Though it only joined us in the last generation of portables, the Cooking Mama series has already become an imminent release for Nintendo’s portables. A release on the 3DS on the question also begs the question of what the game could have to benefit from the system’s capabilities, considering that the game takes place mostly on the touch screen. The answer: not much, but Cooking Mama 4: Kitchen Magic still keeps all of its charm and base audience with the its new outing. Unfortunately, the problems that have plagued older games in the series still remain as well.
Stereoscopic 3D, the 3DS’s most outstanding function, is hardly used. At most, items may pop up from the bottom screen to the top, either foretelling an incoming ingredient that must be grasped or punishment for throwing ingredients in a blender at the wrong time. Visually, the game still has improvements over its predecessors though and the finished products can actually look quite tempting. Otherwise, the visual style for Kitchen Magic stays true to the series with few differences to the 2D art – so much so that players may confuse it for a preceding title.
For the most part, the gameplay also remains unchanged. There’s a healthy amount of new cooking methods, most of which revolve around timing your actions. The 3DS’s gyroscope is also put to use, allowing certain minigames to be completed by wiggling the system around rather than using the touchscreen. However, the game doesn’t really inform players when a gyroscope can be used and it’s rather imprecise compared to the touchscreen, making it a trivial addition.
Any veteran chef will look at the game as a joke that features unrealistic and excessively complex ways to get the same job done. It’s doubtful that any cook will actually choose to squeeze falling bananas out of their peel rather than doing so the generic way. Minor bickering about the game’s lack of realism aside, these do provide a healthy amount of challenge. Players will have no trouble finishing recipes in a matter of minutes due to the game’s tolerance for mistakes, even rewarding players with a gold coin despite mistakes, and its mostly short recipes. It will take practice, however, to finish certain challenges in a timely fashion and be awarded with stars that build towards new accessories and kitchenware for Mama.
After the first ten or so recipes, repetition will kick in. This has been a longtime issue for the series and rears its ugly head again with Kitchen Magic. Beyond just cracking endless eggs and mixing countless ingredients together, even the combination minigames reek of repetition; no matter what condiment players are putting onto their rice or soba, the minigame will be the same. Multiplayer options largely revolve around the same gameplay as the single player, hardly providing a remedy.
For kids and family road trips, Cooking Mama 4: Kitchen Magic may be ideal with its short bursts of cooking fun. Those who have However, anyone looking for a deep experience will be disappointed by the repeats in preparation and lack of improvements from the past formulas. Any visual upgrades made were minor at best and it’s hard to recommend players to pick this up over its past, and probably cheaper, counterparts.
Available on: 3DS; Publisher: Majesco Games; Developer: Cooking Mama Limited; Players: 1 – 4; Released: November 16, 2011; ESRB: Everyone; Official Site
Note: A retail copy was provided to Denkiphile for review purposes by the publisher.