In between gigs as a gardener, a crafter, and a babysitter, it’s time for Mama to get back to doing what she does best, cooking! Cooking Mama 5 is only the second game in the series to land on the 3DS, if you can believe it. They’re really starting to get smart about not over-saturating the marketplace with these things. That’s a good thing too. Cooking Mama 5 does nothing to innovate the series or even evolve the standard formula. It uses many of the same recipes and mini-games from the past, even as far back as the very first game. Basically, you know what you’re going to get. If you’re up for some more vegetable chopping and stylus-controlled craziness, you’ll more than likely make room in your collection for this one.
The primary mode for CM5 is the typical cooking mode. You pick a recipe, go through the steps, and try to make the best dish possible. When you complete a dish, you’re given a score and a medal based on your performance. You also unlock new recipes and mini-games to play. You also unlock recipes for play in the Dojo. The Dojo is like a challenge mode where you’re rewarded for clearing steps as quickly and as efficiently as possible.
Besides cooking, there are a host of other mini-games based on other tasks you might see around the house. These include gardening, crafting, studying, and serving. These mini-games stand alone, and your task is earn enough points to earn a victory medal. These mini-games are mostly reflex based, but several of them are basically puzzle games. For example, one mini-game tasks you with moving a toy car from across a bridge made from books that you must raise and lower. The trick is to do this as quickly as possible in order to get a good combo. Another puzzle has you filling in the blanks of math equations. While earlier problems might have you simply putting in the answer, later ones will ask you to put in multiple characters. These mini-games are fun diversions, but they’re really only worth a play or two each. You can’t adjust the difficulty, and the game only tracks your highest score.
When it comes to the presentation, you could easily be forgiven for confusing CM5 with any of the other Mama games. It uses the same graphics, the same music, and the same voice samples as every other Mama game I’ve played. This is kind of disappointing. For one, the graphics are very outdated. While the Fischer Price style objects have charm, the detail is lacking. It looks exactly like a regular old DS game. Even the 3D effect seems lacking. The only time the game really uses it is when an ingredient flies up onto the top screen. While this is amusing the first few times, the effects is overused and identical each time. Likewise, you can only hear “Wow! Even better than Mama!” so many times before it gets old. Mama really needs an update.
This game is all about using the stylus to perform various actions in the mini-games. You’ll swipe, draw, press, and spin your way through dozens of different tasks. In most cases, the game will give you a direction on how to proceed. A blue arrow means you need to swipe the stylus in that direction. A spiral means you need to draw circles. It’s rare that you won’t be able to figure out what to do.
The mini-games run the gamut of various kitchen activities. The most prevalent of these are chopping up veggies and cracking eggs. In fact, there are two different egg-cracking mini-games, simply because you’ll do it so often. Most mini-games are used multiple times across various sorts of recipes. However, some recipes have special unique games. For example, you’ll only need to spin pizza dough when you’re making pizza. What’s great is that you can practice each individual game/step at your leisure. This is important, as the instructions to some of the more complex mini-games aren’t always clear. If you need help figuring out how to stir fry, then all you need to do is practice a few times to get the timing down.
Recipes also vary greatly in how long they take to complete. You might see some as having only one step, while other will have over a dozen. Likewise, one mini-game could last a few seconds, while another could last a couple of minutes. There are plenty of longer recipes in this title. Many of them take around ten minutes to complete, unless you’ve completely mastered them. This makes going for the high score challenging.
Even if you rush through everything, the game is likely going to take you around ten hours to play through everything at least once. From there, the value the game offers comes from getting those gold medals and boosting your high score. While these tasks aren’t difficult per se, they do require a degree of focus in order to accomplish. As such, it’s not that unreasonable for a player to get sucked in trying to master the lasagna recipe.
For fans of the series, Cooking Mama 5 might seem like a no-brainer. However, the game doesn’t really do anything to move the series forward. In fact, the number of games and recipes that are reused is probably going to be a turn off. While the game is still fun and charming, it’s really only going to appeal to newer players. Fans will likely have just a good of experience playing an older game.
Short Attention Span Summary
Cooking Mama 5 follows the recipe to a tee. It uses the same tried and true gameplay, graphics, and sounds that the other games made famous. While this makes the overall game an enjoyable one, it certainly doesn’t do anything to dissuade series fatigue. If you’re really looking for a cooking simulation fix, this will fit the bill. If you were hoping for a newer, fresher Mama, then you’ll end up sorely disappointed.