Cake Mania: To The Max! goes back to its roots with great success.
Jill Evans is back for Cake Mania: To the Max, the sixth part of this highly popular time management brand. But what can be done in a series that has already covered time-travelling, managing different shops, or building bakeries from scratch? Well, it’s time-travelling again, only this time around the player will get a glimpse into Jill’s past, namely, her high school days in the 1980s.
Cake Mania: To the Max features a whopping 100 levels, and can be played in both timed and relaxed mode. As with former titles the first couple of levels are somewhat boring and slow, but it is definitely worth it to keep hanging on. In contrast to the last two games in the series you are not managing different shops – in fact the whole game takes place in one single bakery. This might sound a bit monotonous at first, but veteran Cake Mania fans will surely appreciate the focused but more substantial gameplay resulting from this change.
Basically, all you have to do is prepare cakes for customers. By clicking shapes, frostings in different colors, varying toppings or fruits and creating multilayered cakes according to the incoming orders of your customers Jill earns money that she needs to pass the day successfully. This process of cake creation is complicated enough on its own, but not only do your customers lose patience rather quickly, they each have distinct personalities whose behavior affects the gameplay considerably.
The gypsy, for example, will show you the orders of other customers immediately; the oil baron will not allow you to serve other customers before his order is finished, while the wizard will turn all customers into cheerleaders, thereby changing their orders. Those special – and not always helpful – abilities are not the only interesting features about Jill’s customers, though. Some of them dislike each other, such as the bride and the business man. If they stand next to each other they will lose patience, which brings us to a welcome new feature of Cake Mania: To the Max: swapping.
Now you are able to swap customers to a different place, which adds a whole new level of challenge and strategy to the game. Not only do you have to plan according to the abilities of certain customers, but you also have to keep an even closer eye on their patience, because details like that can be neglected quickly in a game as hectic as Cake Mania: To the Max. It is also good to see that the game has kept interesting features such as the rush bonus, for which you have to do the same action three times in a row numerous times for it to be activated. The rush bonus then finishes every action immediately, which makes for a frantic but entertaining experience.
The upgrade system works as smoothly as ever and has been enhanced quite a bit. Besides the well-known upgrades for machines that include both speed boosts and new toppings, oven slots and fruits, the player is also able to upgrade the interior of the bakery in ways that actually impact the gameplay. In the beginning the upgrades seem rather expensive, but this impression is deceiving, and the whole system will surely please time management perfectionists. The ability to swap or sell machines only improves this already stellar feature.
What has always been interesting about this series, and matters even more in this latest sequel, is that the challenge of it never depended on the timed aspect, but more on dealing with the varying customer types and handling all those different shapes, layers, colors and toppings at the same time. While the first ten or twenty levels will be a breeze for experienced players, later levels get extremely challenging and at times even frustrating. Fortunately it is possible to choose between timed and relaxed mode at the beginning of each level, so that you will never really get stuck.
The graphics of Cake Mania: To the Max are absolutely gorgeous and charming, and it is nice to see how much this game has evolved since the first part. The controls are flawless save for one glaring oversight: you are still not able to cancel actions, which is especially frustrating in a detail-oriented game like this, where one wrong cake can seriously mess up the player’s strategy.
But all in all there is no doubt that we fully recommend Cake Mania: To the Max to all avid time management game fans. The series goes back to its original roots, which might be disappointing for some people, but has been managed excellently nevertheless. A charming storyline, a complex upgrade system, proven gameplay with some interesting tweaks and a far above average playtime provide an entertaining experience for fans of the series and newcomers alike.