Cooking Mama 2: Dinner With Friends for the Nintendo DS is the second game in the series from the folks at Majesco.  Developed by Office Create, this time the game adds a few more features to the mix, including the ability to cook for Mama and her friends while earning new recipes all along.  Also, there’s the standard ‘make something’ mode from the first game, and a number of multiplayer minigames and all sorts of bonuses.

Can Majesco create another perfect dish, or will this be something that you wouldn’t even feed your dog?

Gamers be warned.  The look of this game is enough to possibly get your ‘man card’ revoked.  The game is full of flowers, bright colors including pink, and pretty pretty things.  Now, this isn’t totally a bad thing, as everything is very colorful and it’s easy to tell the difference between things.  You even get differences in size done well, so you can tell if you’ve finely chopped that onion, or have left huge chunks in. 

The game, being designed for the Nintendo DS, makes good use of the dual screens, and there’s no difficulty seeing what’s going on or reading what’s on the screen at any time.  The style is rather cartoon-like, but that’s to be expected after the first game.  Everything pretty much flows together smoothly graphically, and there are no major issues involved.

The music for Cooking Mama 2 is like the graphics:  bright and cheerful, and not too complex.  It fits the game’s style, though, and is almost catchy without being overly repetitive.  The sounds themselves are fine, although there are times that it’s hard to tell if something is sizziling or burning, because the sounds are very similar in many cases.

The voice acting in the game (and there is acting, oh yes!) seems lifted wholescale from the Japanese game this originally was, and is complete with cute-sounding Engrish phrases. 

Everything in Cooking Mama 2 is controlled by either the stylus, or by blowing into the microphone.  You chop, dice, stir, slice and peel all by flicks of the stylus, while blowing into the microphone to cool down whatever it is you’re cooking at the moment, as needed.

While the controls are a breeze to pick up, and anyone can be happily cooking within only a few minutes, sometimes it’s obvious that the DS stylus isn’t the best control for fine motions.  Sometimes it’s hard to get things exactly right, especially later in the game when the difficulty is amped up, and this can cause some frustration.  It isn’t so much that the controls are bad, as much as it feels like the developers have tried to cram too much into the game, somewhat exceeding what the DS is capable of on a control level.

Overall, the gameplay in Cooking Mama 2 is simple, and exactly the same as the gameplay in Cooking Mama.  The main portion of gameplay is the “Cooking With Mama” mode, where you follow Mama’s instructions to create a sequence of dishes while learning how the game works.  The better you perform the instructions, the higher your score.   If you do the task fast enough, you get a bonus star, five of which will unlock a collectable item which can be used to dress up Mama or her kitchen, or be used with your picture album.  Like the original Cooking Mama, if you mess up here, “Mama will fix it”, and all will be well, albeit at a lesser score.

New this time is the “Let’s Cook” mode, where you create the same set of recipes for Mama or one of nine different “Friends”.  The difference here is that you have to pretty much know your recipes, as there are no instructions.  Also, if you mess up here, the recipe is inedible, and whoever you’re cooking for will be sure to let you know!

Also in the game is a multiplayer “Cooking Contest” mode, where up to four players can play with a single copy of the game, with the DS’s Download Play feature.  This is nothing more than the minigames themselves without any cooking to be done.  Who can chop the most, boil water fastest, or things of that nature is what this is about.

While there is a huge amount of actual game play in Cooking Mama 2, much of the game, while being quite fun and addictive, is ultimately rather repetitive.  You’re cooking numerous dishes, but many of them use the same steps, although some merely get more difficult by making you do more in less time than previously.

The game is the standard price for a DS title at $29.99, and there are a large number of recipes to dig into so there’s a solid amount of gaming value, but not really any replay value.

Cooking Mama 2 isn’t a bad game by any means.  If you’re a fan of the first one, or like minigames in general, this is really a very good game to pick up, and is also quite good for children and younger players.  The addition of the “Let’s Cook” mode can put a bit of emphasis on memorization, which can give fans of the Brain Age series a nice little mental workout.

Even if you haven’t played the original, this title is worth a look unless you are completely adverse to minigames and/or bright colors and cute graphics.