Review Date: January 26, 2011
Mama sure does get around. After numerous releases across game consoles, handhelds, and even mobile phones, the Cooking Mama series has finally landed on Facebook. And nothing has been lost in the translation. The game sports the same bright and happy style coupled with great mini-game-based gameplay that has made the series so popular.
As the name implies, Friends' Cafe sees the ever smiling Cooking Mama opening up a new cafe. You'll be serving up tasty meals, but this isn't a time management game in the vein of Diner Dash. Instead, Cooking Mama is all about mini-games that attempt to recreate the experience of cooking. And for the most part, they work. You'll be cooking dishes that range from chocolate chip cookies to scrambled eggs, and everything in between. And every one is coupled with a different game.
Depending on what you're making, the difficulty ranges quite a bit. If you're making coffee, for instance, all you need to do is pour it into a mug with out overflowing. Making something like a biscotti, meanwhile, requires multiple steps, from selecting and mixing ingredients, to baking, to cutting into pieces. You'll be frying, dicing, mixing, and more. The game gives you on-screen instructions that are almost always easy to understand, though on occasion it may take you a few times to fully grasp what you need to do. Once complete, you'll receive a score based on how well you did.
The game gives you goals to complete, which range from serving certain types of meals to earning a certain amount of money. And this is where the cafe management comes into play.
Open For Business
This part of the game is pretty simple. You can create a menu from the dishes you make, including drinks, appetizers, main courses, and even desserts. Then, once you're satisfied, you can open up for business. You'll need to choose how long you want to stay open for -- the longer you're open the more it will cost you -- and then the money starts rolling in. Customers will come in and eat, and you're bank account will grow large. That money can be used both to buy the ingredients you need to make dishes, as well as to decorate Mama's kitchen.
Like every other game in the series, Friends' Cafe is bright and cheerful and brimming with positivity. Even the music is upbeat and it's hard not to have a smile on your face when you're playing. This is also true because the difficulty has been toned down quite a bit when compared to other iterations of the game, making this a much more casual experience.
The Bottom Line
With Friends' Cafe, the Cooking Mama series makes a seamless transition to Facebook, offering up the same tasty gameplay and mouthwatering sense of charm. It's a little on the easy side, but that just makes it a better pick-up-and-play experience, which is just perfect for Facebook. And the addition of the light restaurant management elements just makes for another satisfying diversion. This is one meal you won't want to send back.