Pun aficionados, rejoice. Cake Bash is, without doubt, one of the most pun-tastic video games of all time, with developer High Tea Frog taking every opportunity to cram-in as many bakery themed quips, witticisms and word play as humanly possible. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that there isn’t a single cake based joke they haven’t risen to. Don’t be concerned if you’re not a pun lover though, because they’ve also gone and created one of the most fun party games of 2020.
The premise of Cake Bash is wonderfully simple, as all good party games should be. Up to four players, over local or online play, do battle in a series of challenges to decide who is the most delicious sweet treat of them all.
The cast of characters to choose from is a treat and sure to bring a smile to even the most sour and jaded of faces. Players pick their avatar from a gallery of mauling muffins, dangerous donuts and ferocious fondant fancies, each one brought to life with doodled stick thin limbs and scribbled on faces. The result is that these badass baked goodies have oodles of charm to spare. Witnessing a Unicorn themed cupcake – eyes flashing with anger and gritted teeth bared – karate kicking the crumbs out of a wincing chocolate éclair is hilarious.
There’s a variety of challenges on offer. Most revolve around the chaos of four player fisticuffs, as players utilise simple combo strings, charged attacks, dashes, and the hurling of chocolate balls to render their opponents briefly unconscious. However, this isn’t a game in which you win by KOing your rivals. Instead, you use their temporary incapacitation as an opportunity to complete simple tasks. That might mean the player has to successfully lob fruit into a yogurt pot, cover their avatar head to toe in jelly beans or hold on to a smouldering candle for as long as possible. Successfully pull off this madness and you’ll be awarded an array of points. And you know what points mean? Prizes! Well, actually coins, but more on those later.
In addition to the battles there are eight different mini-games in which High Tea Frog really get their creative juices flowing and the in game insanity is turned up to gas mark 7 (220ºC / 200ºC fan oven). Players are tasked with an enjoyably diverse selection of mini-challenges; barbecuing marshmallows to just the right amount of goo, spearing evasive slices of caterpillar cake and fighting off swarms of wasps are all smile inducing highlights and operated with simple controls. Though far and away the best challenge is Fork Knife, In which players try to dodge killer cutlery as slice after slice on an ever dwindling cake are removed; the last one standing is rewarded with the phrase ‘Gateaux Royale’. See? I told you there was some higher functioning pun work here.
There’s just the right amount of skill required for each activity. Cake Bash managing to be eminently accessible to pretty much everyone, whilst also providing a dedicated player with the opportunity to seek the optimum approach to clearing every round. Successful completion of each challenge sees the players awarded with those lovely aforementioned points. And you know what points mean? That’s right, coins. And I guess, seeing as how I’ve mentioned it twice now, I’d best explain why you want those coins.
You’ll need coins in order to win Get Tasty. This is the central game mode that all the mini-games are framed around. In essence, it’s a delightfully elegant alternative to the board game set-up seen in other party games. After completing several battles and mini-games, players can invest their hard earned coins in buying a variety of sweets to decorate their cake. Whoever has the most delicious and point-worthy cake at the end of the game is the victor, and ultimately the one eaten by a hungry customer.
This gathering of sweets becomes a game in its own right. In a busy free-for-all on the bakery’s counter-top you’ll have to grab the decorations you need before your rivals pilfer them. Manage to gather three of the same and plentiful bonus points are yours. Get Tasty provides a nice balance and is a neat leveller for the varied skill levels of each individual player. You can win every round, but if you don’t choose wisely with your decorations then you won’t come out on top. This gives even those who are far behind in points the chance to forge a heroic comeback, keeping the game tight and competitive until the very end.
There is one element of the mode that I wasn’t particularly keen on however. For the cost of two coins, a player can try their luck with a randomly picked decoration from the mystery capsule machine. You could be rewarded with a lovely decoration for a fraction of the price, though at the risk of being stained with some radioactive point killing trash. In a game that is so beautifully balanced elsewhere, this mechanic feels like it’s gone off. Risk a capsule and you’ll be rewarded with stinky cheese more often than not and each piece of trash immediately wipes out forty points from your score – an amount that is very difficult, maybe impossible, to recover from. It makes the otherwise intriguing risk/reward of the capsule machine entirely redundant; there’s just far too much risk to make it even worth a punt.
Everywhere else, Cake Bash is everything I want from a party game. Fun, frantic, funny and, most importantly, accessible to every player in my family. If I were being overly picking – which, lets face it, I often am – then there’s not enough game here. Sure, more play time is required to unlock all the different character skins,but you’ll have certainly unlocked all the challenges and mini-games in an afternoon. Would I have liked a little more? Yes, I enjoyed Cake Bash so much that of course I’d want more, but when you consider the level of polish that such a small development team has achieved, then you can absolutely see why High Tea Frog went for quality, not quantity.