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Cooking Mama

For: Mobile   Also on: DS

A recipe for success

Product: Cooking Mama | Publisher: Taito | Format: Mobile | Genre: Casual | Players: 1 | Format: J2ME | File size: 250KB | Reviewed on: K750 other handsets | Version: Europe
Cooking Mama Mobile, thumbnail 1
The bods at Square Enix know how to set themselves a mighty task. Cooking Mama is a game that made superb use of both the DS (and Wii's) unique control system for what would otherwise be a mixture of quite basic mini-games.

So now we have the mobile version; further reduced from the original Japanese release to accommodate the eclectic mixture of handsets that populate the western market. It's therefore borderline astounding that the, er, raw ingredients that made each incarnation of this game so successful have been fully retained.

Naturally there's no stylus (or Wiimote) to add that distinctive player interactivity to the action, but the vigorous, dynamic nature of play is still very much at hand. Adopting the same manga-based meal preparation style of gameplay, Cooking Mama mobile sets players a progression of small culinary tasks that build up to a finished meal.

In lieu of the touch-sensitive control systems, the keypad and directional thumb-stick have been put to excellent use. Instead of choosing an ingredient with a stab of the pointer, you must now remember which number is associated with which item. In the heat of catering action, this system feels remarkably similar to the one seen on the DS, and the tense kitchen antics sizzle with the exactly the same kind of exciting gameplay.

Chopping and stirring feel, at first, considerably less accurate than grabbing at the number keys for the next ingredient; until you see someone else playing the same level.

The required thumbing motions actually represented the onscreen action remarkably well, with the handset becoming an involuntary mimic of a wooden spoon, frying pan and paring knife. Without players even being particularly aware of it, the physical actions mirror the cooking techniques very organically – drawing virtual chefs into the gameplay in a very real way.

And there's no shortage of recipes for the mobile chef to test themselves against. As with the DS version, many of these are based around a Japanese (or Far Eastern, at least) kitchen, though this is certainly no criticism. The bite-sized, stir-fried, delicately prepared cuisine of the Far East makes for an easy and entertaining micro-screen interpretation.

The recipes that form the essential core of gameplay are so well defined there's a distinct temptation to actually try out some of these dishes in real life. Surely there's no higher accolade for a game based on cultivating virtual cooking skills?

The Japanese are quite ahead of us in terms of game equipped handsets, many of which boast motion sensitivity (although a few are starting to filter through to the West). Should Cooking Mama be adapted to cater for these dynamic handsets, as Glu's Get Cookin' is, we'll have a game that buries the DS version in a distinctly shallow grave.

No news on this front as yet, and we may have to wait for a sequel before there is any, but keep your fingers and eyes crossed until Taito meets that particular challenge.

For the time being, it's the simple yet superb gameplay of the mobile realisation of Cooking Mama that will make it such a resounding success; retaining the wonderfully tactile sensation that elevates this franchise above the typical mini-game collective.

Coupled with the significantly reduced cost of the mobile game, Cooking Mama is a definite contender for this year's must-have pocket game. There's simply no reason a casual mobile gaming fan would look anywhere else for a few hours of dynamic, escapist entertainment.
Cooking Mama
Reviewer photo
Spanner Spencer | 27 June 2008
This version proves that Cooking Mama isn't dependent of Nintendo's unique control systems, and brings mobile gaming in league with handheld consoles
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