Cake Mania
| Cake Mania

With Cooking Mama handling things on the DS when it comes to starters and savouries, it's up to Cake Mania to deal with our taste for the sweeter things of life.

Originally launched as an online PC game but now ported to the DS in a budget-priced package, Cake Mania's mixture of cutting-edge capitalism and colourful patisserie skills has previously kept many an office worker away from doing any actual office work. After all, with its busy visuals, oodles of charm, and a deceptively high difficulty level that quickly becomes addictive to beat, it's initially much more exciting than preparing for the weekly budget meeting.

An old cake-making store, owned by Jill's grandparents, has been taken over by a big name supermarket (it's like the anti-Tesco protests all over again). Only Jill can save the day by making a success of her own cake shop.

So, at the start of each of the 84 levels (the DS version includes all the extra missions packs from the PC game), you're presented with a monetary amount you need to achieve to proceed to the next challenge. The way to do this is make sure your customers are served with their exact specification of cake as speedily as possible.

By tapping each customer on screen with your stylus – there's a maximum of four shoppers at any one time – they'll get a menu, from which they'll make their choice. Then, a little cake icon pops up above their heads to specify what they want. With that knowledge to hand, you have to rush around the kitchen, using the various tools and gadgets to make the cakes and gain the cash before the heart meter above each customer drop to zero.

It's all incredibly simple, and you'll power through the first of Cake Mania's levels before you've even got your brain into gear. But things start to get trickier in this game sooner than in most handheld titles.

With all four customers wanting their cakes as soon as possible, you'll find yourself simultaneously icing one, baking another's base, while attaching some kind of accessory to a third. What with everything on your mind, it's easy to add the pink icing to the wrong base, and end up wasting precious seconds of baking time and losing cash because you have to chuck away a bunch of unwanted ingredients. Also, the slower your customers are served, the less cash they'll hand over.

As the levels progress you'll find yourself with much more picky clientele, too. Food critics and children lack patience (though you can offer a cupcake or equip your store with a TV to occupy them). Equally, while you start by baking simple chocolate sponges, it isn't long before you're having to tackle garish three-storey wedding cakes.

It's fairly challenging stuff. But like the queasiness you might experience after scoffing a plate of scones, jam and cream, Cake Mania's sugar-rich experience isn't without its downsides.

Most obvious is the crude way the sharp graphics of the PC version have been squeezed down to fit in the DS' screens. As your kitchen expands with extra cookers and utensils as you upgrade in-between levels, it becomes increasingly difficult in the rush of cooking to point your stylus on the correct items.

In fact, there are so many tiny icons, chances are you'll end up accidentally prodding the wrong cake shape almost as often as you make the right choice. Since the time you have available to make your cakes gets shorter and shorter, it become an absolute gameplay abomination. This is combined with the fact the shop and kitchen is too wide to fit on the DS screen, meaning you have to scroll between the left- and right-hand sides of your operation.

The music fares no better in the conversion either, boasting some of the most repetitive and downright tedious sounds ever to emanate from an DS.

Worst of all though, Cake Mania has barely an ounce of depth. Yes, things get trickier, and more options pop up as the levels progress, but you're essentially still performing the same prodding actions over and over and over again.

Maybe Eidos hopes Cake Mania's lowly price and casual branding will offset such faults. At best though, this is a game you'll only want to play for small chunks of time when you don't have access to the superior PC game. Choosing this is like comparing a piece of dried-up Carrot cake to a Black Forest Gateau. It won't make you fat, but it won't provide much satisfaction either.

Cake Mania

While fun in short bursts, the DS version of Cake Mania lacks depth and overly repeats on you. Burp.