There's a line of people out the door, you're manning 3 ovens and 2 frosting stations at once, the darn cupcakes are still in the microwave, and the guy in the pink bunny costume is having a major melt down because you gave him a red-frosted, round cake instead of the chocolate frosted egg-shaped one with the sailboat by mistake!
This is a typical scene in “Cake Mania” for Nintendo DS, a cute little bargain-priced game ($19.99 cheap) in which you play Jill, in this tasty new flavor of Diner Dash-style gameplay, a young girl fresh out of culinary school. When she returns home from school, she's shocked to learn that her grandparents' bakery has been bought out by the evil giant corporate Mega Mart! She decides right then and there to get the bakery back by first selling cakes out of her home, and then eventually re-opening the shop.
Cue frantic cake-baking action now.
A tasty treat?
For those of you who didn’t already know, “Cake Mania” was originally an online PC game, a mega-hit online PC game as a matter of fact (don’t believe me? Well it says it right on the box.) With the DS version of “Cake Mania” they also included “Back to the Bakery”, an expansion pack that is sold separately on PC. So you’re getting 2 games for the price of 1 basically.
Here on the DS it plays practically identical to its predecessor except instead of the mouse you control the action with the stylus. Tap on the customer, tap on the cake shape, tap on the frosting color, and tap on the decoration. I have played both versions of this title and I prefer the controls here to the PC version, I think it works better than the mouse does for this type of game, if you can get past the small icons that is.
But, more on that in a minute.
You work in a bakery (duh!) where cakes are the commodity (which is good since that's pretty much all you're selling anyway) and Jill will be baking an abundance of them. Levels are marked by months beginning in January with each month featuring its own unique design for example in the month of October Jill will serve a Jack o’ Lantern cake. Your customer’s will all want different types of cakes from one another (of course) that have different types of frosting, shapes, and decorations. It's your job to take customers' orders, bake the cakes, decorate them, and then serve them.
When customers walk in the door, there's a maximum of 4 shoppers at one time – you walk over to them and tap the menu icon shown in a thought bubble over their heads. After a few seconds, the cake they would like to order appears in the bubble, and then you must walk over to the oven and press the shape button that matches what type of cake they want. When the cake is ready, you carry it to the bottom of the screen and frost it. If they want a decoration, you pick up the cake and press a button to decorate it. When it's all finished, you take the cake to the customer, collect their payment, and do it all over again for the next customer. As the game progresses Jill will move on to owning new bakeries in 5 locations-home bakery, beach, circus, casino, and Hawaii .You will be serving seasonal customers like Cupid, Dracula, a weird guy in a rabbit suit (I guess the Easter Bunny wasn’t available) and Santa Claus.
The cakes will become more complicated to make, especially around wedding season. Double tiered wedding cakes will soon be requested by some high strung bride-zillas. Ironically as Jill gets more efficient with better equipment, the customers become more and more impatient.
You don’t really get a chance to get creative here – you tap one of four buttons on the oven, tap one of the four colors on the frosting machine and so on and so forth.
If however, the shape, frosting color, or decoration isn’t exactly what the customer ordered or if Jill wasn’t able to finish an order fast enough the picky patron will not take it, not only will they storm out in a huff but poor Jill will be left holding a cake that nobody else wants, to be thrown away uneaten - and unpaid for causing her to lose money and eat the cost.
A little burnt around the edges
The main problem with Cake Mania is the size of the screen, when you take a game designed to be viewed and played on an average 17-inch computer screen and simply just cram it onto a tiny 3-inch DS screen without changing anything you are bound to have some problems. Because the icons onscreen are so tiny and close together it's easy to tap the wrong ones.
It sucks when the garbage can, cupcakes, and the ship-shaped cake topper are all barely the stylus’s tip away from one another, I can’t even begin to tell you how many cakes got thrown out by accident. It's also impossible to see the whole screen at one time, so the game requires you to clumsily tap off the side of the screen; either missing the customer’s orders or the work stations all together. To top it all off, the blasted decorating stations fail to work nine times out of ten, I found myself quickly tapping the machine, only to have Jill walk in a different direction or pick up the unfinished cake and just stand there. In a game that requires fast and precise moves - tapping on the wrong item ends up being a major issue. And since each step in baking a cake takes a little while, one mistake often means the difference between meeting the cash goal for the day or failing and having to do the entire level over.
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Also the colors and shapes are hard to see. Lavender frosting looks almost identical to white, and it’s difficult to tell the difference between egg-shaped and round or triangle and rectangle when it's on the bottom of a multi-layer cake.
And you can’t correct your mis-clicks. Through no fault of your own, if you make a mistake which you inevitably will, there's no "set back down" action. Whether this was done on purpose or not to add to the already intense gameplay action, I couldn’t tell you. All I know is it's a stupid game flaw for such a simple game and it really takes a big bite out of the fun.
You can hand out free cupcakes to keep even the most anxious customers happy (after you upgrade your shop with a cupcake baking machine with your earnings that is), but the time it takes to go over to the machine and get a cupcake and then walk all the way back and give it to the customer you might as well have concentrated on fulfilling their order- in other words it kinda defeats any positive effect the cupcake might have once had!
It's a simple idea and simple design with a simple concept that's fun to play at first but unfortunately there's just not much more to it beyond its main gameplay elements. The only thing you're really shooting for is the ability to get to a harder level: which essentially just boils down to having to please more customers with more demanding cake designs. Don’t get me wrong, that’s not necessarily a bad thing but the game definitely needs a little more to it. The only break time here is in between levels where you get to upgrade and buy additional equipment for your bake shop. More variety would have made this version a lot sweeter.
Cherry on top
After all is said and done though I did have some fun with Cake Mania. Being a fan of Cake Maniaalready and a RTS customer service game fanatic, I loved the fact that I could play this game any time, any where! The game is very addictive; once you try it, you'll probably become caught up in the ol’ "just one more level" trap. Yeah sure the PC version is easier to play because everything is bigger, but, you can’t take your computer anywhere with you, and even a laptop is bulky and awkward compared to a handheld. Y’know, I really appreciated Cake Mania today on the long, long line at the grocery store (I suddenly had a craving for double chocolate frosted layer cake!)
Tips & Tricks
· Get used to multitasking and using as many cake-making gadgets as you possibly can at once. The earlier you do that, the easier the harder later levels will be.
·Learn which customers are more patient and happy to wait in line longer and bake the cakes accordingly.
The quicker you serve the pickier customers, the more cash you'll make.
·Purchase a TV as soon as you can. It keeps the customers happily distracted, buying Jill more time to cook. There are 3 channels to choose from: Cartoons, News, and Food Network!
· Practice speedy and frantic stylus tapping. You'll need that tricky skill!
· Grab the cash from the counter as soon as a customer has paid to make space for the next cake lover to step into your bakery.
·Make sure you upgrade Jill's shoes when you reach the beach. It will help you move faster to get orders out to your customers.
·Probably the most important thing you can buy, though, is a platter. If a customer storms out instead of trashing it you can place their cake on the platter and hope that another customer requests it later on.Get Cake Mania Here