Old fashioned bakeries are so outdated…these days, you need a bit of originality and a whole lot of food coloring to make things more interesting. At least that’s the premise of Jessica’s Cupcake Cafe, a hectic time management game that feels a lot like Cake Mania, but has you making some very unusual cupcakes instead of cake.

Aunt Margaret is feeling the drag on the economy, and her old fashioned bakery just isn’t turning profits anymore. Her visiting niece Jessica suggests they do the modern thing and start making cupcakes instead. With that, Aunt Margaret puts Jessica in charge, and the cupcake cafe is open for business.

As you play, you unlock easy recipes to actually make the cupcakes in the game. They look edible; that is, if the thought of carrot cupcakes with bright blueberry frosting doesn’t completely gross you out. I’m pretty adventurous in the kitchen, but even I wouldn’t pair cream cheese frosting with green tea flavored cupcakes…and as I mentioned before, these recipes are not afraid to be liberal with food coloring. Lavender frosting, made with real lavender? I don’t know…I think I’ll pass on testing these out, but they’re in the game if you’re braver than I am.

But, back to the gameplay. As you play, you need to bake cupcakes to fill customers’ orders. Cupcakes are baked in batches, so instead of preparing individual orders, you are first prompted on the day’s style. If you prefer, you can change the design of cupcakes you are baking before the round begins, so if you’ve got a thing for chocolate frosting you can go ahead and put it on everything. It also means you can design more expensive cupcakes.

Once the day has begun, you need to prepare the batter, bake the cupcakes, frost them, and add cute toppers. You won’t be allowed to make any mistakes when frosting, and will be prompted with a red X if you attempt to make an order that’s not on the agenda. If you’ve make the wrong choice, you can discard the cupcakes and frosting in the garbage.

After you’ve made enough cupcakes, you bring the tray over to serve customers, and collect the cash at the register. The happier the customer, the more money you earn. In addition to cupcakes, customers may request side items like tea, coffee, hot chocolate, milk, or water. Sometimes, a customer will come in with a special order for a dozen custom designed cupcakes, which earns you more cash. You want to keep customers happy by serving them quickly. You can increase a customer’s patience with candy, or by turning the TV to a channel that matches the color of their shirt. Like in real life, some people are more patient than others, and some will give you better tips.

In a cool twist, you can earn power-ups by serving customers displaying the power up icons. These power ups include gears to increase the speed of your machines, shoes to boost Jessica’s speed, hearts to boost customer patience, coins to double your sales, and cupcakes to add 12 bonus cupcakes to your tray. Very useful, indeed. 

You can buy upgrades for your equipment, but these are pretty expensive, so you need to really earn them. You can also replay levels again in the map screen to earn a better score. Before you advance to a new scene, you can sell surplus cupcakes at the park. This is an easy mini-game where you fill customer’s orders by giving them different types of pre-made cupcakes.

There are eight unique shops and 64 levels, including sites like the mall, airport, and pier. If you want a game that lasts, the length here is pretty good, taking at least six hours to beat, and that’s not counting replay value if you aim for an expert score. The game features an impressive soundtrack. The music really sets up the atmosphere, and is genuinely enjoyable. The graphics are also really cute, done in 2D cartoon style. 

The pace can get pretty hectic, even if you play a lot of time management games. However, this is part of the fun, and luckily the customers are pretty patient. It’s quite challenging if you aim for an expert score, but it’s just the right pace if you just want to advance to the next level.

As for criticism, there isn’t much to complain about. It’s pretty important to follow instructions, and not to jump ahead while playing the tutorial (unless you plan to skip it). Otherwise, things don’t turn out well, and you’ll end up being forced to toss out cupcakes. Other than that, it’s fair to say it’s not too original, since there are a bunch of baking-themed games out there, and it doesn’t add too much to the genre.

Fans of time management games, particularly the Cake Mania games, will still find plenty to like. With lots of opportunities to form strategies and use power-ups, it’s a good challenge, and the theme is comfortable and familiar.

For similar Games, try Cake Mania 2, Cake Mania 3, Ye Olde Sandwich Shoppe, Cooking Dash.