Cooking is certainly not what you would consider a common theme among video games, but with the success of Cooking Mama it would seem that the unique control functions of the Wii Remote would lend themselves heavily to the type of gameplay you'd expect from a cooking simulation. Having said that, those who are expecting a standard cooking experience will be in for quite a surprise at what video game publisher Virtual Toys has "cooked up" for game fans with the release of its first WiiWare title, Yummy Yummy Cooking Jam. While there's still plenty of traditional cooking activity to be found, the overall presentation of the game - complete with an unusual mix of vampires and other assorted creatures of the night - makes you wonder exactly what the developers were thinking when they put this unique WiiWare title together.
The main premise of Yummy Yummy Cooking Jam revolves around food preparation inside various eateries. There are four different restaurants, each serving its own unique type of food, including hot dogs, hamburgers, pizza and Mexican food. You'll start out making hot dogs, which feature simple core ingredients, and you’ll also be dealing with extremely tolerant customers. Once you've completed the necessary four rounds at the hot dog restaurant you'll move on to the more difficult foods that feature far more ingredients and an increasingly impatient customer base.
The object is simple. You have a time limit and your goal is to accumulate a certain amount of tip money to progress to the next round. The better your food and the faster your service, the better the tips. As your customers enter the restaurant you'll have to use the Wii Remote to hand out menus to each person at the table. After a short peruse of the menu, customers begin giving you their orders which you have to follow exactly in order to win their approval, and ultimately their tip. While this is a very simple task in the first level, you'll soon be bombarded with more tasks and more complicated orders. Some items can be put together with very little effort, like placing a wiener on a hot dog bun, but soon you'll have to start cutting up ingredients, warming buns, and dispensing a wide variety of condiments to get each order to your customers' liking. In later levels a few annoyances are thrown your way, one being the bothersome flies that you'll have to swat from time to time. As the game intensifies, you'll find your task getting much more complicated as your progress through the game.
There are basically two modes to choose from. The Career Mode is a single-player game that allows you to play through the levels in their specific order. Although this game would lend itself to a bit of a story line, there's actually very little given out in the way of plot and at times it feels like nothing more than a slightly longer version of the Arcade Mode, in which up to two players take on stages from any restaurant that you've currently cleared in Career Mode. This is mainly a race to rack up tips, or if you're playing the two-player game, it becomes a competition to see which player can rack up the most tips within the set time limit. It's a small diversion from Career Mode, but a nice option if you like a little two-player action.
The control itself is fairly intuitive but the gameplay doesn't change enough to keep the game from becoming repetitive after a short while. The food items are also located quite close together, which can make quickly picking up the item you need tricky at times. The portions of the game where you have to wiggle the Wii Remote, like flipping hamburger patties and chopping ingredients, can also be a little tricky given the lack of responsiveness the Wii Remote for these motions. It doesn't help that the game is extremely easy for the first two restaurants and then all of a sudden becomes quite challenging with no gradual increase in difficulty. There's no denying that there are some fun elements that will likely appeal to gamers who enjoy this type of cooking game experience, but it really doesn't offer up enough fun and challenge to win over those who are not.
The visuals in Yummy Yummy Cooking Jam are another story and easily the high point of the game. The sugary sweet graphics are extremely vibrant and rich in colour, and they practically jump off the screen. There's also a tremendous amount of detail in all of the various settings of the game. Even the menus have a very sharp and polished look to them as do the individual food items and cooking hardware. It's also worth noting that although the developers decided to go with a highly odd choice of using vampires and other spooky creatures as the game's clientele, every one of the characters is drawn very well and showcases the same attention to detail found in the rest of the game. It's just a shame that the same dedication wasn’t put into the gameplay department.
There are, however, some really catchy musical tracks. The only problem is most of them sound like they belong in a totally different game. They just don't seem to fit in with the surroundings in which they're found in and at times feel tacked on. The only track that seems to halfway fit the restaurant it's being featured in is the slightly Italian-flavoured tune that plays during the pizza parlour level. The sound effects are a mixed bag as well. To be fair, there are some really solid sound effects that go a long way as far as adding a degree of realism to the situation, but others are so annoying that they will make you scratch your head wondering why they were ever used in the first place.
There's no denying that Yummy Yummy Cooking Jam has some enjoyable elements that will appeal to some gamers, but the streaky play control, sharp difficulty curve and fairly short duration make it hard to recommend, especially when you take into account the 1000 Wii Point price tag. Cooking game fans will find enough enjoyable game play elements to make the game worth their time and money, but if cuisine-base video games leave you feeling bloated and ill, there's really nothing here that is likely change your mind.