Atari was completely unprepared for our interest in the game, as we couldn't get specific details on how many recipes are in the title, but we were told that there were over 100. Furthermore, the way Atari presented the game was as if someone had never played Cooking Mama before, which was obviously the case with some worthless Nintendo of Europe execs we scared off, who were too busy appearing posh and asking inane questions. Once they were gone, we got some time to actually test out the game and some of its features.
The gameplay in What's Cooking? takes place in a kitchen across approximately seven easy to navigate stations. There is a menu bar on the top of the DS's lower screen to transfer the player between the stations. At the beginning, the game will lead the player through the recipes and have them chop, fry, season and do all the other we've gotten used to in the Cooking Mama franchise (minus the cartoony graphics). Meanwhile, the game will play voice clips of Jamie Oliver giving positive reinforcement. The best way to think about What's Cooking? is that it's not so much a "game," as it is an interactive cookbook.
After playing certain levels a couple times, it's very possible to actually memorize a recipe and want to try it out in the real world. What's Cooking? also features an interactive cookbook, mobile shopping list and recipe sharing. The shopping list and recipe sharing are ridiculous features. Walking around the supermarket with DS in hand seems silly and sharing recipes is probably far more efficient by these things called the e-mails. One feature we thought would be in game, but wasn't, would be the ability to write up your own recipe levels to share with friends. It seemed like a natural extension of the game and what we thought "recipe sharing" originally meant.
Atari is currently testing this first What's Cooking? game with Jamie Oliver. If the title is successful, the What's Cooking? brand may be used on other celebrity chefs. We can imagine -- these were absolutely not confirmed -- What's Cooking? Rachel Ray, What's Cooking? Anthony Bourdain, and guarenteed geek hit, What's Cooking? Alton Brown. The Brown version would be a day one purchase for any self-respecting geek with a modicum of cooking ability.
What's Cooking? With Jamie Oliver should be available this October for $30. The game isn't exactly "fun," but it is a nice training tool. We imagine it being played by someone who wants to learn new recipes, perhaps during their commute into work during the week, and then memorizing at least one recipe that might be worth cooking for that special someone in their life over the weekend. We're certainly curious to see how What's Cooking? does at retail and seeing if the franchise expands.