Starting from launch, we’ve been playing the new Cooking Mama title on the 3DS. As always, Cooking Mama: Sweet Shop is an assortment of short mini-games played end-to-end in order to make a dish of some sort. You’ll cook one meal and they give you another to replace it. That leads into the most prominent thing about the game. Cooking Mama: Sweet Shop wants you to always have options.
That leads into probably the most prominent thing about the game. Cooking Mama: Sweet Shop wants you to always have options. Whether it’s the food you cook, the clothes Mama wears, or the store you sell your sweets in, this game always gives you a choice. So much so that this is likely the reason the game is so addictive. Because just about every detail is customizable, there are hours of menu-surfing to do until you have everything just the way you want it. This almost seems to overshadow the core gameplay at times, but in the end, that’s kinda what the game is really about.
Core Gameplay and Customization
At its core, Cooking Mama is all about utilizing the touch screen on the 3DS to perform various tasks. This can range from repeating numbers you’ve just seen to whisking a bowl full of eggs carefully. You’ll even need to balance food items at times and on rare occasions, the game even makes use of the built-in mic. As with most mini-game collections, Cooking Mama doesn’t really seem to focus on one thing in its core gameplay. Instead, the focus of the game is somewhere between the lines.
Everything you do in Cooking Mama: Sweet Shop brings you closer to more customization options. Cooking enough treats will unlock more in the store and sometimes unlock bonus mini-games. These bonuses allow you to play one mini-game over and over until you get a high enough score to unlock more outfits for Mama in the store. You can customize the floor, walls, and counter of your kitchen, as well as your appliances and tools. The layout and decorations in your store are yours to pick and choose. You can even change the in-game clock (although I’ve yet to figure out how you get more of those).
This leads me back to my previous point: this game is all about giving you, the player, options. And you have those options so you can spend more time customizing. This pads out the length of the game, turning what could be beaten in one day with ease into something that’ll occupy the faster players for a week at best. Players with less focus may be occupied for much longer. Which really makes me feel that the game works best for those that have their 3DS with them for those long train or car rides.
The Charm of Cooking Mama: Sweet Shop
Gameplay is great and usually, it’s what I focus on most in a review, but to do so misses one of this game’s greatest assets: the presentation. Cooking Mama: Sweet Shop, like any other game in the series, is very cutesy and always gives you something to look at. It’s the spectacle that really makes Cooking Mama work as well as it does. You’re given a motherly character who appreciates everything you do. Almost all custom setups will still look good. Everything is stylized and cute.
On top of that, the soundtrack, while a bit repetitive by the end, is very appealing. The game works out well in the sense that it gives you plenty to do without much effect aside from your own enjoyment. Then the cute personal appeal draws you back in for more.
Ultimately, Cooking Mama is a delightful game that keeps you playing for better or worse. You’re never locked into one path and the aesthetic appeals greatly to a more casual audience. This game works best in a pick-up-and-play setting, which makes sense as it’s on the Nintendo 3DS. If you’re looking for the deepest depths of content, you won’t find it, here, as the game is overall somewhat short, if you’re not into the customization aspect.
For those that ARE into the customization, this game could easily eat a week or a month or longer, just depending on how much you get into it. There is plenty to choose from to make every aspect of the experience suit you. For a more casual audience or younger players, I recommend this game. For core gamers, you can probably afford to look somewhere else unless the aesthetic just suits you that well.
In the end, Cooking Mama: Sweet Shop does nothing that we aren’t already used to. If you’ve liked this series in the past, you’ll probably like it, now. If it wasn’t your cup of tea, you probably shouldn’t expect this one to be, either. And if you’re new to the series altogether, this may not be a bad place to pick it up.