Publisher: Majesco Games
Developer: Gorilla Systems
Release Date: November 24, 2008
Chances are that if you've ever done any kind of casual gaming on a PC, you've probably played a Cake Mania game or clone at some point. I'm not ever sure that Cake Mania is the originator of the gameplay formula, but it's been around the block a few times, going so far as to pop up on consoles prior to this Wii entry. Personally, I've usually enjoyed the game, albeit in limited spurts of activity, and my girlfriend, a casual gamer, is a bigger fan of these games than I am.
If you haven't played Cake Mania before, I'll give you a pretty simple rundown. When you think of "casual" games, you probably think of the mini-game compilations that plague the DS and the Wii, or the other pseudo-sports titles that take advantage of the motion control hardware available on the system. Cake Mania is neither of these things, but it still falls firmly into that casual category. The controls are meant to be simple, so just about anyone should be able to pick up the game, figure out what's going on and play. It's going to be a bit more involved for people than say, bowling on Wii Sports, but the isn't too involved.
Basically, you control your character through a variety of pastry shops, taking in the orders that customers give you and building their creations from a variety of tools at your disposal. As the game progresses, more and more orders are put in, with varying difficulties of creation, and the gameplay focuses on memory and efficiency more than anything else. You'll gain money from happy customers, which you can then spend on various ingredients and tools that'll make certain gameplay aspects a little easier or allow you to make some of the more complex creations that are requested by the clientele.
That's pretty much Cake Mania: In the Mix in a nutshell: simple controls mixed with surprisingly addictive, but repetitive gameplay that just about anyone can pick up and play. While the basic formula of other Cake Mania titles is present, it becomes painfully obvious early on that the lack of a standard keyboard/mouse setup, or even the touch-screen and stylus controls of the DS, make a bigger difference than you might suspect. The motion controls of the Wii might seem like a perfect fit for this franchise, but there are far too many menu navigation options and too much overall screen-clicking, which makes the controls feel like more of a hassle than they need to be. It's really easy to click the wrong thing or bring up a menu that you don't want, which considerably slows down your response time. Since the difficulty amps up in later rounds, these little mistakes will end up costing you, making the game far more aggravating in the long run than it needs to be. I'm not entirely sure that the title's control issues could have been overcome by another optional input either, unless the Wii gets a USB-based keyboard and mouse, which I assume isn't going to happen anytime soon.
Graphically, there's nothing too impressive about what you'll see on the screen with In the Mix. The characters and environments all have a 3-D quality to them, and they're definitely more detailed than I remember the first Cake Mania on PC being, but it's not quite up to snuff when compared to a high-quality title on the Wii. However, the game is available at a budget price of $30, so you can't really ask for a Super Mario Galaxy experience. The title is bright and colorful; it's easy enough to figure out the customer orders (no squinting required), and it's mostly in line with other games in the franchise. The different bakeries in which you'll be running around are distinctive enough so that you'll be able to see the difference between them, and it feels like a Cake Mania title.
The sound is pretty annoying, though, and incredibly limited, especially when the soundtrack tends to repeat itself pretty quickly. A poor soundtrack doesn't generally annoy me, and I can usually tune out things that I don't like, but I was seriously tempted to turn off the volume while playing In the Mix. It's far too repetitive, and what gets repeated isn't all that great.
There is a multiplayer mode in In the Mix, but it's a bit hectic and cumbersome to really enjoy. There's a lot of overlap as far as the menu stuff goes, and you'll find yourself struggling to work alongside someone else with all of the on-screen action going on, unless you're exceptionally good with communication, or possibly psychic. You're definitely better off sticking with the single-player mode, but I'm glad that the developers at least tried to add some type of multiplayer function, even if it's not quite ideal.
For fans of the Cake Mania series, Cake Mania: In the Mix isn't going to be your favorite entry, and although the asking price is fairly low, I'd still suggest giving it a rental first. For those who have never played a Cake Mania title before, this isn't going to be the one to draw you into the franchise. I'd definitely suggest checking out one of the PC versions (or one of the various clones out there) or even the DS version before settling on this Wii iteration. The lack of an easily manageable control scheme really hurts the final product and keeps this game from being the fun time-waster that it usually is. If you can manage to get past the unwieldy controls, the core gameplay is pretty identical to other Cake Mania titles, and it definitely holds that addictive quality that makes these games far more entertaining than they originally seem. Definitely try In the Mix as a rental, since it's not going to be everyone's cup of tea … or slice of cake.