by William Thompson
reviewed on PC
Now we’re cooking
During COVID isolation, I’ve seen many friends take up cooking as a pastime in an effort to keep themselves occupied at home. Where before it was Instagram photos of meals from a fine dining establishment, those photos are now of home cooked meals and baked treats. No doubt, our waistlines will be a little wider once we return to some sort of normality.
Bake ‘N Switch has gamers practicing a similar hobby (albeit without the photoshoot afterwards) - taking the roles of one of six characters and either alone or with up to three friends, baking your way to victory across a series of colourful tropical and desert lands, and strikes a reasonable resemblance to the Overcooked series.
Each stage has gamers collecting dough creatures and then throwing the dough into an oven. Collecting and merging dough of the same type will grow the dough, and the larger the dough that is thrown into the oven for cooking, the larger the bonus. Levels start off quite easy with a single dough type that needs to be cooked, but as players progress through the levels, different dough types are added, enemies (known as 'Mouldies') appear, and environmental dangers make progressing tougher.
Each level provides players with the chance to score a maximum of three stars when performing optimally. Collecting stars opens up new levels and new challenges. As you progress, new dough types are added, and each have their unique characteristics. In total, players will meet seven different doughs ranging from the slow-moving standard bun dough, to quicker moving dodo (or dough dough) shaped dough, to armadillo-like croissants to the fast-moving fox-like dough. The introduction of each adds some freshness to the gameplay, whilst the addition of flavour pools adds to the challenge. Many of the stages will have multiple types of dough moving around, and in such cases, players (or teams) will need to take note of the oven, as an icon above the oven will determine which doughs are required.
The characters in Bake ‘N Switch each have their own special abilities that they’ll be able to use within the levels. These special skills are quite varied between characters, with Sage, a witch-like character, being able to produce a cauldron which sucks in the dough and enemies; Parsley, who unleashes a horde of kittens to attack any nasty creatures, and Ginger who can merge dough together at double the speed. When playing co-op mode with friends, it pays to select team members whose skills complement each other. The special abilities are powered up by throwing the correct dough into the oven. The more your character throws in, the faster their ability will activate.
Unlike Overcooked where the points required for the three levels of stars scaled to the number of players in the co-op, Bake 'N Switch keeps the same target. At first, I thought this was a strange move, making it easier to complete the goals with more players. But the teams need to co-ordinate better to do so. With more characters throwing dough into the kiln, the special abilities for each build up at a slower rate than for a single player, and I found that they were only activated close to the end of the round. The ability may not even power up at all, if you’re assisting others and not cooking any dough yourself. As such, co-op games require a touch of extra strategy than first thought.
Each of the two distinct zones - Tropical with its lush palms and sandy beaches and Desert with its harsher terrain, are vibrant, with explosions of colour throughout each mission. The dough types and enemies are easily discernible as are heroes who have a bright and cheery feel – even Salt, who is supposed to be a grumbled old sailor type. Winning levels and attaining achievements allows for new character costumes, but these are purely cosmetic and do not alter the gameplay at all. They do, however, allow gamers to accessorise their favourite character how they see fit, and adds a layer to the collectibles in the game.
Rolling in dough
If you’ve played Overcooked to death and are looking for something similar, but with a fresh new feel, Bake ‘N Switch could be right up your alley. The co-op (or PvP) nature of the game make it a wonderful party game with friends on the couch at home or even online. The simple controls and mechanics mean that it is a game that anyone can play. The cute colourful visuals and cheery background tunes make it one that will suit families as well. But despite the gameplay being simple, the levels are challenging enough even for experienced gamers, with the gradual addition of new dough types and enemies giving each level a unique touch. And with one hundred levels to play across the two distinct zones, collecting the valued three stars on each will mean that there are hours of gameplay available for completionists.
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Simple controls, fun co-op
Levels can feel repetitious