How has the video-game industry changed in the past couple of decades? Exhibit A: Crafting Mama. When I was in middle school, Super Mario 64 and GoldenEye 007 (the original) were the vogue. Certainly not games in which you build a virtual pinwheel. But with the surge of casual gamers in recent years, games like Crafting Mama, the latest in the line of popular Cooking Mama games, have become the order of the day, and this game is a fairly simple (and tired) experience.
Like its brethren, Crafting Mama is a heavy-handed serving of Japanese kawaii culture—that is, things that are super cute and super bubbly. The “Mama” character returns as your hostess and teacher, which is the same role she undertook in the previous games in this simulation/mini-game franchise. In the predecessors, you played quick mini games to cook food or garden (and in a forthcoming edition, babysit). This time, you’ll assemble a collection of super-cute, super-fun crafts! It’s super easy. Simply follow the on-screen instructions for each step in assembly. For example, to build the ocarina, you’ll use the DS stylus and touch screen to cut and sand wood, drill holes, and add paint. They’re pretty easy motions, like moving the stylus up and down or from side to side. There’s a time limit, and the faster you complete your task, the better ranking you’ll receive. The more crafts you make, the more will be unlocked to create.
As you’ve no doubt surmised, this is a game that was clearly designed for very young kids, likely girls. With the other crafts including dolls, earrings and other jewelry, not to mention all the pink and floral graphics, the target niche is obvious. Keep that in mind as you run down your holiday gift list and find any primary school-aged females. Otherwise, Crafting Mama doesn’t offer a whole lot to many people. It’s a polished, well-produced game, but it offers fairly low levels of difficulty and complexity; it also doesn’t help that the formula’s getting a little worn, with this being the fifth in a series that basically recycles gameplay.
Overall, Crafting Mama is yet another saccharine collection of very simple mini games that brings little, if anything, new to the series. The unlockable crafts add a bit of challenge, but not much—and even then, the games are more of the same. This is a definite pass for most adults, but your six-year-old niece with penchants for all things Lisa Frank and Easy Bake might want to give it a go.