The Cooking Mama series presents the eponymous Mama as a culinary master (and a crafting master, and a camping master, and a babysitting master among other things). But with all those conspicuous jump-cuts in her process as the game moves from one minigame to the next it's always been easy to doubt her actual prowess. Now YouTube creator (and engineer) GameTim is putting Mama's methods to the test, and while the results are seldom perfect it turns out there's still some value in Mama's repertoire.
GameTim's setup is straightforward. On the left, gameplay footage from one of the many Cooking Mama games following a recipe from start to finish. On the right, a real-world recreation of the very same process — including a little good faith effort being made to estimate proper measurements and cooking times. Even mistakes are mirrored, like a slip-up with a makeshift pastry bag, an ice cube thrown just past a cocktail shaker, or a dessert that just won't release from its dish in time.
But the most surprising thing about this series isn't the care being taken to recreate Mama's best known dishes, it's that a lot of them are actually workable. Like this one, a Pizza recipe from the original DS Cooking Mama:
There's always been a degree of abbreviation, even impressionism to Cooking Mama. It's like it's based less on how cooking is and more on how cooking feels, glossing over the numbers and the waiting and all the dull or fiddly parts to leave players with sets of recipes broken up into easily digested thirty second tasks. It is a game with a younger audience in mind, after all—the digital equivalent of a little toy pan of Easy Bake cake mix cooking under that little light bulb. The idea that an edible, maybe even tasty product might come out of any of those recipes seemed a little dubious to say the least.
And there are some inevitable failures when Mama's recipes don't make the jump to reality gracefully, but even a failure can offer something valuable. At the end of each video GameTim shows and comments on the results, including some lessons he's taken away about how Mama's methods might be improved on.
I'm not sure that I'll be rushing to cook any of these myself anytime soon, but if I ever get trapped in a kitchen with my DS Lite it's nice to know that Mama will be able to help me most of the way through making a decent pizza.