It's tough to hate on Cooking Mama. The cheery graphics and so-simple minigames make it ideal for casual gamers or anyone looking to kill a few minutes on a bus, but hang around long enough and the charm starts to wear thin. There may be more than 70 dishes to create, but after 15 minutes of cutting, stirring and blowing into the DS's microphone, we don't care how delicious octopus spaghetti might be.
The entire game revolves around preparing dishes. You start simple, with things like rice, then work up to elaborate combinations of meat, seasoning and anything else you want to toss on there. Preparation might be tapping the knife to cut a carrot, tracing arrows to mash bread around or obeying a series of rhythm-game-like commands to stew a pot of ingredients. Each step of creation is its own timed minigame, eventually giving you the finished product at the end.
Variations in the recipe can pop up, providing you with a choice to continue with the dish as-is or veer off and create something totally new. Either way, you'll unlock all the meals eventually. But if you're going to attempt such a flame-kissed feat, please, do it in moderation. Much like Tamagotchi Connection, the sugar-drenched cuteness goes away and all you're left with is a mountain of like-themed minigames. Fun, but only for so long.
Our only technical beef with the game is the occasionally spotty touch screen control. Some of the minigame commands aren't as responsive as they could be, leading to bad grades on dishes you know you're nailing. Other than that, everything here works great - just take your time and don't expect too much. It's worth noting that the budget-friendly price makes Mama a risk-free investment, so despite the lack of depth or replay value (you only need to play these dishes once or twice), there's enough five-minute fun to keep Mama on hand for quick cooking sessions.