by Nathan Rowland
reviewed on PC
Fresh Out The Oven
Releasing a game which encourages couch co-op during a pandemic has its drawbacks. In my area, I don’t have the capacity to call on a number of friends to play new party games with me in my living room anymore. Obviously my experience isn’t universal to everyone, but I think we can agree a lot of us are in the same boat for the time being. Despite this, I’ve found Cake Bash in equal measure a relief to my current lockdown experience. This is fortunately because I’ve been able to play it alongside my girlfriend.
On numerous occasions throughout lockdown I’ve asked her if she wanted to play Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, always with the response of “yeah, maybe later”. Now however, it was she who prompted me by asking if I wanted to play “some more smash cakes tonight”. Undoubtedly, ‘cute’ games like Cake Bash have a very broad appeal. Now I love Smash Ultimate - but I’ll be the first to admit that playing as a choux bun, kicking the teeth out of a french fancy is far more engaging than watching two fairly indistinct anime dudes slashing each-other with huge swords and grunting excessively with Minecraft Steve slamming them both. The aesthetic of Cake Bash, the characters’ various patisserie forms, their hand drawn eyes, mouths and limbs as well as their many charming poses is so very accessible and likeable.
Of note - I wasn't able to try out the online multiplayer prior to release, just the local version, so take everything I’ve said thus far with a pinch of sugar. But I’ll certainly be there on release day to wallop strangers right in their donut hole.
Butter My Crumpets
The game modes are fun and strike a good balance between competitive gameplay and silly, raucous moments of hilarity. Interspersing these modes are a variety of bakery themed competitions: sticking yourself with the most candied sweets before time runs out; seeing who can break open the most fortune cookies whilst avoiding environmental hazards; catching & stacking falling ice-cream whilst trying to knock over your opponents stacks. There’s even a nice homage to Epic’s Fortnite, titled ‘Gateau Royale’, where you’ll fight to be the pastry standing whilst hazardous cutlery tries to eliminate you from an ever decreasing cake, slice by slice. The list goes on. What does feel missing amongst this catalogue of rounds are any team-based modes. The maximum player size of four obviously restricts this in some sense, but I don’t doubt the team at High Tea Frog could come up with some fun modes for a future update.
Additionally, there exists a meta-game for Cake Bash which intersperses the bouts of action. In these stages, each player can spend coins they’ve won depending on where they’ve played in previous rounds. These are spent on decorative sweets which stick to the player’s avatar. Combining matching sweets gains you more points and the more points you accrue in this meta-game will determine whether you win the overall match. I have mixed opinions about this. Firstly, I like that it provides a pause to the matches. If they were back to back in quick succession, I’d likely get burnt-out of playing after one or two matches. On the other hand, there seems to be a variable chance on what sweets can drop in addition to the possibility of other player’s stealing from you the necessary sweets that you would need to complete a matching set in order to score more points. Arguably, this does create the potential for more of those raucous moments, but I also found it quite frustrating after winning the previous round anyway.
No Soggy Bottoms
Games like Fall Guys and Among Us have proven the ability for smaller teams to take centre stage and captivate the throngs of players who crave these formats of competitive, highly replayable party games. In doing so, they have elevated the expectations for the genre and consequently, throw down the gauntlet for those that hope to follow. However small a percentage of the day, Cake Bash has been nothing but enjoyable to play and fits right in amongst the growing pantheon of small developer teams that produce such rich and fundamentally fun games. It almost seems unfair that I initially conferred so much of the world’s circumstances on the release of this game - because it rightfully stands on its own two feet regardless of any broader context.
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Fun design & aesthetic, encourages your silliness
No team-based modes