Cookie & Cream for the Nintendo DS is a sickeningly cute, somewhat challenging 3D adventure that originally appeared on the PlayStation 2 many, many years back, but has been reworked significantly in this version to make it handheld friendly. The game employs both of the system's screens to simultaneously enlist players in a traditional platform jumper (on the top screen) and a series of stylus-based minigames (on the bottom screen). You can juggle the story mode's two unique play styles yourself or convince one of your friends to get his or her own copy of the game to team up so that one of you handles the platforming while the other tackles the minigames.
As the story explains, two rabbits named Cookie and Cream are searching for the moon on a remote tropical island. Yes, they're actually trying to retrieve the moon. Cookie's job is to explore the island, pounce on monsters, and hop onto the red buttons situated in front of the doorways or sunken platforms blocking his way. Meanwhile, Cream is holed up in a tower full of traps that come in the form of minigames. Every time Cookie stands on one of those red buttons, Cream has to solve the minigame that appears so that Cookie can move forward.
The twist here is that you--or you along with a friend--control Cookie and Cream simultaneously. Using the D pad and buttons, you guide Cookie's movements on the top screen. Using the stylus, you have to complete minigames whenever Cookie steps on a red button, as well as tap any enemies that appear in Cream's vicinity. Some minigames offer a simple puzzle that removes an obstruction when solved. Others involve tapping or pulling tasks that cause platforms to rotate and air blowers to blow only while you're tapping or pulling. As such, you'll frequently find yourself moving Cookie and participating in a minigame at the same time. If either character takes damage, you'll lose precious seconds off of a timer that's already ticking down uncomfortably fast. Playing through the game with someone else is the best way to go because you can each focus on your individual duties, but the controls are simple enough that one person can easily handle both characters without much discomfort.
Going through all 40 levels spread throughout the eight worlds takes a long time. The level layouts on the top screen are straightforward, but they feature some tricky jump sequences. Completing the minigames that appear isn't too tough, once you know what to do. However, figuring out what to do often requires multiple attempts, which can leave you with a dangerously low time clock. On top of everything else, you have to contend with a boss at the end of each world that requires you to move Cookie and interact with one of Cream's minigames at the same time. Throughout it all, if the clock runs out, you have to start the current level over from the beginning.
The game's unique design and serious difficulty are refreshing. However, the level layouts on the top screen are bland and tend to recycle the same obstacles. The look of the scenery and enemies changes from world to world, but you're constantly dealing with the same obstacles in the same ways. Cream's minigames, on the other hand, are usually rather engaging and fun. As you go through each level, you'll use the stylus to do such things as spin wheels, cut ropes with a knife, place gears into clocks, and guide marbles through mazes. Occasionally, you'll even have to blow into the microphone to knock down trees or blow giant leaves up onto Cookie's screen.
Of course, the whole presentation is sugary sweet. The lush 3D environments on the upper screen spring to life, thanks to swaying palm fronds, flowing rivers, and other dynamic details. Furthermore, watching Cookie pounce on cherubic enemies and twirl his ears as he floats is almost (but not quite) as cute as seeing a bed of puppies playing with Hello Kitty plush animals. The minigames on the lower screen are primarily put together with 2D backdrops, and objects drawn in an exaggerated cartoonlike style. As for the music and sound effects, there's a good variety of both. They're generally upbeat and whimsical.
Beyond the story mode, the game includes a battle mode containing 20 different competitive minigames. They're similar to the ones you'll find in the story mode, except that you share screen real estate with as many as three other opponents. Two players, each with a DS, can compete in a limited set of minigames using only a single game cartridge. Or you can link as many as four people together and compete in the full range where everyone has his or her own cartridge. You can also go online through Nintendo's Wi-Fi Connection service and challenge people head-to-head that way. Unfortunately, there aren't many people playing the game online, so you'll really have to be patient or badger your friends to find opponents. The minigames are a lot of fun when other people are involved. They're not so much fun that your circle of friends should buy this game for that sole purpose, but they're enjoyable enough to make them a genuine bonus.
It's rare nowadays for a video game to do something truly unique, and despite the fact that it's based on a fairly old game, Cookie & Cream definitely feels unique. It certainly deserves some credit for uniting the platforming and minigame genres in a way that actually works. And these rabbits sure are cute too! But because of the repetitive nature of the platforming levels, this game is probably best suited for players who haven't yet graduated to more complicated gaming.