A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that the latest entry in Majesco's popular series of cooking simulators is similar to its predecessors. Players use their Wii remotes to chop, twirl, crack, pour, and pound a variety of foods as they prepare dozens of different dishes. The content is safe for all ages, though the game's complexity makes it an unsuitable option for young children. Be aware that there are occasional references to alcohol, both in terms of cooking ingredients (recipes sometimes call for the addition of wine or liqueur) and tools, such as cocktail shakers and martini glasses.
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What's it about?
COOKING MAMA: WORLD KITCHEN, the latest entry in Majesco's popular cooking simulation franchise, mixes all the right ingredients for a great casual gaming experience on the Wii, including a cutesy and slightly humorous aesthetic, all-ages content and appeal, and play that makes clever use of Nintendo's innovative controls. The goal of the game is simply to prepare a variety of dishes by working through all of the required preparation tasks, from chopping vegetables to mixing batter to spreading melting butter across a pan. The physical actions corresponding to these activities have been mapped to the Wii's motion-sensitive remote, allowing players to pretend they are, say, wielding a pick and chipping away at a block of ice, or gently cracking an egg shell against a bowl. New features include several dozen original dishes from various cultures, cooperative play, and spiffed up three-dimensional graphics that allow players to watch their chef avatars in action.
Is it any good?
While the two Cooking Mama games released for the DS were runaway successes, the series' first foray on the Wii, Cooking Mama: Cook Off, was a mixed bag. The core concept was solid, but the graphics were bland, and, worse, the motion-sensitive controls were unreliable. It was a fraction the fun of its handheld counterparts. Thankfully, World Kitchen solves these problems. The cute and stylish new visual design makes the game substantially easier on the eyes and facilitates some pleasant little sight gags, such as when our chef uses a spice shaker improperly and sneezes, giving rise to a puff of flour. And the controls are now much more forgiving; there is no longer a need to worry about holding the remote just so while pouring a liquid into a cup or stirring up batter.
However, it can be difficult to figure out just what it is you're supposed to be doing. There aren't any cooking tutorials, and the onscreen control cues are often vague. Consequently, players will typically fail half of the steps in most recipes the first time they try them. It becomes less of an issue as you slowly work out what to do with the remote, but those early culinary attempts can be frustrating. Still, it's not a fatal flaw. Once you get a grip on all of the preparation activities, Cooking Mama: World Kitchen will likely prove as addictive as the chocolate clairs you create.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about what it takes to be a good chef. Do you now feel as though you have a greater appreciation for the work that goes into preparing a tasty meal? Does combining various foods to create delicious and visually appealing dishes appeal to you? Have you ever considered becoming a professional chef, or enrolling in a culinary course?
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