In honor of Mother’s Day coming up this next weekend (you didn’t forget, did you?), I thought I’d do a blog about one of video games most famous mothers: Cooking (and now Gardening) Mama. Happy Mother’s Day! Let’s get cooking!
Originally I had planned to do a Cooking Mama blog before, but I was going to go about it differently. I was going to do a Cooking Mama vs. Iron Chef blog, and compare the two new Wii games based on those properties. But a few factors kept me from doing this. I wasn’t going to pay full price for either of those games, and it took WAY too long for them to go down in price low enough for me to be willing to pay for them. I just now got the Cooking Mama: World Kitchen Wii game a couple of weeks ago, for instance.
The Iron Chef America Wii game just went down to 20 bucks (at Best Buy at least), but now I don’t even think I want it at all. You see, my boss at work is very nice and pretty cool, and she has a DS and let me borrow her copy of the DS version of Iron Chef America. The game is total crap and the touch screen controls are so broken it’s unplayable. It’s so bad that I’m afraid to even try the Wii version.
It’s too bad they didn’t base the Iron Chef games off of the Japanese version of Iron Chef. I love that show. My favorite Iron Chef is Iron Chef Yellow. He sweats buckets when he cooks, so I call him Chef Sweaty. I even made a Soul Calibur 4 character based on Chef Sweaty (he uses Cervantes’ joke weapons, the shish-ka-bobs). I also like the judges on the Japanese Iron Chef. There’s the Japanese version of Colonel Sanders, an Evil Fortune Teller Lady who doesn’t like anything, and my personal favorite, a giggly young Japanese actress and all she can say is “Mmmm! This is good!” Well, I’m sure they’re saying much more intelligent things in their own language, it’s probably just the English dub that’s awful.
Plus, I figured if I compared both cooking games (Cooking Mama and Iron Chef), I’d have to mention other cooking games, too. And thanks to Mama’s popularity, there’s a ton. Order Up, Hell’s Kitchen, heck, even SpongeBob has a cooking game on the DS now! (bet you make a lot of Krabby Patties). So instead, I figured I would just wait until around Mother’s Day and focus on only the Cooking Mama games instead.
The first Cooking Mama game was on the DS, but it wasn’t the first cooking game ever. As a game, Cooking Mama was pretty basic. Just a bunch of touch screen based mini-games centered around preparing food, all sequenced in a row to make a recipe. Still pretty fun, but not groundbreaking in any way. So why was it a huge hit? Like Katamari Damacy, I think it had more to do with the name and price point. Ever since it was announced in Japan, people were curious about a game called Cooking Mama! The other reason why I think Cooking Mama took off, especially with the casual crowd, is the price. The first one was only 20 bucks. Just like Katamari Damacy, they were both simple games and really only needed to be that much. But also like Katamari Damacy, the makers of these games sold the sequels for full price in hopes people would still buy them. Don’t get me wrong, I love Katamari Damacy, but it does deserve some of the criticism it gets with the pricing and the sequels.
In the first game, Mama only spoke to you with text, but when you messed up, you knew it because her eyes would glow fire red! Kind of creepy and weird, but added to the charm of the game and Mama’s character. But even when she was mad that you messed up, she still offered assurance with “Don’t worry, Mama will fix this.” That’s kind of how it is with real mothers. They may get mad and impatient sometimes, but we should always be quick to forgive, because moms are human beings, too. Moms aren’t perfect, but they can be pretty darn close sometimes.
I hear there’s also an iPhone version of Cooking Mama. I’d like to try that. Sometimes I kind of wish I had an iPhone because there’s a lot of cool games for it. But heck, I can barely figure out how to use my regular phone. I don’t really NEED an iPhone!
Cooking Mama: Cook Off
The next Cooking Mama game was on the Wii. But rather than making the best use of the remote motion controls, the game mostly used the pointer to replicate the games on the DS. This didn’t work as well on the Wii as pointing the remote downward to trace chopping lines didn’t have the same kind of tactile sensation as it did on the DS touch screen. You could do two player cooking, hence the subtitle “Cook Off.” For full price, it wasn’t that impressive of a game, but now you can find it most anywhere for 20 bucks, so that’s a little better.
When the Wii Cooking Mama came out, some third party company made plastic attachments for your Wii controllers that would make it look like a spatula, frying pan, or other utensils. Kind of like the Wii Sports tennis racket and golf club attachments. Those are the most worthless accessories ever, and I hope none of you buy one for a Wii owner as a gift. Since the Cooking Mama attachments were from another company, they called the accessories “Cooking Mother” though! Ha! Doesn’t have quite the same ring to it, does it?
Really, the most important thing about the first Wii Cooking Mama game is it was the first game where Mama found her voice! And what a voice it was! Apparently, Mama has a very thick, almost un-PC Japanese accent. But I don’t think they meant any harm by it so it’s OK with me. Her voice is actually kind of sexy. HA HA! JUST JOKING! I like to say things like that every now and again just to throw you all off. Keeps you on your toes! Regardless, I’d love to meet the person who does her voice, or the people who decided that would be her voice. It’s so annoying! Yet funny and distinct at the same time.
Cooking Mama 2: Dinner With Friends
The “official” sequel was back on the DS again. It was more of the same, really. Just more of it. Mama kept her voice from the Wii game. Some of the new lines weren’t exactly clear, though. When you mess up, I think she says, “Do not mind” but it sounds like she says, “You’re not mine!” Is she disowning you because you can’t cook?
