The Wii World Meets the Virtual Kitchen
After a 14-year hiatus, I recently picked up a video game controller. I admit, I felt a little silly. But this wasn't any old remote; it was Nintendo's new(ish) Wii Remote, with motion-sensing abilities that allow you to see your movements mimicked by a character on a TV screen—allowing you to play virtual tennis, for instance, or virtual baseball. Since the game I was testing was Cooking Mama Cook Off, Wii's first cooking-related video game, the motions I made were chopping onions, kneading dough, grating cheese, and more suprisingly, grinding meat and pulling apart squid, which fortunately, isn't as disgusting as it sounds. Wii-ers can play alone or, in Iron Chef fashion, compete against each other to make dishes that range from easy (preparing a hamburger) to difficult (making paella). All the while "Mama" —who looks more like a 12-year-old Japanese girl in her pink bandanna than a matriarch—squeals words of dismay ("You're not mine!") or encouragement ("Better than Mama!" or, like a certain enthusiastic editor in this office, "Awesome!"). Mama then rates players based on speed and accuracy. While some tasks are decidedly unrealistic, like catching hot dogs as they fall from the sky, the game achieves an admirable feat: introducing kids to the pleasures of cooking.