While Cake Mania doesn't really reinvent the genre, it is still a fun and addictive game to play.
At first glance, Cake Mania seems to have much in common with Diner Dash. But after a couple of levels, you realize that there are as many differences (if not more) as similarities.
The story begins as our heroine Jill comes home from culinary school and finds her grandparents' small bakery closed down due to some unfortunate turn of events: a MegaMart. She then decides to start selling cakes, operating from her grandmother's kitchen, in order to make enough money to open a new bakery for her grandparents.
The mechanics are simple, played with simple mouse clicks: wait for customer requests, bake the cakes, decorate them and give them to the customers. Just like Flo in Diner Dash, poor Jill has to do everything around here.
How does it work exactly? You wait for a customer to come in. You click the customer to give him/her a menu. You wait for the order that comes in the form of a speech balloon with the shape of the cake and then the color of the icing. Then you head to the oven, click the appropriate shape and wait for it to bake. Once the cake is ready, you take it to the frosting station to put the right icing on top, hand it to the customer and collect your payment. Each level has a specific Baker's Goal to be reached (a set ammount of money) and you have a total of four lives to get through the entire game, so save your game while things are going well.
Unfortunately, Jill can only perform one task at a time, and it took me a while to get out of "Flo Mode", since I was subconsciously constantly trying to multitask. The one task at a time handicap can be balanced by purchasing upgrades.
The bakery can have up to three ovens, three frosting stations, one cake stand (where you can display a cake to incite customers to buy one exactly like it) and a microwave to bake cupcakes (you give them to your customers to make them happier). Jill also has a special pair of shoes that makes her run faster. These can all be upgraded to provide speedy service, and upgrades can become very costly, so don't invest in too many of one thing at the same time, but instead upgrade a single one. The order in which you upgrade and how many times you upgrade an item are the most important things for level progression, adding a good dose of management to the game.
Later on, cake orders get a little more intricate. Customers will begin asking for two-layer cakes with different icings and decorations to boot. If you make a mistake, you'll have to dump the cake in the trash bin, and you will be deducted the cost of the cake at the end of the level. That's why having cakes on display all the time doesn't really pay off.
Time progresses by a month per stage, and there are specific customers for each month, which add quite a bit of fun. You will find Santa in December, Count Dracula in October (serve him first, since he scares your other customers), really impatient Cupids in February, Brides in May and some very unfriendly and scruffy-looking Easter Bunnies in April. For some of these occasions there will be special shapes of cakes as well (Easter egg, Christmas tree, heart, Jack’o’Lantern), but at any given time there will always be four cake shapes and four colors of icing.
In a way, Cake Mania is a test to your memory and hand-eye coordination. The easy mechanics, bright and colorful graphics and enjoyable music make it a game that's accessible to all and enjoyable by anyone. The "color and shape matching" concept makes it especially great for kids.
While Cake Mania doesn't really reinvent the genre, it is still a fun and addictive game to play. Download the hour-long trial and see how you can have your cake, and sell it too!
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