Review: It's like Rachel Ray without the eye candy.
For many people ? especially college students ? the terms ?fun? and ?cooking? are mutually exclusive. After all, why spend time on a salad when the university caf? makes grilled cheese at midnight? In any case, Majesco hoped to change this perception with the Cooking Mama series. The first game was a modest success on the DS. In hopes of making the series their version of the WarioWare franchise, Majesco has decided to bring the sequel, Cooking Mama: Cook Off, to the Wii.
In Cooking Mama: Cook Off the player's task is to complete dozens of recipes in order to become a master chef. These recipes range from making simple items like scrambled eggs to more exotic foods like sushi. The game's titular character ?Mama? -- the sort of anatomically disproportionate Japanese character we have all come to love (loathe?) -- aids the player in this task.
To make each recipe, the player must complete a series of mini-games. These each represent steps to make the given recipe. These games are timed and include activities like cracking eggs, washing dishes, and rolling dough. The player uses the Wii-mote in a realistic manner to complete the given activity. For example, to stir a pot you aim the Wii-mote downwards and move it in a circular motion.
After completing each recipe, the game gives the player a score depending upon their time and results. The time is the major obstacle here for none of the games are especially difficult. One problem however comes from the vague instructions before each mini-game. Maybe I'm just Gump, but in many mini-games I lost before realizing what I had to do.
Overall the single player experience is somewhat? dull. The game is fun for a while, mostly due to its intriguing concept, but when the novelty wears off the player becomes more likely to pop in Gears of War or Point Break into their Xbox 360. Which would you rather experience? Dr. Cox from Scrubs cursing out Keanu Reeves or making cartoonish custard?
Slightly more fun is the two-player mode where players go head to head in completing recipes. Whoever has the highest score at the end of each recipe wins. The game also has an ?international friends? mode where the player faces off against a computer controlled characters from various countries. I found this latter mode inconsistent. At times the computer character would prepare the recipe flawlessly while other times it would make stupid mistakes. I suppose this is a more realistic portrayal of an actual human, but it's hardly challenging. If I wanted inconsistency I would have Mitt Romney play against me.
The controls work well for the most part. Sometimes however they are unresponsive. I noticed this most while rolling dough. It is also hard to determine how much pressure you should use, like when cracking eggs.
Graphically the game isn't that impressive. It has a flat cartoonish look that while colorful is also mundane. It even lacks the stylish visual variety of the recent Wii WarioWare title. There is nothing here that Nintendo couldn't have achieved on the GameCube, or arguably the Nintendo 64.
The music neither excels nor distracts. The sound is simple cooking noises like cutting vegetables and the ding of microwaves. Mama has a very stereotypical Japanese accent. This might offend or charm depending upon your viewpoint. I found it to simply annoying since the same dialogue is repeated ad nausea.