Cooking Mama Review

Cooking Mama has been released for the Wii and the Nintendo DS with existing sequels, and it has also now made its debut on the iPhone. The goal of the game is simple, as the title suggests: cook a recipe by following through on mini-games. Whilst it offers good value on consoles, we’re afraid that the same cannot be said about Cooking Mama for the iPhone.

Cooking Mama is priced at a hefty $6.99, pricey compared to other, higher-quality games like Topple 2 ($2.99) and Fieldrunners ($4.99). Of course, some games are indeed worth $5 or more, but Cooking Mama is not one of them. The console versions are packed with 70 different recipes, but the iPhone version only has a meager 15, which works out to be nearly 50 cents apiece.

Cooking Mama has two modes, a “Competition” mode and a “Cooking” mode. The Cooking mode offers different recipes to choose from, where you have to complete a series of mini-games to prepare the dish. Most recipes involve about five mini-games that are appropriate for the recipe. The Competition mode is simply a list of the mini-games for you to practice on, and in our opinion, offers no real additional value.

Each of Cooking Mama’s mini-games are simple and easy to pick up. They are similar to WarioWare for the Nintendo DS, working to use up most of the iPhone’s functionality. The accelerometer is used creatively when cracking an egg (hitting), flipping a pan (upward), shaping dough (shaking), and the touchscreen is used for various actions like cutting vegetables and spreading sauce (drawing). The mini-games are pretty unique, and they provide some insight into how powerful the iPhone can really be as a gaming device.

Cooking Mama is a hyper-casual offering that is clearly aimed at younger and inexperienced gamers first. The graphics are very well-drawn and pretty cartoonish. Most of the mini-games are a laugh. A timer exists to add difficulty, but we could easily complete the mini-games before half the time is used up. With only 15 different recipes, the game’s not good for much play time–only a few hours’ worth in our experience.

Further, unlike the console versions, there’s no way to combine recipes, leading to very poor replayability. The fact that the mini-games are already repeated across the recipes lead to the problem that finishing the game would have already led you through playing each mini-game quite a few times. We had no desire to replay the mini-games, as there is no high score to reach–it only takes two or three tries before you get the “Very Good” rating, the best available in the game. Only two or three mini-games have an open-ended, high-score-like system, but they’re over in a few seconds and get old pretty fast.

The bottom line on Cooking Mama is that it simply under-delivers. There’s just too few recipes, and no room for creativity. You can’t mix mini-games to unlock new recipes, which cuts out a lot of value and fun. It would take a big update to fix these concerns by adding modes and recipes. So, Cooking Mama might be enough to distract your kid on the bus, but don’t expect it to be the next addictive Bejeweled.

Editor’s Note: Spencer Thang won Runner-Up in our User Reviews Contest under the name tsj5j. Congrats Spencer!

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