The Cake Mania series is one of the most widely-recognized names in casual gaming. Three main installments have hit PC and Mac platforms over the last few years, and you can even find Cake Mania on mobile phones! Now, with the release of Cake Mania: Main Street, the series veers into a slightly new direction, providing more varied gameplay and a host of new and interesting challenges. It's not just cake anymore, as now you'll be slinging sushi and building burgers in order to raise money to revive Jill's home town!
After traveling through time to bake cakes for dinosaurs, ancient Egyptians, and Merlin in Cake Mania 3, Jill has returned to her home town of Bakersfield. Main Street isn't what it used to be, however, as little more than crickets inhabit the buildings that once were bustling shops. The new mega mall is to blame, and Jill wants to fight back the only way she knows how: by baking cakes.
This time around, plopping red icing on heart-shaped desserts is only a small part of the experience. In a unique twist from the norm, you find yourself managing not one shop but four, collecting profits to help buy improvements and attractions for Bakersfield's Main Street. Jill's pals are along for the ride, including her husband Jack who runs the Burger Barn, Risha who manages a flower boutique, and Tiny in charge of Sumo Sushi.
Starting with Jill's bakery, you'll engage in the same sort of activities previous Cake Mania games dealt with. Customers come in, order a cake shape with colored icing and maybe a few extras, then you get to work, building their order as quickly as you can. Gameplay starts a little slow, but after a few levels you earn enough cash to buy a few upgrades to make things run faster and make more money.
You could also use that cash to open another shop, the first of which is Burger Barn. Creating burgers is a much different affair than cakes. The entire layout is mouse-driven as you click and drop ingredients onto trays right before the customers' eyes. After you earn cash you can unlock new and more complex recipes, many of which you couldn't pay me to try at home. Once the money piles up, you'll be able to buy and open both the flower and sushi shops, each featuring remixes on the bakery and burger joint's gameplay, respectively.
Every shop has a hefty set of levels to complete, each getting progressively more difficult. Once unlocked, you can jump back and forth between stores as you please, spending money on upgrades from a collective cash pool, or buying attractions to help spruce up the main part of town.
Analysis: I was thrilled to see Cake Mania pull itself out of the cake business and branch out into other goods and styles of preparation. The original gameplay is still charmingly alluring, but being able to hop back and forth between sushi shop, flower boutique and burger joint does wonders for longevity. Plus, it's like you get four games rolled into one, which, hey, who wouldn't like that?
The variety of customers you'll deal with has always been a high point in the Cake Mania series, and this installment is no different. Character crossovers were great. Seeing people from cutscenes appear in your store adds a new dimension to the game, and watching vampires, cupids and aliens interact with each other and the stores adds a quirky layer of fun. I was also surprised to see Jill herself visiting me when I was slinging burgers!
Even though you run four separate businesses, the latter two are just remixes of the former, which was a bit of a disappointment. There are gameplay shifts, of course, but I was more disheartened by having to start over with the slower, less complex levels in a new building when I was ready for more of a challenge. Being able to play any store at any time was a big help, but more variety would have been — ahem — icing on the cake.
It's the most unique Cake Mania title to date in terms of gameplay, with over 100 levels, four shops to manage, and a nice, campy sense of humor. Cake Mania: Main Street builds on the series' foundations well, and while it may not be a radical departure from the norm, there's plenty to enjoy in this game.