|System: DS||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Cooking Mama LTD||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Majesco Entertainment||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Oct. 20, 2009||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|
by Nathan Meunier
Most folks will probably agree that Mama's mannerisms in the kitchen still tend to be a little hot and cold. One minute she's cheerfully praising your work with bubbly enthusiasm, and the next minute she's literally spewing fireballs from her eyes in vitriolic contempt for the awful mess you've made for her meal-crafting instructions. Thankfully, she lives in the moment, flip-flopping her mood depending on your prowess and scores of individual tasks rather than focusing solely on the end result. Yes, Mama is back and she's got a kitchen full of fresh recipes to hurl at you.
Cooking Mama 3: Shop & Chop offers up a third hearty helping of wholesome cuisine-preparing fun. It should come as a big surprise to anyone who's followed the handheld cooking mini-game series thus far that Mama's latest culinary installment on the DS doesn't drop any bombshells or otherwise add any major last-minute menu changes to the familiar formula. It merely sprinkles in a few new flavors here and there in an attempt to keep patrons satisfied. Depending on your taste, it might not be enough to warrant placing another order, though Mama fans won't be disappointed.
Food prep and digital cookery are still very much the core focus of Shop and Chop. The main Cook with Mama mode lets you dive right back into making tasty-looking virtual delights. As with past games, you'll start out with a handful of recipes to test your skills before progressing to more challenging courses. Each meal throws a series of step-by-step food preparation mini-games that let you chop, peel, dice, strain, roll, broil, and grate your way into Mama's good graces. All of your work is done under Mama's watchful eye, and each task is closely scrutinized and rated on speed, accuracy, and efficiency. She doles out lots of praise when you do well and readily makes her displeasure known when you fail. You can still get by with shoddy cooking, but going back to strive for perfection and unlock extra goodies is still part of what makes the gameplay so addictive.
There are quite a few new recipes to try out and new mini-games to dig into. Heart-shaped marshmallows on a stick, candied apples, and pickles, are among some of the amusing snacks to craft, though there are plenty of bigger, more complicated meals from a wide variety of American and ethnic backgrounds to make. You can also combine random ingredients in Let's Match mode to come up with other recipes with which to play around. Even when preparing familiar dishes, the mixture between carry-over activities from past games and new tasks is strong enough to keep your job in the kitchen relatively interesting. With 80 new dishes to create, you can expect to find a lot of variety from one meal to the next.
In keeping with the game's title, Shop and Chop lets you take Mama to the supermarket to score the needed ingredients for her kitchen. This entertaining little diversion has you guiding Mama with the stylus through the maze-like isles of the store in search of specific staples, like meat, eggs, fish, and vegetables. You have a time limit to worry about and other obstacles to work around. There are shoppers and store staff also roaming the isles to contend with. Running into these folks forces you to engage in time-consuming mini-games that include taste-testing store samples, helping old ladies find certain grocery items, and returning flying goods to other shoppers' carts. While it's a cute addition, the stylus controls are not quite adequate.
Most of the other activities in Shop and Chop are carry-overs from past games. Cooking Contest mode lets you test your abilities in specific preparation skills like chopping, peeling, and grilling. You can play solo or wirelessly connect two DS systems to challenge friends if they also have a copy of the game. Let's Cook mode, which appeared in Cooking Mama 2: Dinner with Friends, has you preparing meals to be tasted and judged by Mama's pals. Ingredient connectivity between Shop and Chop and Gardening Mama is a nice touch.