When it comes to casual games, a good sequel should retain much of what made its predecessor a success yet introduce enough new features to justify to purchase. Cake Mania 2, the follow-up to one of the most popular casual game downloads of last year, attempts to achieve this tricky balance, but this sequel isn’t as deliciously different as you might have hoped.
The story picks up where the original left off: After helping reopen the Evans Bakery, Jill sends her grandparents on a long overdue cruise and decides to get back to business by helping out her friends. In fact, this time around you’re asked to decide whom to help: Jack, her ex-boyfriend having trouble running a bakery in an underwater theme park (Jack and Jill, get it?), or Risha, a college pal who owns a swank rooftop bakery in the big city. After you choose one or another and complete that location, you’ll be able to select from four other locales, too, but we don’t want to giveaway any surprises here.
It’s a good idea to let gamers make decisions as to Jill’s locations, but it would’ve been more fun if it was better tied to the story (such as getting to know Jill’s friends more, and their issues, perhaps with entertaining cut-scenes). Also, the customers you get don’t seem to have much to do with where you are. That is, I thought they were related to the location, such as bratty kids and grumpy mascots at the theme park, but then there were socialites with Chihuahuas, punk rockers, old ladies with babies and FBI agents. Plus, you’ll also see the same characters at different locations, too, such as doctors and policemen.
OK, on to the game-play. As with the first game, Cake Mania 2 challenges you to build a cake for a customers within a short amount of time (take too long and they’ll leave). For example, someone may request a circular cake with vanilla frosting and a horseshoe cake decoration while someone else might ask for a double-layer heart-shaped cake: the bottom with red icing and the top with candy sprinkles. After you give a customer a menu and see their order appear like a speech bubble, you must then go to the oven(s); wait for the cake to cook; bring it to the icing table to put on the appropriate toppings; and then hand it to the customer. They’ll leave a tip, which you must pick up to add to your daily tally. If you meet the minimum dollar figure, such as $1000, you can advance onto the next level.
What’s more, the money you make can also be used to upgrade your bakery, from more than 50 upgrades that vary depending on the location you’re in. Basics, however, include extra ovens, faster icing tables, additional cake toppers (like soccer balls) and ways to entertain customers to increase their patience.
In total, the game houses more than 200 levels in the main story mode, plus there’s also an "endless baking" mode where you must serve a never-ending stream of customers as long as you can.
Problem is, despite the new locations, there isn’t much new with Cake Mania 2, so it felt like a lot like deja vu playing this game. In fact, I found this game quite frustrating at times, such as when you accidentally place one cake onto top of another (in many micromanagement games, like Diner Dash, you’re encouraged to double-up the same tasks) but with this game both cakes must be thrown in the trash and you must start again. Plus, when you’re frantically taking care of customers, it’s easy to mistakenly click on one icing flavor, such as chocolate, when you really wanted vanilla beside it, because they’re all close together (and a spot in the middle where you can rest the cake before deciding).
At other times, I found the game annoying, such as the nose-picking kids who always whine "It’s my turn!" when they appear on the screen – needless-to-say after the 10th time you wish you could turn off the sound. This might not sound like a big deal, but if you’ve played the game you know exactly what I’m talking about.
Also new to this sequel are two customers who come into the bakery together, so you must serve them both in order for them to leave. While it’s really not different than having two single customers come in one after the other – since you need to serve them individually — it forces the player to work a little faster since they entered at the same time.
I don’t mean to come down hard on Cake Mania 2 because it can be fun and gratifying to successfully finish a hard day. But perhaps I was expecting more from the talented folks at Sandlot Games who are trying to deliver a sequel that measures up to its predecessor. Perhaps if there were unique game modes, a tighter integration of story and location, and less frustrating and annoying moments, I’d give this game a better score. But as it stands, it’s a good – but not great – follow-up to last year’s tasty treat.