Cooking Mama 3: Shop & Chop
Despite popular belief, Cooking Mama is not a magical sorceress that can conjure up food at her whim. She’s a regular gal who needs to go the grocery store like every other Joe. This added element of the cooking process is the hook of the newest Cooking Mama title, but you’ll be better off ordering take out.
Shop & Chop boasts 80 “new” recipes, but the actual food preparation and cooking process is alarmingly similar to past games. How many times is dicing onions and straining pasta expected to be entertaining? Tackling more than a couple dishes in one sitting feels like a grind. Cooking Mama 3 fails to innovate notably on its past DS games, with its “new” recipes not feeling very fresh.
Its newest feature is a grocery shopping mode which has players struggling to steer Mama via finicky touchscreen controls, dodging multiple minigame-distributing customers like Pokémon Trainers in a dungeon. You’ll quickly shake rattles to calm crying babies and franticly grab bags of snacks from an enthusiastic vendor. Failure of one of these games means restarting Let’s Shop, but you’re better off going back to cooking mode if your DS stays on at all.
Whether you’re combing food into one dubious concoction, playing standalone minigames for record times, or preparing meals for “Grandma,” every square inch of the game feels recycled. Cooking Mama 3 is like a Mexican fast food chain that manages to create a 30 item menu out of six ingredients, only it’s completely out of hot sauce and therefore, pizzazz.
Laughable features such as arranging stickers in a diary or changing Mama’s outfit attempt to personalize the soulless, ritualistic minigames. The game is definitely aware of its niche audience, and the third installation doesn’t have anything to entice newcomers to the series.
No matter what game you’re playing, it’s hard to deny the instant satisfaction that comes in hand with completing minigames. Cooking Mama has fun, unique minigames to offer, but the vehicle for delivering them is becoming stale. Instead of throwing rehashed recipes and useless customization options at players, the game would definitely benefit from offering a tangible sense of overarching progression.
Cooking Mama 3’s simple, charming minigames are perfect for anyone looking for a pithy distraction. Unfortunately, the shopping mode feels tacked on and doesn’t feel substantial enough to recommend Shop & Chop to even diehard Mama fans. Mama hasn’t changed her classic recipe much over the years, and we can’t suggest going back for thirds.