A simple collection of cooking-themed minigames with a painfully cheery anime chef lady guiding you through all the slicing, dicing, baking, boiling, or whatever else, Cooking Mama was precisely the sort of simple game that just about anybody who needed a quick, thought-free distraction could pick up and enjoy for a few minutes at a time. Now comes Cooking Mama 2, a game that microwaves some of the leftovers from the first game, tosses some new ingredients on top, and presents itself as a new meal. Little to nothing has been futzed with formulaically, with just a couple of half-baked mode additions and some lame customization elements rounding out the package. The gameplay certainly still has its moments of amusement, and as a quick distraction, it works, especially if you haven't played, or if you haven't yet gotten your fill of, the original game's accessible, quirky gameplay. But if you already played last year's game or just couldn't quite get into it, Cooking Mama 2 probably isn't worth your while.
Cooking Mama 2 follows the same basic gameplay formula as the last game, serving up about 80 new recipes that consist of a series of culinary-themed minigames. Want to make a chili dog? Grind up some meat, chop some vegetables, cook them up, and put together your dog. Want to make some sweet sushi rolls? Pound out the rice, fillet whatever fish varieties you're presented with, and roll it all up. Some of these include several minigames, whereas some only require a single one. You're judged by Mama, the aforementioned anime chef, at the end of each game. You get a medal for how well you performed each task, and at the end of the recipe, a score is tallied up showing how well you did.
The only real challenge the game offers is trying to not screw up the tasks put in front of you. In the main mode, it doesn't matter too much outside of scoring because Mama will simply fix whatever you botched. There is also a "let's cook" mode where you cook the favorite recipes of several "friends," but you aren't given the help from Mama. If you mess up one piece, the whole thing is ruined. That mode does at least provide a bit more of a challenge than the standard mode, but not by a wide margin.
The gameplay itself relies on the same stylus-based actions as the previous game. In fact, several of the minigames are identical to ones found in the original Cooking Mama. Granted, a number of those are for actions that it'd be difficult to really mess with, such as chopping or peeling and whatnot. The newer minigames don't fall far from the same tree, however. All continue to involve circles, scribbles, or slicing motions with the stylus over the touch screen, and some work better than others. There are a few where the controls just don't seem to work quite right, but by and large, the minigames are functional--repetitive and generally shallow as well, but still functional.
Other modes include a customization mode where you can decorate your kitchen (as well as Mama herself) with a bunch of little knickknacks that you unlock as you play, as well as a rather careless multiplayer mode. It seems like there ought to be a lot of potential for some decent multiplayer competition in Cooking Mama 2, whether it's competing or cooperating on recipes, but there's no such action here. Instead, you and up to three friends can connect wirelessly (using a single copy of the game) to compete in a bunch of stand-alone minigames with no recipe context to go along with them. Who can ball together hamburger meat the fastest? Or grind meat? Or shuck corn? These are the only answers this mode can give.
Cooking Mama 2's presentation further adds to the reheated feel. The game uses all the same graphical elements of the first game, throws in a few new characters to cook for, and calls it a day. Sure, it's still a bright, cheery, colorful game, filled to the brim with bits of visual flair, but after a while, the excessive use of all these color splashes and fanciful flower explosions just becomes cloying. Likewise, Mama's hyper-cute voice tends to wear on the nerves as you play. We get it, we did better than Mama; that's amazing, please stop telling everyone this fact before someone puts their head in a meat grinder.
Again, there's nothing decidedly wrong with Cooking Mama 2. It's a solid, if entirely predictable follow-up to its predecessor. Nothing that worked in the previous game is suddenly broken here, but by the same token, none of what was problematic or missing from the first game is adjusted or added. It's more Cooking Mama for people who just want more Cooking Mama. It'll be a decent enough time-waster for the people who went nuts for the first game because this one delivers just as much in the way of cutesey-wutsey charm and easy-to-pick-up minigames. But if you played last year's game and prefer a bit more forward progress from your sequels, you can safely leave this one alone.