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Publisher: Big Fish Games    Genre: Arcade
Min OS X: 10.4    Hard Disk: 33 MB

Cake Mania
April 28, 2008 | John Samsel

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Like many before me, my first job was in the food service industry. Well, it was a movie theater concession stand, but popcorn and nachos are close enough to actual food. The whole routine, greeting customers, getting their order quickly, and end transaction, was fine for a high school job, but nothing more. Serving customers was never fun, and the only time coworkers and I did try to make the job fun, most of us got bored, and the others were fired.

So what is the point of my mini-rant here? After starting Cake Mania, developed by Sandlot Games, I realized that this is essentially a game version of my high school job, only with cakes. The premise is baking then serving customers cake. Skepticism arose. Serving food is not fun. An hour later, I realized I lost track of time, and that I was going to be late coming back from my lunch break. My skepticism was gone. Cake Mania is pretty fun.

Let Them Eat Cake
Cake Mania is pleasantly simple in gameplay and presentation. The premise involves Jill starting up her own bakery to compete against a retail store after her family’s bakery was forced out of business. It’s a standard underdog David versus Goliath story. Everyone can rally behind that. Of course story for games like these just provide context for the gameplay, which is done well overall.

My rant in the beginning actually sums up the game pretty well. Customers walk in, and you greet them by clicking on them with the mouse, and hand them a menu. A comic bubble pops up, telling which shape cake they want (have it be circle, square or what not,) with the frosting desired. You run to the oven and click the appropriate icon. A few second later, the cake is ready. Select it, and bring it to the frosting machine, apply the appropriate frosting, bring it to the customer and transaction complete and repeat. The beginning days ease you into this at just the right pace, dealing with a single customer at a time, allowing you to slowly accrue the daily money goal. Later, you will have to deal with multiple customers at a time, and learning how to get a good workflow going is essential, as impatient customers leave a smaller tip. Cueing up actions in advance helps, such as selecting the frosting before you get there. It really is all about multi-tasking.

Piece of Cake?
There is a surprising deal of customization as well. After each day, you can buy new items to complete your kitchen. Items include new ovens and frosting machines, cake displays, where customers can outright buy cakes immediately, and a television to distract impatient customers.

Now for the customers, some are reasonably patient, others are not. When their order is in, they have a heart gauge that essentially tells what kind of bonus you will receive. Ideally, make sure they lose no patience. Now some have gauges of a few hearts. Seriously now, a cake is being made from scratch and you only have patience for 20 minutes (in game time)? And you’re also the forth person in line? Oh, come on! So that is where the challenge really comes in.

Not only do you have to really multi-task, especially with a decked out kitchen, but also you have to try and make everyone happy. At times, this can get really hectic, especially if you make one mistake and try and fix it. This challenge does keep you hooked and entertained, but eventually you will ask yourself, “Is this it?” Well, yeah. It’s basically “Same thing, different day.” Cake Mania will get really repetitive, so this is not a game you want to beat in a handful of marathon sessions. It would be to your benefit and the game’s to play it in bursts until you had your fill. There are over 40 levels to play, so there is no shortage of gameplay to be had.

Icing on the Cake
Cake Mania has a pretty cool art style, best I can describe it as moving paper dolls. It is colorful and cartoony and suits the game perfectly. The characters have simple, solid animations. The videophile in me can make a complaint though, as any game that is not 16:9/16:10 widescreen will always bother me now. I have a Mac Book Pro and I want to use all my screen space! Is it really that hard to do? Then my rational side would ask me if that is really the most important thing, or if the overall art style suits the game. Rational side wins. The look for the game is great.

The music itself is also inoffensive and suitable to the game. I however went to mute the music, not being a personal preference. Sound effects work well also, not standing out, just doing it job.

Concluding Thoughts
Cake Mania is an overall solid game. With a strong art style and a good challenge and length; there is plenty of game to be had. Granted, it can get really repetitive, which is a general weakness of casual games of this type. However, it is fun when it is fun and that is what should matter in the end. Give Cake Mania a taste.

• Good Art Style
• Solid Gameplay
• Good Learning Curve/Challenge

• Repetitive
• Can get too hectic at times

Cake Mania
Publisher: Big Fish Games
Developer: Sandlot Games
Download Cake Mania Demo
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