I have been a passive observer of the Cooking Mama franchise for a long time. I was intrigued by the games’ simplistic designs and focus on boosting kids’ confidence in cooking. When I was younger, I just never had the time to give them a try. When I was older, I was just too proud to try something that looked so childish.
However, I really wanted to try the game’s newest iteration, Cooking Mama: Sweet Shop. The game puts a heavier emphasis on baking as opposed to cooking. As many of my friends know, I love baking sweets. Unfortunately, I have not had as much time to engage in the hobby. Could Sweet Shop fill the baking void in my life while teaching me new recipes to try when I did finally have the time?
Well…kind of. It kind of does.
Cooking Like a Boss
Cooking Mama: Sweet Shop follows the gameplay of its predecessors. Players select a recipe and follow Mama’s instructions in three to twelve mini games (depending on the recipe) before decorating their final creation and getting a final score out of 100 from Mama on their performance.
The mini games are incredibly simple, but Mama demands perfection. Not completing the task in time or messing up too many times will earn the player a soft reprimand. Mama will finish the task for the player and move on to the next step in the recipe.
It ticks me off. It ticks me off so much. Mama’s soft smile hides a mischievous glee. She loves that her young ward has made a mistake and now needs her help. She drives me to succeed in a way that not many NPCs do.
I have never really been one to care how I score at the end of a level of a video game. That is, until Sweet Shop. I do not want to be perfect for Mama, but I do want to be better. Every time I finish a game and earn a score that causes her to say, “Wow! Even better than Mama,” I smile a little too maliciously. The feeling is addicting.
A Quick Bite
The mini games remind me a lot of Mario Party, specifically the ones in Mario Party 8. The player uses the stylus in a way that reminds me of having to use a Wii remote. They range from pattern recognition (cutting cake correctly), to timing (slicing the green off strawberries as Mama throws them at you in rapid succession), to speed mastery (peeling bananas in seconds). They are varied enough that the player will not be repeating the same type of game in the same recipe.
However, playing the game in one sitting for more than an hour will leave the gamer feeling a little tuckered out and mentally starved for a little more (much like Mario Party’s mini games). Cooking Mama: Sweet Shop is definitely a game best played in small doses. It is a good palate cleanser that should be played between lengthier game sessions.
A Decent Recipe
I have not been able to play through all of the recipes in Cooking Mama: Sweet Shop. The player unlocks new recipes on a constant basis, so there is almost always something new to bake. Of the three-dozen or so recipes that I have tried, most are pretty accurate.
Simpler recipes like the candied apple are spot on, and the simulation is good practice for making the dessert in real life. However, more complex recipes (specifically multi-layered cakes) skip a few of the steps in the baking process. Theoretically, you could still replicate the recipe and get decent results, as Sweet Shop covers the major points of making complex desserts, but there would definitely be a learning curve.
Satisfy the Customer
There is a bit more to Sweet Shop than just cooking for Mama. The sweets you bake can be placed in your own personal shop and sold to customers who wander in and gaze at your treats before deciding to buy something. Obviously, the higher quality food sells for a higher price. The money the player earns can be spent on new clothes for Mama or decorations for the kitchen.
The RPG player in me loves unlocking new stuff to create the perfect aesthetic, but I must admit that the lack of any practical unlockables makes the experience a little boring after a while. I mostly only go into my shop now to swear at the kids who stare at the expensive cake for two minutes before deciding they would rather just buy an ice cream.
A Little Too Sweet
I am ultimately happy I picked up a game that I normally would have skipped. Cooking Mama: Sweet Shop is very fun in smaller doses, and I can foresee enjoying my never-ending struggle to satisfy Mama’s impossible standards for months to come. I just wish there were a little bit more to do other than that.
The mini games are varied, but only just enough. Expanding my shop and decorating both Mama and my kitchen is fun for the first few hours or so, but it ultimately devolves into a mindless cycle of meaningless grinding that reminds me a little too much of Animal Crossing. If that is your thing then you will love this game. I can only handle that feeling in small doses.