CES 07: Cooking Mama: Cook Off Hands-On

If Mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy! We check out this cooking game for the Nintendo Wii.

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LAS VEGAS--Cut the tomatoes, grate the cheese, mix the dough, slice the bacon...geez when did manual labor become the basis of a video game? One answer might be the Cooking Mama series, which began on the Nintendo DS and is now continuing on the DS' big brother, the Wii. Cooking delicious meals may be a lot of work, but based on the time we spent with the game today at the Majesco booth here at the Consumer Electronics Show, it proves to be a lot of fun.

Even if you've never played Cooking Mama before, you probably won't be surprised, based on the title alone, to hear that it's a cooking game. It's a game that challenges you to create as many sumptuous meals as you can by using various ingredients while being presided over by the "tough love" of Mama. Yes, Mama wants you to succeed in your culinary efforts, but she's not afraid to get tough on you if you don't bring your "A game" to the kitchen.

The game is based closely on the handheld version and separates itself from the unique control capabilities granted by the Wii Remote. Based on our time with the game, it seems like practically anything you do in the kitchen can be pulled off by putting the Wii Remote to use.

Preparing meals in Cooking Mama is simple: you follow the step-by-step instructions as they come on screen, combining and manipulating ingredients until your meal is prepared. The faster and more accurately you prepare the ingredients, the higher the score you will earn in the process. The game will feature a truly international lineup of recipes to try, which are all organized by country of origin. So you'll have a chance to whip up some Italian minestrone soup or try your hand at the delicate art of sushi preparation.

The variety of things you can do when preparing your recipes is huge--everything from stirring the soup and adjusting the heat on the burner, to ensuring your soup is just the right temperature at all times. You'll slice and grind meat (which, in this case, gives you a stomach-turning chance to check out the very realistic-looking food models in the game), smash tomatoes, crack eggs, clean and prepare fish, flip burgers on your frying pan, peel carrots and potatoes, combine spices, and knead dough, along with much more--all using Wii Remote motions that feel just like (or close to) the real thing. While each step in the process is timed, you won't be in a hurry at all times. At certain points, a meter will scroll along the bottom of the screen to indicate the precise durations for such things as heating and stirring.

To combine ingredients in the mixing bowl, you'll play a little minigame where you have to guess the next ingredient in the mix. A small window in the upper left-hand corner of the screen will feature the next ingredient hidden behind slowly disappearing squares that will eventually reveal the ingredient. The faster you can identify the next ingredient, the closer you'll be to getting your recipe finished. After each step, you'll be receiving feedback from Mama, be it good, decent, or "not your best effort."

Beyond the standard cooking mode, Cook Off will also feature a career mode of sorts, which is known as international friends mode. Here, you'll take on a number of your cosmopolitan friends in their recipes of choice. For example, taking on your Spanish friend, will challenge you to make paella or tortillas; while going up against your Brit buddy will be a battle of fish and chips. By beating your friends, you'll gain new items for your kitchen, such as better accessories for cooking. There's also a two-player multiplayer mode, where you and a friend will battle it out using the same recipe.

With more than 300 food ingredients, 55 recipes to choose from, and excellent, varied controls using the Wii Remote, Cooking Mama: Cook Off looks like it will be compelling game for the Wii that the whole family can enjoy. It's just too bad you can't eat the delicious meals you create in the game. Stay tuned for more information on this game in the weeks leading up to its release later this year.

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