06.08 GOT GAME?

A Taste of Cooking and Combat

By Thomas Hodgson

enter cooking_mama_2_ds1.jpg Cooking Mama 2

Do you enjoy fun but not fondue? Want to cook something that doesn’t set off the fire alarm? Enjoy working in a kitchen without having to learn all those fussy techniques? Well, grab your aprons, because Cooking Mama returns with a sequel fresh out of the oven with frosting and rainbow sprinkles on top. Make sure to wear your potholders because it’s hot hot hot.

With Cooking Mama 2: Dinner with Friends, you can have your cake and eat it too. Although the second course of this franchise doesn’t serve anything too different from your first helping, the game remains a fantastic showcase of the functionality of the Nintendo DS, utilizing the stylus to its fullest potential.

The objective of the game is to learn a variety of different recipes while gaining Mama’s approval; she’s the culinary Obiwan. You fail at sautéing those onions you just chopped or rolling that fish into sushi you just gutted and Mama turns into Chef Ramsay of “Hell’s Kitchen” with belittling observations…and it’s try and try again. Her constant guidance is the difference between you becoming an Iron Chef or the night manager at your local McDonalds.

Each recipe consists of a series of steps, each of which is, in itself, a mini game. Chopping, stirring, dicing, frying, and every other cooking term with “ing” after it have all been adapted to your touch screen. As you advance in culinary skill, more difficult recipes are made available to you. After you’ve earned your practice degree in Culinary Arts, you’re now ready to become head chef for Mama and her friends. Based upon your performance serving them, you gain medals for quickness and precision through the steps in the recipes, with all the potential of becoming a counter-top champion and star of your own Food Network special.

Cooking Mama 2: Dinner with Friends is cheaper than the Easy Bake Oven and probably easier on your intestines. Like a snack, this game is great for a quick bite. You can drop it in, microwave up some enjoyment, and have a steaming meal of excitement ready in a matter of minutes. Or, if you want to get your hands in the dough, set your oven to 350 degrees and savor the flavor of a slowly baked loaf of entertainment. People hungry to try something new will pick up a fork and enjoy every last bite of all this game has to offer them as a Nintendo DS owner, while fans of the series won’t be able to say no to a second slice.

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enter Contra 41.jpgContra 4

Contra 4 is a return to classic hardcore console gaming. Fans of the series when Members Only was on your back and New Kids on the Block were going platinum will enjoy this nostalgic side-scrolling jaunt back through their spreadshot past.

The days of up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, B, A, select, start are but a thing of NES past – there are no codes to give you immortality this time from left to right. To traverse through this run and gun platformer, it’s going to take blood, sweat, and mostly tears to overcome the difficulty. Enemies seemingly never stop coming from all angles at a relentless pace and even easy mode seems harder than performing open-heart surgery on the commuter rail. You will get extremely used to seeing the Game Over screen and the subsequent beginning of the first level.

The levels expand over both of your Nintendo DS screens, a skyscraper effect which virtually doubles your playing area. As you inch closer and closer to the end of the game, a trial and error process of deaths and discovery will help further your knowledge of what to do your second and/or 58th time through a level. You’ll remember where that turret was that shot you or grenadier was that bombarded doom down on your dome. There is no wrong way to eat a Reese’s and there is no right way to rush through this game. If patience is a virtue, then you’ll be a Buddha monk by the time the final boss is on life support.

But the game stays so classic that nothing has really been added or changed, sacrificing any ingenuity for remaining in touch with its diehard fan base. A new grappling hook is about the only accessory added to your arsenal, which helps you ascend across the dual screens. In the dawn of a new age of technology, the developers played it safe and stuck to Contra’s roots, which can either be good or bad depending on your stance as a fan. But if there is a glaring criticism that should be made, it’s that there is no multiplayer two-player mode. This lucrative and seemingly idiot-proof choice wasn’t made and we’re left with what might have or could have been.

What Contra 4 does do right is maintain the hardcore gaming algorithm: no save system + simplistic premise + asininely hard = true skill and satisfaction. For your hard worked thumbs and persistence, you are rewarded tenfold: unlockable characters and the full NES releases of both Contra and Super C give you reason not to throw your Nintendo DS against a wall or into oncoming traffic in frustration.

This 20th anniversary sequel has resurrected the franchise like the second coming of a nerd messiah, but in an age of fast cars and expensive clothes, can this ancient god stand the test of time in his sandals and robe? The resounding answer is yes. Biblical assertions aside, dust off those childhood memories and lock and load for a literal blast from the past.

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