Review: Cake Mania: Baker’s Challenge (PS2)

Cake Mania: Baker’s Challenge
Genre: Acrade/Puzzle
Developer: Coresoft
Publisher: Destineer
Release Date: 10/17/08

If you’re the type of person who wants to have their cake and eat it too, then you are the wrong type of person to play Cake Mania. Cake Mania is all about making cakes, and decorating and then selling those cakes. Based on the 2006 PC flash game of the same name, Cake Mania is an arcade style game that requires quick thinking and fast reflexes in order to progress through the game.

Is it true that Cake Mania is the best cake game available, or is that just a lie? Read on.

As far as story goes the story in Cake Mania is a relatively simple one, the main character is Jill who, after growing up watching her grandparents run a bakery, decided to go to culinary school. Once she returns from culinary school she find out that the bakery has been closed due to a large mega-mart that opened up in town and has killed off all of the small businesses there. Jill decides to re-open the store and bring the bakery back into prominence. All of this is told through some simple comic like screens at the beginning of the game, and is no different than the screens from either the PC or DS versions of the game.

Before I get into modes, let’s dive into how the game plays first.

In the main single player mode in the game you are tasked with completing the classic Cake Mania gameplay. Much like Diner Dash, or any other game of this type, this pretty much boils down to a game that challenges your multi-tasking abilities. The game starts with a simple bakery where customers will come in. As they come in it is up to you, playing as Jill, to ask them what they want. What type of cake they want will appear in a thought bubble next to the character ordering. Underneath the character ordering will be a series of hearts that represent that person’s patience level. The greater the number of hearts underneath a person when you fill their order, the greater the tip they leave and the closer you are to obtaining that day’s goal.

How you fill the customers orders is simple enough. In the beginning they will describe the shape and flavor/color of frosting that they would like on their cake. The game controls use a point-‘n-click type interface, you use the D-Pad to select where you want Jill to go, and in area where you have multiple options, such as choosing the shape of the cake or color of the frosting, you use the D-Pad to quickly select between four options. When a customer orders a cake you move the arrow to the oven and then select the appropriate cake shape. A timer will start ticking down until the cake is done. Once the cake is done you will then click on it to carry it over to the frosting station. At the frosting station you click on the frosting, used the D-pad to select a color, then deliver it to the customer.

Sounds pretty simple, right? Wrong. As the game continues it will introduce a larger and larger variety of customers to you. Some are more patient, and some are less patient. You will have to quickly decide which customers to help first and start their cakes. As you earn money and progress through the single player mode you can spend that money in between levels in order to upgrade the kitchen. Upgrades include faster speed for Jill, or more ovens, a display case, more frosting stations, cupcake samples, decorating stations and more. So after a certain amount of time you’ll be tasked to quickly not only decide which customers to help in what order, but which oven you are cooking different cakes in, and then what frosting goes on which cake. It doesn’t sound like much but it can be pretty tense, and if you fail to choose the right cake, frosting color or decoration you might have to throw it away. There is no cancellation button in the game, when you make a move you can’t take it back, so the only option is to throw the cake away and try to make up for it.

Each “ËœDay’ in the game represents the whole month. Once you get to months with holidays in them you’ll generally get holiday specific customers who are more demanding, such as anxious cupids or Santa. Each “ËœDay’ is on a timer, so each day you will only be allotted a certain amount of time in order to make the sales goal for the day.

And that’s pretty much the entire game. My wife decorates cakes and she was a little disappointed that there wasn’t really anything to the cake decoration other than just a quick frosting color and shape to put on the cake, but this isn’t a game like Cooking Mama that’s trying to teach you how to make something, it’s a time management program. The bakery aspect of it could have been replaced with any other way of managing time from selling drugs to filing TPS reports. At the same time the game allows very little room for error and there is a feeling of accomplishment for getting all of the orders right, and done quickly. It’s sort of the same feeling as when you’re at work and under a deadline but manage to get everything done just right.

Back to the different modes in the game, here is the one aspect where the game trumps the PC version of the same title. Boasting 88 levels over the original game’s 45, the game also includes a couple of additional modes including the expansion Cake Mania: Back to the Bakery. There is also a Custom Kitchen challenge mode where you get to decide the length of time the store stays open, the difficulty level among four different levels, the location of the bakery, equipment used and even the types of customers that will come into the store. Essentially this is sort of a quick play mode if you’re in the mood to play some Cake Mania but don’t want to jump into the full mode or if you just want to test your skills. Then there’s the Baker’s Challenge. This mode is the equivalent of an endless mode in a puzzle type game. The game starts with a fully equipped kitchen and there’s no time limit, except you only have four lives and the customers that come in keep making harder demands. Each time you lose a customer you lose a life until eventually all your lives are gone. This is a pretty cool addition actually, and a fun spin on the main game.

Of course being a port of a two year old flash game isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. There are a number of negative things to say about Cake Mania on the PS2. Among them is the fact that the graphics are extremely simple. The game is shown from a 2D perspective and the sprites used in the game aren’t bad looking but the PS2 can obviously handle much better character sprites than this. See Odin Sphere, or just about ANY 2D PS2 game. This helps the game look like a budget title since absolutely nothing was done to improve the graphics for a PS2 port. Though this is understandable since I’m not sure how large a market there is for this type of game on the PS2 anyway. The sound suffers the same treatment; it’s a bunch of simple tracks with even simpler sound effects. We’re talking Super NES level.

Then there’s the control. The game controls remarkably well once you adjust to the point-‘n-click controls on the PS2, however it still feels slower than the PC version of the game. In the PC version you used the mouse to point and click instead of guiding an arrow using the D-Pad. The PS2 controls for the game mean that you might occasionally point at the wrong thing and then have to cycle through the options again before pointing to what you want. Using the mouse is instantaneous. Since this game requires quick reflexes in order to succeed it is more frustrating than the PC version of the game. After playing the game for a while it just takes time to adjust to the difference, but it’s still awkward. At the same time it’s better than the DS version of the game, which require you to squint to see what you are selecting.

As I mentioned earlier, this game is also very unforgiving, especially as the gameplay progresses. Honestly this is one of the best and worst things about the game. The challenge of the game will make it fun for those who are hardcore fans of this type of game and like a challenge, but the cute graphics and design make the game appear to be for those who might just play video games casually or for small children. Once the difficulty starts to ramp up, those same people will likely be throwing the PS2 controller and giving up in frustration.

The Scores:
Game Modes/Story: Above Average
Graphics: Bad
Sound: Bad
Control/Gameplay: Decent
Replayability: Great
Balance: Great
Originality: Bad
Addictiveness: Great
Appeal: Poor
Miscellaneous: Great
Final Score: DECENT GAME

Short Attention Span Summary
Cake Mania: Baker’s Challenge is a game that’s less about making cakes than it is about managing your time well and making customers happy, which sort of sounds like work to me and yet there is a strange satisfaction for doing well in the game. Currently the game is selling on Amazon for $12, and considering the PC title with less modes is $10, this isn’t a bad deal if this is your type of game. There are fun moments to be had, but I’m more surprised that it’s being released on the PS2 than being released as a downloadable title on either PSN or Xbox Live Arcade.



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