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Royal Soil- Gardening Mama Reviewed

Gardening Mama for the Nintendo DS. Developer: Cooking Mama Ltd., Publisher: Majesco

One of the great ironies of videogaming is the amount of leisure time we devote to the simulation of vocations. The amount of time I’ve soaked into the SimCity series is likely close to the number of hours required for a successful city planner campaign in the real world. On my iphone alone, I’ve followed a number of occupational pursuits, from running a restaurant in Dinner Dash, managing a beauty parlor in Sally’s Salon, and been a construction foreman in TowerBloxx, to take a break from my ‘real’ tasks.

Undoubtedly, we can trace the popularity of the industrial simulation to Mama. Three years ago, players all over the world rightfully enjoyed the Cooking Mama series. The original game combined a collection of involving minigames with an adorable cartoon aesthetic, presenting a diversion that has spawned a number of culinary sequels for the DS, Wii, and Iphone. With Majesco’s recent Nintendo DS release, Gardening Mama, our beloved chef has left the confines of the kitchen, to tend to the local flora. 

Whereas Cooking Mama allowed players to progress at a leisurely pace, gradually unlocking new recipes after each successful dish, Gardening Mama offers a more stimulating velocity. Players are required to plant, cultivate, and maintain multiple gardens. Beyond lead character Mama, the game’s floral and vegetable patches are the game’s secondary stars- each can be groomed and decorated to the player’s liking. Within a few hours, our yard was decorated with colorful flower beds, pots bursting with flora, and garden gnomes. The title cultivates a sensation that there is a constant set of tasks required by the player, as plants wither, bugs invade, and pruning is required.

Much like our matriarch’s gastronomic pastime, Gardening Mama employs a number of simple taps, slides, and motions to simulate backyard planting and preservation. Each individual diversion is broken down into a series of micro-steps, from digging holes in the soil, planting, watering, and pruning. A majority of the games simulate real world activities, while others are fantastically improbable. A watering diversion had us drawing shapes on the bottom screen to create a series of interlocking rainbows.

Mama’s one shortcoming has been her unvarying ambiguity- she’ll give general directions, but rarely offers the specific information necessary to successfully complete a task. With the Cooking Mama games, there were a handful of kitchen related tasks, from cutting, stirring, and sautéing that encompassed the majority to kitchen tasks. Gardening offers a myriad of actions, so initially players may be a bit perplexed by how to execute Mama’s equivocal requests. On screen arrows and iconic direction assist the player, but occasional I stumbled upon a garden quandary. In one type of minigame, players are requested to mix a specified amount of soil. Scooping soil from the ground to the mixing bed is accomplished by a diagonal swipe of the stylus, but controlling the amount of soil proved to be elusive.  Short strokes weren’t recognized, and longer strokes added an excess amount of dirt, that resulted in failure. We would have appreciated if some of these minigames were more cerebral, offering a Brain Training-like problem for the gamer to overcome. Graphically, Gardening Mama presents a charming, cartoonish world full of pastel colors, and chirpy tunes. Although Mama has a limited amount of sound bites, her heavily accented and cheerful delivery always produces a smile.

During my time with Gardening Mama, I became captivated by the seemingly boundless set of tasks required to keep my plant life flourishing.  Despite a few niggling control issues, my time in the garden was largely enjoyable, primarily thanks to Mama’s simplicity and lively graphical presentation. Fans of the series will undoubtedly enjoy the amount of ‘growth’ displayed in this backyard diversion; it’s a return to form from Mama’s recent string of minor setbacks on the iPhone and Wii.

About Robert Allen

With over 35 years of gaming experience, Robert 'DesertEagle' Allen is Tech-Gaming's resident worrier/warrior who spends his days teaching at three colleges and his nights devoted to JRPGs.


  1. Is her voice still all cute when her eyes catch on fire and she offers to ‘fix it’?

  2. I’ve yet to play one of the Mama games. I might have to change that.

  3. DE’s admits to playing Sally’s Salon? LOL!

    Did you enjoy it?

  4. If Mama has an accent, she supposed to be Japanese. She doesn’t really look it.

  5. How long before a line of Cooking Mama foods hits the states?

  6. That’s her trademark. I doubt they’d ever change that.

  7. I might have to be Cooking Mama for Halloween. She’s one of the few female videogame characters that isn’t half-naked.

  8. Take off her headband, give her grey hair, and then she’ll look like a mama.

    She’s too Rachel Ray.

  9. What was wrong with the iphone version?!?!

  10. No interest in Mama. I played the first game, and while it was cute, it didn’t hold me attention.

  11. Rachel Ray is kinda hot. Of course, I have a thing for Italian women that can cook.

  12. Much better than the IGN review that complained the title was ‘too juvenile’. What the hell did they expect?

  13. I saw that and thought maybe someone more interested in the game should have handled the review.

    This review seems a lot more fair, talking about some control issues. I’m glad you guys aren’t as jaded.

  14. I wish there was a hydroponics unlockable minigame. LOL! They could turn the game into “Weeds”

  15. Now that’s a licensed game that would be great.

  16. Is this one $19.99 or $29.99. I might buy Mama if she’s a Jackson.

  17. I wanting Drinking Mama: Trailer Park Edition

  18. Seems like a lot of reviewers aren’t loving MAMA.

  19. Sorry, but she talks way too much.

    Might get this for my daughter.

  20. Waiting for Cannabis Mama: Aprons and Blunts.

  21. Good review. I liked the first game but never continued with the series.

  22. How many more Mama games can they make?

  23. What, no ‘your mama’ jokes? This must be a mature crowd 😉

  24. What the hell is TowerBloxx?

  25. DE, you got some crazy tastes.

  26. I didn’t know this information so far.By reading your article I came to know this.Thanks for providing this for us.

  27. Hi,

    WOW nice game , I have not play this game from so far , Will try this time , hope this game make me enjoy….
    Iron gates