Available On: Nintendo 3DS
The Cooking Mama series has been around since the days of Nintendo DS and Wii. Touchscreen mobile games were burgeoning into a dominant gaming genre for many kids and adults. These days playing a game on the Nintendo 3DS that could be almost entirely replicated on a phone feels quaint. Cooking Mama: Sweet Shop doesn’t offer enough new gameplay or progression to warrant yet another installment in the franchise.
Pour Some Sugar on Me
If you need a cooking theme, delicious desserts is a fun one to tackle. Sixty recipes are available to bake, whip, frost, and decorate. Dessert recipes include the usual sugar cookies, decorative cakes, cupcakes, and truffles. If you can complete those more complicated and exotic recipes can be unlocked, like the towering pastry pyramid Croquembouche, the fish-shaped Taiyaki, and ice cream cake Zuccotto.
All the food is prepared using a series of quick mini-games. For the Croquembouche, you’ll have to form and bake the pastries, fill them with creme, stack them on a plate, and decorate the dish. You’re timed during every step save the last one, making every dish a miniature version of Iron Chef as you race the clock.
Each mini-game takes less than twenty seconds and on-screen indicators help you quickly learn what you need to do. There’s technically a lot of variety but most of them boil down to rhythmically swiping, tapping, and memory games.
Messing up a step can slow you down, and ultimately result in a lower score for the dish. The ever-present Mama helps clean up your mess and offers encouragement. The dishes always came out fine in the end and still sold decently well in the shop, making Cooking Mama much more of a casual (and kid-friendly) experience.
Mama Knows Best
The shop is where you place your dishes for customers to purchase. There’s zero strategy here. Simply wait for people to arrive and click on them once they’ve found a dish (or help locate one for them). You can use the money selling your food to buy new cosmetic items for your shop, kitchen, and Mama herself, which mostly amounts to color and pattern changes. It never felt compelling or worthwhile to actually sell dishes, make money, or buy new items.
You can also take pictures of each dish to add to a photo gallery. I was hoping that the rating of the final product would result in a different-looking desert, but they always turned out the same, and decorating options felt very limited to the usual mix of strawberries, stars, and icing.
Cooking Mama: Sweet Shop has been rated E for Everyone by the ESRB. The only indicator is Alcohol Reference, as you end up using some wine and rum in a few dishes. The art style and animations are all goofy fun, and even when you mess up Mama laughs it off, making Cooking Mama a fun touchscreen games for kids.
Cooking Mama: Sweet Shop includes an impressive amount of dishes to make, and the visuals and controls are intuitive enough that anyone can pick up, play, and enjoy making delicious deserts. But repetition sets in quickly, and selling dishes to slightly alter Mama’s clothes or buy new shop wallpaper is a poor motivator.
The series age is also showing; Cooking Mama offers polished gameplay that you can find for far cheaper on any mobile device. But if you have a 3DS and kids who are interested in cooking, Sweet Shop can be an enjoyable diversion.