There's a moment in Cooking Mama after you've cooked your dinner perfectly, when you get a virtual pat on the head and are told that you're better than Mama. Don't get too excited, though. It wouldn't be difficult to be a better cook than someone who adds unpeeled, raw beetroot at the last minute when making borscht, or whose recipe for scrambled eggs includes crab and cream cheese. Let's not forget that Mama is the woman who advised that you stir boiled eggs in the original DS Cooking Mama.
So, has much changed for the Wii version? We'll settle for a 'yes and no' here. Cook Off is certainly larger than the DS game, offering a new recipe book packed with 300 dishes from all over the world, including a French meatloaf with sausages, a Spanish paella and some Japanese sushi.
As in the DS version, each stage of the recipe is broken down into a WarioWare-style mini-game, only this time you'll be using the Remote to chop, stir and knead. Things like chopping onions and rolling pastry work as you'd expect, but some stages are surprisingly good - none more so than the brochette where you have to wave the Remote to stoke the flames on a barbecue and then quickly turn the skewers to prevent the meat from burning.
Although you might think that slicing up ingredients makes more sense with a stylus, it actually feels more realistic with the Remote as you really have to put some effort in if you want to slice through meat. And grinding mince by making a turning motion is hard on the elbows. Okay, so peeling carrots with the floating peeler feels a bit strange but, aside from that, it all works well.
If Gordon Ramsay has taught us anything it's that life in a professional kitchen is stressful, and it can get pretty tense here when you get to the crucial stage of preparation. Like when you're draining water from a pan of sushi rice with a delicate twist of the Remote before sharply pulling it back to stop the grains from falling down the sink. However, while losing your rice down the sink would see you sacked from a high-class eatery, here it's just an annoyance.
Unfortunately, like the DS version, Cooking Mama on the Wii suffers from being too nice. While Mr Ramsay would give you a kick up the backside for burning onions, Mama is more the 'arm around the shoulder' type; and while her eyes burn (literally) when you mess up it doesn't stop you from completing the dish. When making popcorn, for instance, we allowed the corn to escape from the pan and yet despite ruining one of only two stages of preparation, not only did we complete the recipe but we even unlocked a new one.
Piece Of Cake
This low difficulty threshold is silly really, as the new Cook Offs show how much fun you can have with a bit more of a challenge. Suddenly you have to peel prawns, chop peppers and crack eggs more quickly in order to beat your foreign opponent at their own specialities. It really is so much better as your actions have consequences and one spilled egg yolk can mean defeat. As you'd expect, these Cook Offs are even more enjoyable in two-player mode with you and a friend both trying to speed-chop like idiots.
It's just such a shame that the single-player main mode offers so little to stretch your skills. There may be over 300 dishes to prepare, but as they're so easy to unlock it does become a bit of a chore as the game just doesn't test you enough to compel you to keep cooking. The frantic Cook Offs mean this isn't a kitchen nightmare, but nor is it a triumph.