The original Cooking Mama was a mini-game collection like no other. Your stylus became an all-in-one kitchen utensil for slicing and dicing, kneading, stir-frying, sandwich stacking, and your adorable mama was there to make sure you excelled. In Cooking Mama 2 you’ll be cooking not only for Mama, but also a handful of kids, Papa, Grandpa, and presumably (the Iron Chef?) Grandma. These guys can be picky eaters, but luckily you’ll get a chance to practice all the recipes in the Cooking with Mama mode first. There, even though her eyes still explode into evil death flames when you drop your egg whites on the floor, Mama is magical enough to fix it so you needn’t start over-literally–from scratch.
Once you start rocking away at ladling out crepes, peeling shrimp, fermenting kimchi, and other culinary feats, you’ll receive bonus stars for a job extra well done. Saving up five earns you one of three mystery presents, which contains a bonus item like a new sticker for your diary or a fancy dress for Mama to wear. There is actually a ton of customization like this (from the color of the knives, to the setting in the backdrop), steering the game squarely into little girl territory.
The new multiplayer mode takes the same basic approach as “Use Skill” and turns it into “Cooking Contest” which you can also play alone to practice. Up to four can go head to head on a wide range of recipe segments, but it’s a bummer you can’t just see who can make the best Sea Bream Carpaccio, instead. Battling out a full recipe would be a more satisfying experience than just chipping away at random tasks.
“What’s up with the saloon music” is what my friend said while we absent-mindedly formed hamburger patties and stripped corn off the cob. It’s not so bad for a minute, but after a while you’ll be sick of hearing the same couple of cheerful tunes. That and they had to go and give Mama this over-the-top Japanese accented voice that grates on your ears almost immediately. All considered, it’s a great game to play muted in a waiting room, because you really don’t need the sound.
Cooking Mama 2: Dinner with Friends is certainly cute, and if you enjoyed the first game an awful lot, you may enjoy the way in which the sequel embellishes the simple gameplay introduced there. Honestly, my favorite part of playing this game was learning how to cut Japanese-shaped veggie slices. All together, Cooking Mama is just not as charming the second time around on DS, reminding us ever so slightly of mushy leftovers.
Publisher: Majesco Entertainment
Developer: Office Create
System: Nintendo DS