Cooking Mama: Bon Appétit! has us back in the kitchen to whip up a culinary storm, although the game’s beaming mentor is still relying on the same well-worn recipe book to satisfy punters.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing for those that have enjoyed what has come before, but anyone hoping for a sprinkling of new ideas will discover that Japanese developer Office Create have largely stuck to the same ingredients to tickle your tastebuds.
It is in Mama’s Challenges where you can expect to spend the majority of your time, in which you’ll discover six gameplay modes that look to keep you entertained. “Nothing tastes quite like Mama’s cooking,” the game’s blurb exclaims, although we all know that our own creations often never quite reach the tantalising imagery that accompany the recipes themselves.
Professional cooks we are not, but the process is replicated by the central Let’s Cook mode in Cooking Mama: Bon Appétit!. Flicking through the available recipes, players will be tasked with cooking up anything from Chicken Nuggets and Doner Kebab right through to a Mozzarella Salisbury Steak. Recipes are broken down into numerous preparation stages, with those at the easier end of the spectrum seeing you tackle five whereas the more advanced recipes can reach twelve.
Mama gleefully grades your efforts throughout, and you’ll want to be achieving gold medals at each stage. Making remarkable use of the touch screen through being entirely stylus-based activities, that will intuitively see players stirring, shaking, kneading, slamming, slicing and rolling their way toward their desired concoction. Directions are clear, with players getting covered in flour, water and whatever else if they’re over eager in their approach.
The rate of reward in Cooking Mama: Bon Appétit! can feel particularly mean, especially considering the younger demographic that it is likely to attract. There’s little margin for error to claim a gold medal, and even an overall score of more than 90 points for your cooking skills won’t award you with one. You’re instead showered with new recipes and challenge games to divert your attention from such an apparently lacklustre performance, with Mama grinning in the background.
Beyond this, Cooking Dojo lets you follow the same recipes but with trickier time limits, a well-calculated step up in difficulty from that levelled at you in Let’s Cook. Let’s Help in the Shop sees Mama enlist you as a waitress in her Burger Shop, serving ice cream, taking orders and making juice – simple minigames where you must match what you serve with whatever the customers have ordered.
Let’s Study challenges players with simplistic word and number games, whereas Let’s Help Harvest tasks you with plucking ingredients from a garden patch. The last piece of the puzzle is Let’s Help Mama, helping with chores around the house such as feeding fish, throwing spools onto a holder, and tapping baby birds to bounce them toward their nest. These diversify the experience but aren’t particularly meaningful or substantial additions, a welcome distraction to the main event more than anything else.
Four players can join each other locally in Let’s Play Together! to make these minigames more competitive, while Mama’s Gallery lets you customise the colour of Mama’s apron, bandana, pots, pans and kitchen – as well as letting you decorate her living room. This personalisation is a nice touch, even if slightly limitive in scope.
There’s still much to enjoy in Cooking Mama: Bon Appétit!‘s bold demeanour and infectious music, but it doesn’t differentiate itself enough from our previous trips to Mama’s kitchen. After five games that’s perhaps to be expected, but it comes as a disappointment that there isn’t any extra spice here.