Mama is back and better than ever in her third portable cooking outing.
Cooking Mama 3: Shop and Chop is the latest DS entry in the great-selling Cooking Mama series. Originating on the DS in 2006, Mama has had four DS games, including this new entry, two Wii games, and an iPhone port. As of May 2009, the series has sold more than four million units in the U.S. The latest game in the series is quite possibly the best yet.
It sports four different cooking modes, one shopping mode, and three decorating modes. The first of the cooking modes is Cook with Mama, in which Mama gives you instructions before you perform each step. These are generally along the lines of "Circle the apple's stem to remove it, then touch the chopsticks at the right time to push them in." Once you complete a recipe, you unlock a new one; be aware that skipping one recipe (in my case, the dreaded pickles) prevents you from unlocking all of the ones that are locked.
The second mode is Let's Cook!, where Mama introduces you to eight friends and family members who request that you make a dish of your choice, then grade you on how well you did. Let's Match! is the third mode, in which you select two ingredients from a choice of six to create your own recipe. However, lack of in-game instructions on this mode made it really perplexing for awhile, and I preferred Cook with Mama and Let's Cook!
Cooking Contest is a mode that is great for working on certain steps you might have trouble with, such as cracking eggs or catching toast. This is also available in Wi-Fi multiplayer.
The controls for each step are generally good. I found the hardest times to be when I had to move the stylus at the same speed as a whisk, and I'd get to a great momentum and then mess up so I would have to start slow again, limiting my chances for getting a Bonus Item. It could have been that I was legitimately messing up, but I felt like I was doing really good and it happened every time I did a step like that.
I faced similar problems in steps where I would have to add an ingredient to a bowl by dragging it and letting go above the bowl. Sometimes it would not register that I was, in fact, over the bowl, and would send my ingredient back to its starting place, once again restricting my chances of getting a Bonus Item. I also found the step where I had to hang six skewers of fish from a string to be unfair. They needed to practically be on top of each other to fit on the screen. But every time one came close to another, it would send the one that was already hanging down to the ground.
However, there were some steps that I absolutely loved the controls for. Generally, they were all of the ones that involved chopping vegetables, which requires you to drag the stylus along a line to slice vegetables, and tap repeatedly on the knife in order to chop them. I also liked filling up pans and forms with batter to a certain line, although that was sometimes frustrating. Also, the controls for kneading bread were, in my opinion, very unique, involving moving the stylus up and down on the lump of dough, tossing it in the air, and then tapping the screen at the right second to catch it.
Another mode is Let's Shop, in which Mama sends you to the grocery store to pick up ingredients. There are four levels and in each level, you buy a predetermined number of ingredients, which raises the difficulty. You have to navigate around absurd and annoying people, ranging from crying babies to pushy samplers. Some shoppers and all employees require a mini-game like sorting out bags of chips or catching falling fish. These are funny diversions at first, but end up being really challenging towards the end.
The aforementioned design modes are Let's Get Fancy! and Let's Decorate! In Let's Get Fancy, you change up Mama's clothes and accessories with Bonus Items. Each Bonus Item is awarded for completing the steps in Cook with Mama under certain stipulations, such as completing a step in under half the allotted time or without messing up. The second decorating mode, simply titled Let's Decorate!, is where you choose which colors you want each of your appliances to be, and also the background styles for the kitchen. Both of these modes have direct impact on how the game is viewed because they all carry over into every mode of the game.
Write in Diary is where you can edit pictures you've taken of your completed dishes. Some Bonus Items are placed here, such as the mustaches, the dog, and the Christmas tree. Some of the items are stationary but most are animated; for instance, the car drives across screen.
Cooking Mama 3 really extends the Cooking Mama series in a fantastic way, and this game is perfect for any fans of the series or for anyone who thinks they might be interested in what Mama has to serve up.