The eponymous Cooking Mama will shower you with compliments if you master the techniques: “Wow, even better than Mama!” she will exclaim if you earn three stars for a cooking task.
It’s not all relaxing games and entertainment. “Cooking Mama: Cooking!” has some heart-pounding moments, especially when food physics refuse to cooperate, like when you try to knock a stubborn onion or garlic off the cutting board in a time-based challenge. Or, toss black bean meatballs with expert hand-eye coordination, taking care not to drop the ball (literally).
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“Cooking Mama: Cooking!” from developer Office Create Corp. came to Apple Arcade in June, but it’s still a relatively new release. The game starts players off with a few ingredients that can be combined to create different and discoverable recipes. There aren’t many recipes to unlock yet, as users have to log in daily to receive new ingredients. The recipes so far seem to be tastier than in some of Cooking Mama’s previous titles and cover a wide range of cuisines.
The Cooking Mama franchise began in 2006, with the first title launched on the Nintendo DS and aimed at young girls. The franchise has had over a dozen entries (some of which were flops).
Unlike another Cooking Mama title on mobile called “Cooking Mama: Let’s Cook!”, “Cuisine” is included in Arcade, a $5 per month subscription organized and controlled by Apple since 2019. This means that “Cuisine” does not does not rely on ads and in-game purchases to generate revenue, and as a result, its interface is decidedly less cluttered and overwhelming than “Let’s Cook!” which has tons of pop-ups, ads for in-game promotional events, and constant begging to watch ads.
Office Create Corp. CEO Noriyasu Togakushi said the idea of ”Cooking Mama: Kitchen!” came to think of how Cooking Mama could exist on Apple Arcade as a sleeker title without tons of microtransactions.
“It was a game we took on precisely because we were developing for Apple Arcade, where we could just focus on the fun of the game,” Togakushi said.
But “Kitchen” can also feel a bit stripped down and can feel frustrating to play at times, as it doesn’t have the ability to retry levels with in-game currency or purchase new recipes in advance. Players can cook dishes multiple times, but are limited by the number of ingredients they have (and the number of ingredients included so far by game developers). New recipes are discovered by unlocking ingredients each day, or by successfully completing a dish and collecting stars.
Released in 2015, “Cooking Mama: Let’s Cook!” has been downloaded 34.1 million times worldwide on the Apple App Store, according to data tracker Sensor Tower. Getting an idea of the popularity of “Kitchen”, and Apple’s Arcade subscription service more broadly, has proven more difficult. Apple declined to share specific app data. Sensor Tower said it did not collect Apple Arcade data.
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The game’s use of different ingredients depending on the day is meant to resemble what it’s like to cook in real life, when people use what they have on hand. Office Create Corp. also worked on including recipes that might be loosely followed in real life, but not precisely.
“‘Cooking Mama’ is played by people all over the world, so there are some famous dishes that everyone knows we just can’t leave out,” said “Cooking Mama: Cooking!” producer Tomoaki Matsui. “But we also need to have a balance between recipes from different regions so that we can always bring the sense of surprise and discovery to the kitchen.”
To recreate realistic ingredients in the game, Tomoaki noted that game developers either cook the ingredients themselves or ask restaurants to share what the food preparation looked like.
“You have the way the oil jumps when you drop an ingredient into a hot, oiled frying pan. You have the way the ingredients move during different types of food preparation,” said Togakushi, the CEO. “We often get feedback from players saying that the cooking scenes and finished dishes in the game make them hungry, which I think is a sign of our success.”