The basis of Cooking Mama is that you’re a cooking noob and Mama’s there to teach you how to cook. You start off with several recipes available – boiled rice, miso soup, ect. Mama walks you through the process of making each dish by putting you through a series of mini-games. Boiled rice, for example, starts off with a “fill the container with rice” mini-game. Doing it quickly and accurately pleases Mama – her eyes glitter with pride. Spillage and failure piss Mama the hell off – her eyes blaze and she appears to give you both barrels, if you catch my meaning.
Sometimes, between mini-games, you have the option of altering the recipes, which appears to be one method of unlocking new recipes. Otherwise, new recipes appear to be unlocked by completing available recipes to the satisfaction of Mama. She’ll grade your dish on a point system. 100 points is perfect and 50 seems to be failure (I haven’t gotten anything lower than 50, anyway). You’ll also receive a medal for completing a dish particularly well – gold, silver, or bronze, just like the Olympics.
Once you’ve unlocked recipes, you can combine them to make all sorts of things. I haven’t played this section too much yet since I haven’t finished unlocking all 76 possible recipes.
You can also practice your cooking skills – and be judged for them. I’m particularly good with a kitchen knife. I have several gold medals in cutting and slicing things.
That’s about the extent of the game. Cooking Mama manages to be addictive to those with a collect-the-whole-set mentality, it’s hard to stop when you haven’t unlocked all the recipes or gotten medals for everything. Despite this, it isn’t really *fun.* It’s lacking a purpose for making all those dishes. Who’s eating them?? Are we wasting anime-esque food here?? The game really needs another level of play… something for the gamer to “beat” instead of just collect. I understand that there’s a Cooking Mama 2 for the DS that looks like it might address this issue… perhaps I will have to try it.