Review: Cooking Mama 5: Bon Appetit!

Mama serves up a winner!

By Robert Marrujo. Posted 10/08/2014 10:00 Comment on this     ShareThis
The Final Grade
1-Up Mushroom for...
Better controls; Good selection of recipes; Minigames are solid; Improved scoring during individual steps while cooking, but...
Poison Mushroom for...
... Overall cooking scores remain brutally harsh--one silver or bronze medal makes it impossible to get a gold; Some cooking directions unclear

I play Cooking Mama and it doesn’t embarrass me in the slightest to admit it.

In all seriousness, there is something of a stigma out there when it comes to Majesco’s Cooking Mama series. Though the first game was warmly embraced, its sequels began wearing out their welcome with each subsequent release, and the spin-offs thus far have failed to really impress. By the time Cooking Mama 4 hit 3DS, it was starting to become apparent that Majesco was going to have to do something to change things up or quietly retire the franchise. Thankfully, Majesco did not throw in the towel, instead choosing to grace players with Cooking Mama 5: Bon Appetit!, which is a fine return to form for the series. With a less brutal scoring system and an array of fun minigames to go with the traditional cooking mechanics, Cooking Mama 5 has proven it still has the chops to stay in the kitchen.

One of the things that I’ve always respected about Cooking Mama is that the games represent the pioneering spirit many developers had when DS first hit the scene. The introduction of a touch screen to gaming brought a flood of new concepts to the market. Cooking Mama, which came early during that time of experimentation, was the sort of title that demonstrated how not every video game needed to be a highbrow experience to be worth playing. Sometimes, just being fun is enough, and Cooking Mama 5 exemplifies that mindset. Right off the bat, players are able to customize a number of different features throughout the kitchen in Mama’s Gallery, including Mama’s clothes (my Mama is green!). It’s nothing especially elaborate, but it’s always nice to be allowed some creative flair in a game. More items unlock as the game progresses, which makes it worthwhile to keep coming back to see what’s become available to use.

Mama’s Challenges is where all the cooking can be found, but there’s much more to do beyond that, as well. Let’s Cook! is the traditional experience fans have come to love, but it’s been tweaked to be a little less frustrating than before. In previous Cooking Mamas, it was all too common to do well throughout an entire recipe, only to make one small mistake and have the final score bludgeoned as a result. Though a single silver or bronze medal during gameplay will still bring down a player’s overall score, it’s a lot easier during each step of a recipe to recover from a mistake. Flubbing a tap or flick of the stylus won’t always immediately result in a lowered medal status, which made gameplay much less stressful than before. I was able to relax a little more than I was accustomed to, and it was a welcome change. I do think that Majesco can stand to further tone down the harshness when it comes to the overall scoring for a recipe, as redoing an entire dish simply because of one missed step remains overly tedious.

The cooking mechanics have also seen some adjustments and additions, resulting in a nice rounded array of actions and movements to make the game’s various meals. There have been some notable improvements to accuracy that make it easier than ever to interact with the ingredients and utensils on the screen, but there are some niggling issues that could use some work. My biggest gripe when cooking was that sometimes objectives could be unclear. Cutting a piece of plastic wrap to the correct length, for instance, was not clearly communicated, with the game not making it understood that stretching the sheet to a point beyond the measuring lines was the only way to properly complete the task. I spent a good five minutes redoing that activity in practice until I got lucky and found the sweet spot purely by chance. The game is entirely direction-based, so it was disappointing to be left hanging like that. In general, though, the controls are sound and cooking is as great as ever.

The other modes that Cooking Mama 5 brings to the table are tantamount to minigames, but they’re entertaining and a good way of breaking up any monotony that might set in while cooking. Let’s Help Mama! offers games that include feeding kittens and planting flowers. Let’s Help Harvest! sees players gathering ingredients. Cooking Dojo is a timed, more challenging version of Let’s Cook! Let’s Help in the Shop! revolves around activities in Mama’s Burger Shop. Finally, Let’s Study! features some mild Brain Age-esque mental challenges with math and memory. That might sound like an odd assortment of activities, or that Majesco tried to stuff too much into the game, but the reality is that they’re all excellent diversions to help break any monotony that might set in after cooking for long stretches. Frankly, some of them, like Hand out ice cream! and Practice English! are more addictive than they really should have any right to be. As a whole, all these minigames are great time killers.

For those wanting to make cooking into a social experience, there’s the competitive Let’s Play Together! mode, which allows up to three players to compete locally using Download Play and a single game cart. The multiplayer is very enjoyable for those wanting a quick cook-off, and the fact that only one copy of the game is needed to connect is a wonderful bonus. Cooking Mama 5 still has some of the lingering issues that have plagued the series for years now, but it’s nevertheless a step back onto the right path. With a wealth of content, improved controls, and some addicting minigames to play, Cooking Mama 5 has brought the series back up to par– here’s hoping Majesco can push forward even more and really make the franchise shine if it ever graces us with a sixth installment.

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