The DS sequel had a few additions, too. If you completed a task extra fast, you could get bonus points to use on unlockable presents like outfits to dress up Mama in, or different colored cooking tools. There was also a new gameplay mode where you cooked food for one of Mama’s friends (hence the Dinner With Friends title). In this mode, you were on your own and wouldn’t get any help from Mama if you messed up in the games, so it was extra challenging. The people you cooked for were also computer controlled characters in the Wii Cook Off game.
Cooking Mama: World Kitchen
Mama returned to the Wii last year in a new cooking game. There were a lot of changes to this game from the last, but I don’t know if I’d necessarily call them ‘improvements.’ One major change is that all the graphics were now in 3-D, including the characters. Instead of viewing the games from a first person perspective, you actually created a character and watched him or her perform the motions as you did. Of course, sometimes it looked kind of odd seeing a little cartoon kid hold down a wriggling fresh fish that was about to be cooked! Also, if you were holding something cold while cooking, the indicator showing if you were getting too cold was your face would turn blue. So it looked like your kid character on screen was choking instead of being cold! Kind of disturbing, really.
I guess one good thing about seeing your character on screen was that you also saw Mama in the kitchen with you, and I think that was a good way to reinforce to kids playing the game that if you’re a kid and cooking in a real kitchen, it’s always a good idea to have an adult with you to supervise. I’m actually a little surprised that the Cooking Mama games didn’t include more kitchen safety tips like this. I think that would’ve been a good idea for kids playing the game.
Unlike the other Wii Cooking Mama game, the controls in World Kitchen are more motion control based, meaning you make chopping and stirring motions with the remote, rather than just pointing at the screen. So I guess that’s a bit of an improvement, even if the new controls aren’t perfect either.
In this game, sometimes when you mess up, an extra mini-game pops up where you help Mama catch falling food or use a fan to blow smoke away. When you do mess up, Mama keeps a photo of it in an album. I think that’s kind of creepy that she keeps a photo record of all your mistakes!
In every Cooking Mama game, there’s one or two ‘joke’ recipes near the end that’s only one step. It’s usually to make something fun like ice cream or snow cones. There’s actually quite a few of these simple recipes in the second Wii game. My favorite is when you make cereal! You just have to tilt the remote to pour the cereal and milk. Even though it’s kind of funny, I think these recipes are a good idea, too. A little kid can do these simple recipes with ease and maybe think, “Hey, I can do this in real life!” And maybe he or she will try and make breakfast themselves. Any game that empowers kids to say, “I CAN” can’t be all bad, right?
The “Dinner With Friends” mode where you cook for a friend without Mama’s help is back. It’s especially funny to fix a simple recipe like cereal for a friend, have your character bring it to them in a covered dish, and afterwards their comments are always like “That was so amazingly delicious!” Big whoop, I made her cereal. One of the friends you can cook for, her voice sounds like the English dub of the giggly Japanese girl from Iron Chef, so I usually like to cook for her. It cracks me up.
In the newest “Mama” game, she steps out of the kitchen and out into the garden. I could never find this game in stores, so I ordered it online. It’s basically the same kind of game as the Cooking Mama DS titles, just replace kitchen themes with outdoors. If you like Cooking Mama, you’ll like this game, too. It has all the improvements from the newer games, so you can unlock presents to dress up Mama and decorate the garden with. And plus her awesomely hilarious voice. Since you have to wait for plants to grow longer than it does to cook things, sometimes you do some steps when you grow fruits, veggies, or flowers. And then you go back later to do more. Again, I think this game is good for kids because it gives them an idea on what you have to do in a garden, and it may even give them the confidence to actually go out and try to grow things.
Some of the reviews I’ve read about Gardening Mama make fun of one mini-game in particular where you have to trace lines to guide a water hose around to make rainbows in the air. I thought that was a clever game, though, because when you were a kid and played with a water hose or sprinkler, didn’t you become fascinated when you ‘made’ a rainbow? As adults, we don’t get impressed by that stuff anymore. But I think it’s important to keep that childlike sense of wonder and amazement alive in our minds. Keeps us young and sharp, I think. So next time you’re out watering the lawn, don’t just go through the motions to get the job done quickly. Make a rainbow with the hose water and appreciate the little miracles in life.
So what’s next for Mama? Well, according to news reports, Majesco has copyrighted “Crafting Mama,” so maybe the next game will be about arts and crafts. Does that mean Mama’s into scrapbooking, too? Oh no! Another Cooking Mama tidbit I should mention is I think PETA made an online game protesting that Cooking Mama didn’t have a vegetarian game. I’m surprised Majesco or Taito didn’t sue. I’m all for free speech, but I think PETA could’ve gotten their point across a little better than that.
And that’s all I feel like talking about Cooking Mama. Who is your favorite video game character mom? Aside from Cooking Mama, I think my favorite is Ms. Pac-Man. She has two kids, and her game managed to be more popular than her husband’s! Of course, no video game character mom can come close to comparing with REAL moms! To quote Cooking Mama herself, real moms are “Even better than Mama!”
If you have mom who is still around and loves you, consider yourself very lucky! I’m certainly thankful for my mom! Life wouldn’t be the same without her. So if you have a mother in your life, whether it be your mom, sister, aunt, grandma, wife, friend, or other motherly figure, make sure to tell them how much you appreciate and love them today!
Do you like Cooking Mama games? Does your real mom like to play video games? Let me know in the comments section. I got my mom a DS for her birthday a few years ago, and she loves to play puzzle games on it like Zoo Keeper and Cross Words. She also has really gotten into Animal Crossing on the Wii!
Happy Mother’s Day! Later! –Cary