Celebrity chefs have been all over our televisions recently. Heston Blumenthal has taken over Little Chef, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall has taken on Tesco and Greg Wallace can be seen complaining that the dinners he is being served on Masterchef aren't wet enough. Yet, if there is one cook we perhaps didn't need to see back on our screens, it's Cooking Mama.
As enjoyable as virtual cooking was first time around, you have to wonder if the world really needs a Cooking Mama sequel. She kickstarted culinary gaming with her first outing on the DS and her success has inspired others to try their hand at bringing gastronomy to Nintendo platforms. Later this year she'll be stepping out into the garden on the DS but she's still in the kitchen on the Wii and apart from a visual overhaul and some pointless mini-games she has very little new to offer.
Of course, when the first game arrived on Wii it was still fresh and gamers were still being enticed by exciting new ways to use the Remote. In Cooking Mama you used the controller to slice onions, grate cheese and stir as Mama helped you cook lots of different dishes from all around the world. Like Trauma Center, it's one of those games that works a bit better on the DS as you actually touch the ingredients which feels far more involving than wafting your controller in the air to peel a parsnip. Still, it was quite enjoyable for those who hadn't played the handheld game.
For World Kitchen, Mama has been given a new 3D makeover which means that the ingredients and characters are no longer flat. It looks nice enough but naturally it doesn't make any difference to the gameplay as you still wave the Remote around in the air to cook different dishes. As in previous games, each stage is broken down into mini-games so you'll be flicking the Remote to shut oven doors, twisting it to pull heads off prawns, wafting it to fan rice and moving it from side to side to make burgers.
It's when you form patties that you'll experience another new element - a mini-game within a mini-game! If you don't flick the Remote fast enough to chuck balls of meat between your hands, you'll drop a patty and the dog who is lurking in the background with a chef's hat on will try and eat the burger before it hits the floor. If you shake the Remote fast enough, Mama will beat him to it and catch the burger. This would be okay if it wasn't so easy to catch the burger. You would have thought it would get progressively harder to punish you each time you drop some meat but sadly that's not the case.
Cooking with Mama isn't exactly tricky but it gets tougher when you challenge another player or character to a cook off. Then it becomes a test of Remote skills and stamina as you attempt to chop, stir and cook faster than your opponent. It's hard work on the arms and is almost as exhausting as running the 100m in Mario & Sonic At The Olympic Games.
Unfortunately it also highlights some of the problems with the controls. Admittedly they are better than the first Cooking Mama but cracking an egg is still trickier than it should be and some motions aren't spot on, which is annoying when you're trying to beat Mama in a cook off. The element of competition in this mode makes Cooking Mama more enjoyable but while you can play co-op with a friend, inexplicably there is no versus mode on offer.
However, the over-riding feeling is of a series that's gone a bit stale. World Kitchen isn't terrible but it is an unnecessary sequel that offers too few new thrills. It might be time for Mama to hang up her apron.