As I write this, my fevered brain is attempting to cook itself inside my skull, so I really can’t be held accountable for anything that doesn’t make sense… like the fact that I am following through on my promise to write a column about Cake Mania 2. As a spiritual successor to the ridiculously popular Diner Dash titles, Cake Mania continues in the grand tradition of games that have you running around a confined space trying to please increasingly cranky and demanding customers by giving them whatever they want. Sounds like pretty much every job I’ve ever had…
1. What Did I Miss?– I was genuinely curious as to what the differences might be between Cake Mania 1 and 2, because I didn’t play the first one. Wikipedia came through for me on this one, noting that instead of a cookie oven, as was present in the iteration that I played, Jill (the protagonist) instead utilized a cupcake oven. Sounds like she downgraded to me, but I suppose it depends on the type of cookies she was baking. That’s pretty much the only difference, so in the time that you imagine you would normally have spent reading this point, I want you to go look at this page, which I clicked on as I was “researching.” Now, go make cupcakes. And send me one.
2. Storyline- I’ve never really seen why games like this bother to give themselves a storyline. I mean… I guess I *do,* but do they really think it’s going to make that big of a difference? People playing Cake Mania aren’t there to agonize about whether Jill can keep her bakery open, achieve domestic bliss, and retire in the countryside with 2.5 kids and a golden retriever, they’re there to click on stuff. And then click on stuff some more, a bit faster. You’re not getting your jollies in this game by building a deep, lasting empathy with the main character, but by using your own skill to get through a demanding pattern series and see the happy screen at the end that pats you on the back for your efforts. I almost feel like they should play Ode to Joy there. (Peggle joke!) Maybe that’s the next step in the series. Not Peggle music, but character development. Just think about it. CAKE MANIA RPG! Coming to DS, Wii, iPhone, and your toaster this fall!
3. Dumbing it Down– Not that this style of game requires a PhD to get into in the first place, but having played Diner Dash before, I couldn’t help but feel, picking up Cake Mania 2, that it was much simpler than its ancestors. I’m not sure that that’s necessarily a bad thing; I actually remember getting seriously pissed off at some of the later levels of Diner Dash the last time I played it (whenever the hell that was), whereas I had no trouble whatsoever clearing all of the Cake Mania 2 levels. There are just a lot fewer things to keep track of; it was one of those situations where I was doing so well that I eventually ran out of things to upgrade in my kitchen, and would occasionally end up standing around, even on higher-difficulty levels, because there was just nothing for me to do but wait. I suppose the point here is that if this is your style of game, you may find it a bit easy for your tastes. I don’t really think I have a problem with that, but some elitist bastard might.
4. Porting Problems– Since Cake Mania and its sequels have come out on pretty much every platform imaginable, I suppose it was inevitable that at least a few of them were going to come out with some problems. I played the version that was released for the DS, and I think that may have been a poor choice, because while the touch screen does lend itself well to this style of game, the size of the screens definitely worked against me, even with a DSi (perhaps I do need an XL…. NO LEAH THAT’S A BAD LEAH). Some of the cake shapes look very, very similar to each other at this size, particularly when the customers start requesting that they be stacked on top of each other. I can’t tell you how many times I baked a circle instead of a heart just because the kitty cat topper was blocking my view. Yes, I am aware of how ridiculous that sounds, incidentally. The other aspect of the screen size that gave me problems was that the touch zones would occasionally be a little off, causing me to frost a cake incorrectly or attempt to deliver it to the wrong person if the targets were particularly close together. There’s no way to cancel an incorrect action, so oftentimes if you screw up, you’re just stuck. I suspect that many of these issues would have been solved had I played on my computer instead of the DS, so perhaps if I play Cake Mania 3 (oh yes, there is a Cake Mania 3), I’ll go that route instead.
5. Flashbacks– Anyone who has ever waited tables for a living will tell you, upon playing Diner Dash, that it is frighteningly accurate. I’m one of those people, and while I’ve never baked cakes for a living, Cake Mania 2 held kind of the same vibe for me. People order shit from you, and you bring it to them, all the while catering to their demands so that they don’t get too bored or impatient. Sometimes their demands are perfectly reasonable, and sometimes people are just bitches. Something that leads me to believe that the creators of these games must have had experience in some sort of customer service field is that you can often tell how a customer is going to react simply by what “type” they are. This is less of a concern in Cake Mania 2 than it was in Diner Dash, but the basic idea still stands; the astronauts are very busy and important, so their happiness meters drop quickly, but the sumo dudes are very chill… they just like to have second helpings, so they’ll be there a while. While I do enjoy these games, though, I can’t play them too often because of that very accuracy; otherwise, I end up feeling vaguely anxious and uneasy.
I’m going to write about Silent Hill: Shattered Memories next, but I’m waiting until the fever is gone. I actually want that to be a GOOD article.