the trend of this review going, despite her excitement, after about 20 minutes of playing she exclaimed “These controls are so friggin’ hard, I suck at this!” and just like that, the excitement, and need for her to continue playing, were gone. Some people may have to learn the hard way.

Appeal: Decent

10. Miscellaneous

I don’t think Cooking Mama: World Kitchen is the last we’ll see of the franchise on the Wii, and despite my critique of the game, I would be very interested in seeing a follow-up that polishes up the flaws of this version. There’s a market, a fan base, and while it doesn’t have a massive appeal, it still has more than enough to justify its existence as a franchise.

Miscellaneous: Good

The Scores
Story: Mediocre
Graphics: Great
Sound: Very Good
Control: Poor
Balance: Bad
Originality: Decent
Addictiveness: Poor
Appeal: Decent
Miscellaneous: Good

FINAL SCORE: MEDICORE GAME

Short Attention Span Summary

Cooking Mama has an audience, an “adorable” lead character with a cute accent, and a lot of recipes to try, but a lack of depth, extremely similar “modes”, and frustrating control response hold it back from being a lot of fun. This is the second game in the series on the Wii and it still has some growing to do, but I think there’s potential here for a fun franchise..its just not there yet.

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