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Cooking Mama: Sweet Shop

Platform(s): Nintendo 3DS
Genre: Casual
Publisher: Rising Star Games
Developer: Office Create
Release Date: May 18, 2017

About Brian Dumlao

After spending several years doing QA for games, I took the next logical step: critiquing them. Even though the Xbox One is my preferred weapon of choice, I'll play and review just about any game from any genre on any system.


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3DS Review - 'Cooking Mama: Sweet Shop'

by Brian Dumlao on June 28, 2017 @ 3:30 a.m. PDT

In Cooking Mama: Sweet Shop players make and create a wide assortment of delicious looking sweets and puddings, and serve customers in the shop to keep them happy!

Buy Cooking Mama: Sweet Shop

When the original Nintendo DS was released and people started to come to grips with stylus-controlled gaming, a title that eased them into this new method was Cooking Mama. It was quaint, as several simple minigames were enough to create both simple and elaborate meals. It was an oddity, but it was fun, and the series would end up becoming a long-running staple that eventually spawned spin-offs, where the titular Mama tended gardens or cared for pets. More than a decade later, the Cooking Mama franchise is still alive and well, even if the releases on the 3DS weren't as prolific as they were on the original DS. The latest game to hit is Cooking Mama: Sweet Shop, a title that was originally released in Japan three years ago.

If you've played any of the previous entries, you know exactly what to expect from this one. For everyone else, the concept is easy to pick up. You select the dish you want to make, which are all desserts and confectionaries for this entry. Once that's done, you go through the steps of making the dish. Each step is represented by a minigame, such as mixing the batter, flattening the dough, or cutting up the fruit. Some dishes let you decorate them once they're completed, and you can take photos of your creations, but overall, completing dishes grants you access to another dish you can then create, and there are 60 different items in total.

When you consider how touch-based gaming is now a well-known commodity, the actions feel natural compared to the initial incarnation. It means that lapsed fans can easily jump into this game and immediately come to grips with the controls. This iteration seems intended for series newcomers and younger gamers. The timers for each minigame are very long, so you can go slowly and still complete the task at hand. The judgment of each task is lax enough that it won't be difficult for veterans to get a gold medal, and it takes a lot of effort to fail a minigame. Mistakes only add an extra step to the minigame, such as blowing at the microphone to wipe away powdered sugar or dragging the stylus across the screen to wipe away splattered batter. Even if you completely mess up a step, the final result still looks perfect, so the sense of failure is fleeting unless you look at your medal color or scoreboard. As such, time is your only roadblock to opening up new recipes.

Completing recipes has a purpose now, as the completed goods can be displayed in your shop. Customers can come in and buy those treats. There's an inexhaustible amount of your stock, so making one treat means never having to make the same one again. The cash you get for each sale gives you the ability to change some aesthetics for the shop, the picture frames that surround your food photographs, or Mama's garb.

It sounds like a fine idea, but it's actually rather dull to tend to your shop. You wait while customers shuffle in and out and wander around until they hold up a box next to the treat they want, indicating they're ready to pay. You tap to collect the money, and that's about it. The whole thing serves a purpose, but it's pretty tedious, so you're likely to stick to cooking and avoid tending to your shop.

Alas, you'll need to man the store if you want everything unlocked. Every now and then, a businesswoman will come by, and if you have the item she's looking for, she'll open up a shop that specializes in that treat. That unlocks a different set of minigames, where high scores are the objective. They're fun enough, even if they're only a little more challenging than the regular recipes, but the scores don't provide much satisfaction since there aren't any leaderboards for them.

Interestingly, the game also features multiplayer in a mode appropriately called "Let's Play Together!" You can go against up to four players locally as you compete in 15 different minigames, with medal placement as your stakes. Though the medals don't contribute to anything, the mode is fun and maintains the structure of the rest of the game. Best of all, it is one of the few 3DS games that supports Download Play, so it's easy to convince others to play the mode with you.

Sweet Shop may be on more powerful hardware, but the presentation feels largely untouched from the original title. The food gets a bulk of the graphical focus, as the sweets look rather nice even at the system's low resolution. Everything is colorful, and while the customers look simple, Mama is overly expressive. She carries on an adorable look whether things are going well or badly, so you will be tempted to mess up just to see her facial expressions. The music is as cheery as ever, and Mama's heavily accented Japanese English is left intact, since her voice has become an iconic part of the series.

Your enjoyment of Cooking Mama: Sweet Shop is going to heavily depend on a number of factors. The recipes are vast, even if the minigame mechanics are simple, and the other minigame options are enough to keep you busy for some time. The lack of difficulty can make the title feel tedious for series veterans, while the shop feature is too undercooked to eke out any fun. As a title for casual gamers or those just starting out, Sweet Shop is fine. Everyone else should wait for it to go on sale.

Score: 6.0/10

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