The Cake Mania series is back with its third installment, Cake Mania 3! Not content to confine the game to slinging cakes in fancy modern-day locales, Sandlot installed an interesting storyline that splits the game into five unique areas, each in a different time period and different place. While the core mechanics remain unchanged, Cake Mania 3 serves up something unique in the resource management series to create a wholly enjoyable game.
Jill, the star of every Cake Mania game, is fretting over the details of her upcoming marriage. Just when she thinks everything will work out, the Time Bender artifact she received at the end of Cake Mania 2 is shattered into half a dozen pieces! Each of her friends picks up a shard and is transported to a different period in history, from the prehistoric era to ancient China, Egypt, and more. In order to bring them back, Jill must visit each location and — you guessed it — bake cakes!
The overall objective of Cake Mania 3 is to serve customers the cake they ordered as fast as possible to earn more cash. Bake the right cake, put the correct icing on top, add any extras and take it to the customer right away. Between levels, use the money to upgrade to faster, more efficient machines, buy Jill better shoes so she can walk faster, or to purchase additional items that help you squeeze a little extra money out of each patron.
Customer types in Cake Mania 3 have a more direct affect on gameplay than before. For example, if a leader walks in to your store, he must be served before any other customer. Robin Hood also makes an appearance and will steal money off of the counter, encouraging you make cash-gathering trips a top priority. These little touches add just the slightest twist to the gameplay and get you to change your playing strategy.
Analysis: It's great to see such an established franchise branch out and embrace new ideas. Cake Mania 3 goes a long way to removing the same old atmosphere present in previous games (and in most resource management titles). Part of this is due to the extraordinary variety in artwork and styles, all of which are bright, colorful, creative and fun. Jill's outfit changes depending on what time period she's in, which is a subtle but effective way to brighten up the look of the game.
Once you're over the initial visual upgrade and have digested the somewhat odd storyline, Cake Mania 3 settles into familiar territory. Maybe too familiar for some, as the mechanics have barely been tweaked since the last release. Building and serving cakes is the same no matter what time period you're in, and I would have loved to see the process shifted a bit to compensate for each era's technological leanings.
Cake Mania 3 starts off very slowly, so you'll have to spend a little time digging into the game before you get to the really good stuff. And this game has more hidden gameplay gems than the previous titles, such as unlockable mini-games. Cake Mania 3 is different from its predecessors in many ways, but the changes are all for the better and make it a fun, interesting, and often zany experience.