by Marty Demarest & r & & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & M & lt;/span & y Wii Remote is waving around in the air between me and a home-cooked meal. On the center of my television screen, a pale yellow pat of butter sizzles in a frying pan. Clutching my Wii Remote, I sit on the sofa and tilt my wrist to the left, right, then forward. Onscreen, the globule of butter swerves around the pan. I rock my hand left and right, slowly tilting it back. The butter bubbles noisily in swipes across the bottom of the pan.
I've already prepared the onions and garlic. Cooking Mama: Cook Off lists the country of origin for each of the game's 50+ recipes. When I selected "Whitefish Meuniere" next to the French flag, I suspected that I would begin by chopping onions. It started with easy, almost line-tracing work with the Wii Remote across the ends of a plump white onion, then through the middle -- no tears shed. Then a rapid waving of the Remote and onscreen my knife fluttered above the onion, mincing it into bits. I rapidly fanned the garlic into thin slices with a few more flicks of my wrist.
Ripping the skin off the fillets of fish was harder. As I pulled the trigger on my Remote, an onscreen hand grabbed a corner of the skin. As I moved my arm slowly across the air in front of me, the hand onscreen pulled the fish skin back with a long thin slurp. Halfway across the fish's wide middle the skin ripped with a damp smack, leaving a ragged edge for me to grab again and continue squishily pulling. Then I soaked the fish fillets in milk, wiped them off, and gently dusted them with flour.
Somehow Cooking Mama: Cook Off forgets the onions and garlic when it's time to cook the fish. When shaking the Remote like the handle of a frying pan, or twisting the Remote around to control the heat, the cooking process feels and sounds lifelike. No aromas arise from the television, though, and no dirty dishes accumulate around its perimeter. And then the fish is done -- dropped onto a plate in flat, Wii-grade graphics, unappetizing to look at, and entirely inedible.
THE GOOD: The Wii Remote is the handle of a frying pan, the crank of a meat grinder, the end of a pair of chopsticks and even a hot dog bun, upon which must be caught falling condiments. This brings a little more variety to the onscreen antics in Cooking Mama: Cook Off, although out in the real world, the Wii Remote is still being flailed about in much the same way that it is in other Wii games like WarioWare: Smooth Moves and Wii Play.
THE BAD: Recipes that start with one ingredient and then abandon them abound, while some of "Mama's" instructions are incomprehensible and shrill. About the only time I know I've done something right is when I see the flat, anime face of Mama with her eyes and teeth sparkling at me. If she's shooting flames from her eyes and speaking in badly broken English, I can only assume that I haven't handled my Remote right.
THE BOTTOM LINE: A cartoonish cooking simulation that replicates a kitchen with half-baked results.