The original Cooking Mama for the Nintendo DS had just the right amount of quirky charm to make it a great success for Majesco in North America. Now, over a year and a console version for the Wii later, Majesco has released Cooking Mama 2: Dinner with Friends for the DS, and while the charm is starting to wear on me, I'm still finding it every bit as addictive as I found the original.Note than when I say addictive, it's not so much an, "OMG I have to play!" as an "If I keep playing I will run out of recipes and this madness will stop." The first Cooking Mama game was relatively short, so I quickly finished unlocking recipes and was done with it, ready to move onto something more appropriate for a man in his mid-30's to be doing, like playing Pokemon. Cooking Mama 2 just keeps going on and on. Every time I finish a recipe and unlock a new one I wince, knowing my compulsion will continue until there is nothing left to do. So far I've unlocked a total of 68 recipes, and there are still empty slots sitting there, mocking me.
By far the most disturbing recipe, incidentally, is Mama cookies, where you create cookies in the shape of titular character. Something about slathering Mama's face with butter made me feel downright dirty.
As far as the gameplay goes, it's pretty much more of the same with number 2. You complete a series of mini-games and create a meal. Think of it as a sort of culinary Wario Ware title, only somewhat cuter. The mini-games themselves are a bit uneven. You'll have one recipe that has four segments involving you cutting vegetables, and then the next bunches three or four vegetables into one segment. Finish a mini-game before the timer reaches the halfway point and you are awarded a bonus star, every five of which unlocks new items used to decorate your kitchen, your journal, or your mama.
Yeah, I just wanted to say 'your mama'.
If the main game is too forgiving for you, you can now cook for Mama and her friends in a special mode that has you crafting recipes without the whole "Mama will fix it" forgiveness you find in the standard mode. The more food you create correctly, the more friends you unlock. There's also a Cooking Challenge mode, where you compete against the clock or against a friend via single-card multiplayer in a mini-game of your choice. As far as multiplayer goes, it pretty much bites. Had there been an actual cook-off versus mode where you were preparing whole meals it would have been so much better. Perhaps next time.
The presentation has been kicked up to total cute overload proportions. When you complete a recipe, the screen bursts with flowers, rings with music, shines with stars and reels with rainbows. It's like an 8 year-old girl's school notebook vomited on the screen. Mama's voice, which was charming in a Japanese person trying to speak English sort of way last time around is now driving me completely insane. I was playing the game while on the phone with a friend, who asked me, "Why do I keep hearing a retarded girl talking?" Wouldn't be my first choice of words of course, but yeah.
Cooking Mama 2: Dinner with Friends takes the cutesy quirk of Cooking Mama and kicks it up to a level that teeters precariously between charming and irritating. While I could have done with a few less flowers and rainbows, it's still the same Cooking Mama I begrudgingly loved in the first place,