Review: Cooking Mama's manual
by nich maragos

I bought Cooking Mama today over lunch, but the time dislocation of recent prolonged air travel caused me to forget it was New Game Day, so I neglected to bring my DS to work. I dunno what the game is like. But I DO know what the manual is like, so let me share a few things with you:

It's short. I envy people who get to work on short manuals. Cooking Mama's clocks in at 16 pages; when you subtract the front and back cover, mandatory warning pages, legal information page, table of contents, two pages of credits, warranty page, and two pages of "notes", you're actually talking about a 9-page booklet. This game doesn't need much explanation and rightly doesn't overdo it trying to provide that, though it's not up to the minimalist classic of game instruction that is Space Channel 5's tutorial: "Get a friend to show you how to play!"

It's in black and white. On the one hand, that's poor form, especially when it's only 16 pages. On the other hand, I can't nitpick too much about any cost-cutting measures on Majesco's part when they really did their part to pass the savings on to us. If Cooking Mama hadn't cost me $20, I wouldn't have bought it, no matter how much I'm enamored of the font on the packaging.

About that font: I don't know what it's called, to my shame. But it's fantastic. It's a playful, inviting typeface, one of those rare fonts that's actually improved by all the cheesy Photoshop 101-style effects they use on it. (The back package alone sports glow effects, bold outlining, and faux italics, stuff you could figure out in your first 5 minutes with any halfway decent image processor.) All the chapter headings in the manual are in this font, though not the actual copy.

It gots some credits. I always like to see credits in a manual, and as I already mentioned, Cooking Mama's has 'em. Not only is it fascinating to me to see how other outfits divide up the labor, but any list of names past a certain length will yield some real winners. My favorites come from Majesco's QA division: Onix Alicea deserves (his? her?) own J-RPG, possibly by Tri-Ace, while Hunter S. Gollum evokes Tolkien gone Gonzo.

The hard truth. Points off for the following: the paper's funky smell when you first open it up, writing "salisbury steak" in lower-case (Salisbury is a proper noun, guys!), slipping in a cryptic mention of apparent wireless multiplayer without ever really explaining how that works, and calling the freestyle cooking mode "Use Skill". (That last is an issue with the game, not the manual per se, but it's still irksome.)

Final judgment: A mixed bag of good and not so good. 6/10

nich maragos is a cooking papa.

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Cooking Mama website

This is a picture of Cooking Mama's manual on a plate.