|System: DS||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Office Create||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Majesco||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Nov. 13, 2007||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-4||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
In the first Cooking Mama, kind words from Mama were the only real reward for your efforts, aside from unlocking new recipes. A far more elaborate reward system was incorporated into Dinner with Friends to make budding chefs feel good about their creations when they truly nail the recipe precisely. A perfect score is rewarded with a spray of hearts and flowers accompanied by a musical fanfare and Mama's praise.
The voice over work for Mama is pretty funny as it's barely intelligible English spoken in a thick Japanese accent. Completing recipes with a high score will often unlock new recipes in addition to sweet rewards including new outfits and accessories for Mama, new backdrops for the kitchen, and new utensils, among others. Additionally, completing steps with perfect accuracy at a high speed will give you a bonus. At the end of each dish your bonus is calculated and a colorful gift is unlocked for every five stars you receive.
The stylus controls in the original Cooking Mama were never as tight as they should have been which led to moments of irritation. It's too bad Dinner with Friends doesn't solve all of those problems. Though it's truly hard to tell, it does at least feel like minor improvements to touch controls were made in Dinner with Friends (at least in some areas). There are still certain mini-games where controls feel awkward or unresponsive. For example, it should not be this tough to simply strain pasta without having water go flying in all directions. The same goes for filling containers with custard or trying to smoothly shape meat into hamburgers.
Arranging items in your own fridge at home may not be very easy (depending on whether you've cleaned out the two-year old science experiments), but it shouldn't be such a pain to move a few things around in order to stick a fruit mold in to chill since Mama's fridge is way tidier. In general, the controls function efficiently during the bulk of the games, but when they are not very responsive it can be pretty frustrating. Thankfully, the glut of excellent recipes and new cooking mini-games makes this issue less bothersome than in the first game. It's easy to look beyond the few troublesome tasks as they are often over rather quickly.
Cooking Mama is an acquired taste. If you enjoyed the original, then you'll easily get a huge amount of play from Dinner with Friends. The new recipes alone are well worth the time, and throwing in many new steps and rewards freshens the gameplay. There aren't a lot of major changes to the original formula. At its core, it's essentially the same game only a bit better. If you missed Cooking Mama the first time around it's best to skip the appetizers and go right for the main course with Dinner with Friends. You won't regret it.
CCC Freelance Writer