There seem to be two major groupings of “running a business” simulators. Those where you make decisions, set things up, then let run (such as DopeWars) and those that make you hustle to keep up with all of the things going on, like Lemonade Stand or Insanaquaium. Astraware’s Cake Mania is definitely one of the latter!
Cake Mania Menu Screen
Cake Mania Story Screen
In Cake Mania, you run a cute little bakery with a cute little storyline and cute little characters like cherubs and Easter bunnies as your customers. All you have to do is to give a customer a menu, take the order, bake the cake, frost it, maybe decorate it, give it to them, then take the money. If they are really happy, they tip you. Nice and simple, huh?
Cake Mania Game Screen
Of course not! Each character has an ‘impatience gauge’, there are daily goals, you are penalized for wasting cakes or time, and you can only do one thing at a time! Sure, you can set a cake down to do other things, but there are only a limited number of ‘parking places’ so you need to get better and better at juggling the tasks as the customers start to line up. You will also want to take advantage of equipment upgrades to help you serve more people faster. You control movements and actions with taps of the stylus so the game won’t stress your thumbs!
Options allow you to turn the tutorial notes on or off, control the sound, or modify the controls slightly (since this game mostly uses the stylus there are not a lot of controls to change). The full game offers 50 levels and over 500 cake combinations.
The game absolutely needs high res and a good processor. It takes a long moment to load, is very graphics heavy, and has a lot of things going on at once. The screenshot program I was using kept crashing if I tried to capture screens busier than those offered here (but you can see them over at CakeMania Screenshots.)
I like the game. OK, maybe it is a little cute for my tastes (I keep having Strawberry Shortcake flashbacks!) but the gameplay is solid and challenging. There are a lot of funny customers and little surprises, and you learn shortcuts and things to avoid as you go. There are not a lot of directions to keep track of, odd icons to memorize, or convoluted controls to deal with- which just lets you get into the actual gameplay better.
I do not like the tininess of much of the screen. I kept messing up on one customer and I don’t know why- I simply could not find any clue on the screen while I was helping the other customers. I might have been missing something, or made a basic error and I don’t know what it was. Playing for very long gives me a mild headache just from trying to see and read everything.
Kudos to Astraware and Sandlot Games for their selection of games aimed for more feminine tastes! With all the testosterone-laden shoot’em-ups on the market it is sort of nice to see an increasing number of games that don’t involve blood and mayhem. Still, I do feel a little funny playing this!