Bury the Shovelware: Cake Mania



Welcome to the first edition of the new Bury the Shovelware. We're going to shake things up a bit in the interest of keeping it fresh. Instead of simply timing the games, we're going to explore the titles in five specific areas. They are:
  1. Pedigree - The background of the developer, publisher, and franchise.
  2. The Critics Said - A brief overview of what the critics said.
  3. Rap Sheet - The main glaring flaws of the game.
  4. Silver Lining - Redeemable qualities found (if any).
  5. Our Deduction - The final word on the title.
We hope you enjoy this new approach. Let us know what you think in the comment section. Our first swing at this new format will take a look at Cake Mania.

Pedigree

Cake Mania is a restaurant simulation based around baking -- you guessed it -- cakes. The franchise is relatively new but is featured on several other systems, including the PS2 and PC. It's published by Majesco Games, a company which walks a thin line between quality titles (Nanostray, Cooking Mama) and shovelware (Nacho Libre, Fish Tycoon). Plus, we're totally angry at Majesco for canceling the remake of A Boy and His Blob. Developer Digital Embryo is relatively green in terms of games produced, as Cake Mania makes up 25% of its entire catalog. Other games developed include the shudder-inducing titled Puppy Luv Adventures.


The Critics Said ...

Critics weren't very kind to Cake Mania, but were also not terribly hostile. Most complaints contained either a kind word about the basic gameplay or offered constructive criticism. GamePro noted that "The gameplay is fun but quickly gets tiresome." IGN echoed that by describing the title as "fun but shallow." Nintendo Power used biting satire when they said "more variety and enhancements for this PC port would have made the DS version a lot sweeter." Oh, Nintendo Power, you've apparently got the power to produce beautiful puns. Lowest-score giver G4 said "play the first level of Cake Mania and you've played them all."

Rap Sheet

  • The general consensus reached by the critics is very accurate: the gameplay gets very repetitive. There's some modest skill involved relating to multi-tasking, but nothing that can't be perfected in a short while.
  • "Bless Gran, she told all the little old ladies in her windsurfing club about our humble bakery." HA, I GET IT! They're old, so you wouldn't expect them to be into activities like wind-surfing ... but guess what? They are! The dialogue is riddled with such banalities. It's a bit tough as a crusty old-timer to put myself in a young child's shoes and imagine how they like to be talked to, but I like to think of today's youth as reasonably intelligent and beyond some clichés.
  • Uh oh, capitalism strikes again. It appears that the anonymously evil MegaMart has taken over the kindly old grandparent's bake shop. And we've got to fight them ... with baking! While some out there are certainly feeling the negative effects of a winner-takes-all economy, the "evil corporation overtaking the small ma-and-pa shop" bit has been done before way too many times. It's not just in video games, mind you, but television, books, music, and film. It's not a deal-breaker, but still a bit distracting. Perhaps it's a bit much for a game about cake-baking.


Silver Lining

Often, shovelware titles have an ugly and / or bizarre art direction. Cake Mania, despite an apparent lack of interest in coming up with an interesting title, uses character designs, colors, and layout pretty well. I can imagine young girls enjoying the style of this title, particularly those with an interest in cooking. The cutesy design is somewhere between Betty and Veronica and Strawberry Shortcake.

Also, the title screen music is surprisingly smooth for a game with a title that sounds less like a fun romp and more like a serious condition. The opening tune is like instrumental indie-rock meets be-bop jazz. Someone sent the sound developer to the wrong game. But it's short lived, for once the story begins we find some generic shuffling music. You know, that style usually reserved for Weather Channel updates.

Our Deduction

The main problem here would be the lack of depth. Cake Mania Falls under the umbrella of "not as bad as everyone made it out to be but still not fantastic." The gameplay isn't terrible. In fact, it can be a bit fun to try and balance the multiple tasks while handling customers, and does seem to capture the often hectic nature of retail jobs. But that's where the interest ends. I would say that it's like a stress ball. It's okay to pick it up once in awhile just to fiddle around with, but after a brief moment you're going to grow bored and get back to more important tasks. No one's going to make a game out of squeezing the martian's eyes out, and Cake Mania seems to fit in the same category.

In gaming, the term shovelware refers to any game in which time and effort were eschewed in favor of turning a quick profit. Bury the Shovelware takes a closer look at these titles, typically those that inhabit the lower end of metascores. It attempts to: 1) find out where and how the developer went wrong 2) identify common traits present in most shovelware 3) measure how long the game can be suffered.

This article was originally published on Joystiq.