I can’t cook. Period.
Okay, that may be an exaggeration, but really, I’m terrible at cooking. My ability stops at Hamburger Helper, and even then I have a bad habit of messing that up. So it may come as a surprise that I LOVE Cooking Mama. I borrowed the first game from CFD!’s EIC, Rob Thomas, out of boredom, and fell in love. However, by the second one, I found that the honeymoon was quite over. While I enjoyed playing it, it was the same old thing over and over again. Cutting up vegetables, stirring the pot… there was nothing new! No innovation! So I was wary when I heard that the third installment of the DS series was coming out. How did it fare? Well, you’ll have to click the jump to find out!
In a lot of ways, Cooking Mama 3 is the same as it ever was. You have recipes (around 80) that you select, performing each step under Mama’s watchful eye. She grades you after each step and you receive an overall grade at the end, which involves far too much confetti and sparkles. This is true for the third installment, so that much hasn’t changed. You still gain the stars that you collected in Cooking Mama 2: Dinner With Friends for doing things extremely fast, though this time they result in you getting a scratch card instead of opening presents. You can get stickers or rare items for Mama. You can also cook for friends like in the 2nd game and create diary entries that you decorate with your stickers.
So at this point I’m sure you’re thinking, “Okay Aubrey, I get it. It’s the same game. END REVIEW!’. Well, hold your horses, cowboy, cause I ain’t done yet. Majesco decided to throw us a curve ball and… actually add some new stuff!
The most noticeable change is the addition of new minigames. As I stated earlier, the first two games were a lot of chopping up vegetables with a few different minigames here and there. However, you definitely don’t get that feeling with Shop & Chop. Chopping vegetables is now done in a couple of ways; you have your normal tap-to-chop, but now you also have one where you are given a length to chop and you must match that length or the piece you just cut goes flying. Instead of the occasional situational minigame, there are many more unique recipes that require these one-of-a-kind games, which definitely brings some nice variety. New games, like hanging things up to dry out, offer new challenges which can sometimes (but not often) be frustrating. I know it took me a little while before getting a feel for the hanging game, as when you bump into one of the other hanging objects, you knock it down. All of the games are easy to understand, and you never feel like you don’t know what you’re doing.
With the addition of these new minigames also comes two new play modes. The first is the Let’s Match game, which gives you a selection of eight ingredients. You select two and “combine” them, which allows you to play through a mystery recipe, the outcome of which is revealed when you finish it. After that, you’ll always know the identity of what that combination makes, but you can go back and replay through past recipes any time. While this is a welcome break from the normal gameplay, it really doesn’t offer anything different. While you’ll be curious the first time around as to what some of these strange concoctions could make, that curiosity will be gone once you’ve done all of them.
However, if you’d really like a break from all the cooking (though you’d have to wonder if that’s the case, why did you buy a game called Cooking Mama?), then there’s always the other new mode, Let’s Shop. You play as one of Mama’s friends, given a list of items she needs. You’re then plunged into the chaos that is the grocery store, which is just as nerve wracking as it is in real life. Shoppers speed around the map as you try to collect objects scattered around the store. If you bump into one of the other shoppers, you may be forced to play a short minigame, or you simply lose a life. If you lose all three lives, then you’re done; the shopping trip is over and you go home empty handed. Mama’s lists get increasingly difficult with more items and larger stores, but luckily there’s no time limit. Man, we’d really be screwed then. This mode is a lot of fun, if a little challenging, and gives you a nice break from cooking. You’ll find yourself hellbent on collecting all the items, going back again and again if you keep failing (which is very easy to do).
Overall, Cooking Mama 3: Shop & Chop is a bit of fresh air in the franchise. The game doesn’t seem as repetitive as its predecessors, and the new modes add a bit of substance where it’s desperately needed. Cooking Mama, while far from perfect, is still as fun as always and a welcome addition to the series. Here’s hoping that Majesco takes these innovations and runs with them from now on.
Things We Liked: New minigames refreshes stale gameplay. Let’s Shop is a fun break from cooking.
Things We Disliked: Let’s Match is boring and just cooking behind another mask. New minigames can be frustrating at times.
Target Audience: Anyone who enjoys cooking or minigames.
(Cooking Mama 3: Shop & Chop – Developer: Taito Corporation. Publisher: Majesco. Available on Nintendo DS. Unfamiliar with CFD!’s review system? Read our newly revised explanation here.)