Publisher: Majesco Games
Developer: Cooking Mama
Release Date: November 18, 2008
It's hard to imagine that some everyday activities we take for granted can become the basis for some great gaming experiences. Two years ago, Majesco Games introduced the world of Cooking Mama to the Nintendo DS. Using cooking as the complete premise for the game, it became a huge hit, thanks to the fun ways the touch-screen was used to chop items and prepare tasty dishes. A year later, Cooking Mama: Cook-Off was released to the Nintendo Wii with similar results, this time adding in more recipes to work with as well as two-player competitive multiplayer. After another successful run on the Nintendo DS, Majesco Games brings the franchise back to the Wii with Cooking Mama: World Kitchen, a title with a few more noticeable differences in some game mechanics.
The premise of the single-player game remains largely unchanged. Using your Wiimote as the universal kitchen utensil, you try to create over 50 different recipes from all over the world. Recipes range from hamburgers to seafood dishes. At the end of a recipe, the player gets graded on how well he performed each task, and once the grade is given, a new recipe is unlocked, no matter how well or poorly he did. The competitive multiplayer mode also follows the same premise as the single-player mode, with each player cooking the same recipe and fighting for the best grade possible.
There are a few new gameplay changes in World Kitchen. First off, the user can create an avatar to do all of the cooking. After choosing a boy or girl, the user can select hairstyle, color and outfit colors before setting forth on his cooking adventure. There aren't really a lot of choices after that, but at least it's nice to see the food being cooked by someone instead of an invisible entity.
During the cooking, there will be times when you'll mess up. Depending on what step is being performed, a mini-game will begin, and you'll get to control Mama as she tries to save the recipe in several different, and sometimes ludicrous, ways. For example, if a piece of bacon is flipped up too high, Mama will take flight as she tries to jump higher in order to retrieve the flying meat. Another example is when the bread you're pulsing into breadcrumbs goes flying away from your hands. Mama will go into a catcher's stance and catch the bread as if it were a fastball. Not every slip-up will trigger a mini-game, however, so finding one in any recipe will be interesting. It's kind of a cool addition to the game, especially for people who don't tend to excel in the game right away, but it somehow doesn't feel out of place.
Finally, World Kitchen has added a co-op mode for this year's version. Unlike the versus mode, however, players will not be completing full recipes with their friends. Instead, two players (or one player and a CPU assistant) try to go through at least 20 different cooking techniques that are completely unrelated. For example, one cooking technique has you making mochi by having one player knead the dough while the other player hammers it out. Other techniques simply have you doing some of the single-player tasks, such as dipping éclairs in chocolate, in tandem with a friend. Like the competitive mode, the co-op mode is quite fun with a friend, though it would have felt much better to be able to complete full recipes instead of just parts of recipes that don't end up being a complete dish.
Like the previous Wii title, the controls are good but not completely spot-on. All of the actions are handled fairly well by the Wiimote. Aside from of the menus, you hardly need to point the controller at the screen because all of the game motions require you to hold it like a remote, handle or stick. World Kitchen is responsive whenever you move in the six primary directions (toward, away, left, right, up down), although twisting motions sometimes take a while to register. This time around, some of the actions have a meter so you'll have to time the movement on-screen to match the given icon in order to achieve the most successful results. Things like egg-breaking, which was difficult to do accurately, are made much easier thanks to the meter. Some activities, such as food flipping, also make use of the meter, so they become a bit easier to deal with. Unfortunately, some of the activities are still difficult to get right for no apparent reason. Lettuce tearing, for example, simply has you turning the lettuce and peeling off the perfect leaf. Oddly enough, though, getting the perfect leaf was hit-and-miss, since sometimes the perfect tear would happen and, on the next turn with the exact same motion, the tear would come up a little short.
The graphics in World Kitchen have definitely been improved over the last title. The biggest jump the game has made is the full move to 3-D for the ingredients and characters, including Mama. The art style is the same as the 2-D version, however, so the familiarity of Mama and the kitchen is still there. The game's bright colors help accentuate the cartoon shading of the graphics, making it pleasing to the eyes. While it looks good in standard definition, it suffers a bit for players in high definition. The game doesn't support widescreen and is displayed in 480i, showing no anti-aliasing on the thick character lines and making the screen a bit blurrier.
The sound is good, though a bit quirky, and the music remains very casual. The sound effects haven't changed all that much, so everything sounds appropriate enough for the kitchen. Every tune makes you feel happy and bouncy, even though you might be cutting onions or using a meat slicer. It works, but don't be surprised if you forget about the music altogether while you're playing. The created characters now have voices and, for the most part, they're mediocre. Not only are they forgettable to slightly annoying, but they also never seem happy with themselves unless you start scoring gold medals on each recipe task. Having your character ask if he or she was meant to cook after scoring a silver medal for making hamburger patties isn't exactly the most encouraging thing to hear. Luckily, Mama's voice is exactly as you remember it from previous titles. The same voice actor comes back to voice Mama, and you can tell that she tried improving her speech this time around. The attempts at speaking English with a thick Japanese accent help give Mama some personality. You can't help but smile anytime you hear Mama say that you're better than her or that everything will be all right because she'll help you out.
Cooking Mama: World Kitchen is a worthy successor to the prior Wii title. It brings back the familiarity and adds new things for the players to try. Co-op was a much-needed mode, and the graphics received a boost, preventing critics from simply calling it a port of the Nintendo DS game. It still needs some improvements in the controls, and it doesn't offer a deeper single-player experience like its counterpart, Order Up. Still, fans of the original and those curious to try the series will find that this version of the game does not disappoint.