Image: 'Cooking Mama'
In "Cooking Mama: Cook Off" for Wii, two players compete head to head on a split screen as they try to out-cook each other in paella.
By contributor
updated 4/13/2007 7:31:07 PM ET 2007-04-13T23:31:07

Since the Wii arrived in homes last November, players have been called upon to do a great many unusual things with the new console's motion-sensitive controllers.

In "Wii Play" we used the Remote to race cows. In "Wario Ware: Smooth Moves" we used it to pluck hairs from a giant nose and to shove dentures into an old lady's mouth. And now, with the arrival of "Cooking Mama: Cook Off" from Majesco, Wii owners find themselves using the controller to roll dough, break eggs, peel carrots and, yes, even dismember squid.

The Wii's Remote, it seems, is proving to be a versatile utensil that has given developers the opportunity to make entertainment out of some of the most bizarre and mundane activities.

In the case of "Cook Off," this title takes the original "Cooking Mama" — released last year for the Nintendo DS — and brings it to Nintendo's new Wii console. And in many ways (though not all), the move is a good fit.

As in the original DS version of the game, players find themselves enrolled in Mama's down home culinary school. Here, you're challenged to complete various mini games — games that require you to prep and cook dishes of food one ingredient at a time. But while the DS version of "Cooking Mama" had players using the handheld machine's stylus on the touch screen to prepare the recipes, on the Wii it's the Remote that becomes the utensil of choice, as a knife, a spoon, a rolling pin or grater.

Image: Mama
As you complete your dishes, Mama encourages and chides you in her thick Japanese accident.
When preparing spaghetti in squid ink (yes, these are all real-world dishes), you whip the controller to the side to crack open an egg. To roll out a wad of dough, you hold the controller in two hands as if it were a rolling pin and then rotate it back and forth. When it's time to slice the squid into pieces, you slice the controller through the air as if it were a Ginsu.  

Minestrone, paella, cream puffs, hamburgers — you complete your dishes as Mama encourages and chides you in her thick Japanese accent. Then she judges you based on how fast and how accurately you complete each facet of the prep work.

Certainly the game is easy enough to jump into, and it gets solid marks for its creative concept and for its attempts to use the Remote in unique ways. And with the move to the Wii, "Cook Off" has added a much-needed new element to the original game — a multiplayer option.

Now, two players can compete head to head on a split screen as they each try to out-cook the other, à la "Iron Chef." If you don't have another human to play against, you can pit your skills against 10 computer-controlled characters from countries such as Russia, India and Spain as you try to best them at the specialty dishes of their nation.

Still though, there's something missing from this recipe. For starters, the graphics here are nothing to get excited about — they're almost kiddie crude. Since this is the Wii we're talking about, this is hardly that big of an issue. However, even with the addition of the multi-player option the content here feels a bit thin for a console title and the challenges end up becoming rather repetitive (one can only slice and chop so much before growing weary ofit).

A whole new youAnd while the game's use of the motion-sensitive controller offers some quirky playing opportunities, it doesn't always work as smoothly as it seems it should. For instance, no matter how we twisted and turned the Remote, we had a devil of a time peeling the last shreds of skin from the carrots. When using the controller as a spoon to stir a pot, the on-screen action just didn't seem to respond accurately. The controller, at times, simply didn't feel right in the hand.

Ultimately, the game and its implementation of the Wii controller just doesn't satisfy to the degree that a title like "Wario Ware: Smooth Moves" does. That title — with its surreal mini games and savvy use of the Remote — works better, feels better, and, in the end, proves to be a far more addictive package.

In the end, "Cook Off" is a sweet enough treat — one that's certainly worth sampling — but it still comes across a little light on the palate.

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