There's a line of people out the door, you're running three ovens and frosting stations, the cupcakes are still in the microwave, and the guy in the pink bunny costume is melting down because you mistakenly gave him a red-frosted, egg-shaped cake instead of the round, chocolate one with the sailboat. If only his favorite TV show was on...
This is a completely typical scenario in Cake Mania, a cute little bargain-priced title in which you play a baker's granddaughter determined to save the family business. It's basically a real-time puzzle game with you zipping around taking customers' orders, then baking them up cakes with the requested shape, frosting color, and decorations before they lose their patience and leave you holding an ownerless confection destined to be thrown away uneaten - and unpaid for.
It's easy to grasp, and it can be legitimately fun. Especially on PC, where the game is a huge hit with that same casual market that made Bejeweled and Luxor deserved smashes. If you happen to know the PC original, you'll be pleased to know that this version features the full 84 levels, including the Back to the Bakery expansion pack.
It tastes a little burnt, though. The problem arises, of course, when you take a program designed to be viewed and played on an 18-inch screen and cram it onto a tiny 3-inch screen at maybe one fourth the resolution with nary a tweak. It sucks when the garbage can, the cupcakes, and the ship-shaped cake topper are all barely a stylus tip’s width from one another. Moreover, the colors and shapes are tough to discern. Lavender frosting is almost just like white, and it’s tough to tell the difference between egg-shaped and round or triangle and rectangle when it's on the bottom of a multi-layer cake. The edges of the cakes are different colors, but those hues are tough to make out through the frosting at times.
Compounding this situation are the facts that you can’t see the whole screen at once and you can’t correct for mis-clicks. If you accidentally click brown frosting while just trying to move your character over so you can see the right edge of the screen, nothing can change it to white, even if you click white three times before the cake actually gets to the froster. Also, some moves can be queued – say, grabbing a cupcake, starting a star cake cooking, grabbing tips, and giving the cupcake to the steaming mad slacker at the counter. Other moves can’t be stacked, which can lead to lots of wasted dough, in both senses of the word.
We have other quibbles, but the big problem with Cake Mania is absolutely the screen size and resolution issue. What looks and plays great on a PC screen and mouse cannot be moved to the DS screen and stylus without real redesign consideration - which this didn't get. Moving the customers' happiness meters to the top screen isn't enough, and this failing takes a big bite out of the action (and for the record, this reviewer has better than 20/20 vision). It's disappointing: you'd think that a game about baking would know a little more about when it's necessary to substitute ingredients.