Is it a bird? Is it a plane? Is it Superman? No, it’s Pancake the flying cupcake!
The flying cupcake is the star of the show in Green Lava Studios’ latest offering Birdcakes, in which Pancake and his girlfriend Cherry – also a cupcake – are enjoying a lovely picnic, until disaster strikes. A treacherous fly comes out of nowhere, before licking Cherry and leaving her traumatised as a result. Distraught about this disgusting act and swiftly armed to kill flies on sight, Pancake goes on a rampage to protect his girlfriend from any further unauthorised attacks. They’ll be dropping like, well, themselves.
Birdcakes is a story of vengeance, and one that tells the whole tale within about a minute, before launching you into the action. So if you’re looking for substance, Birdcakes doesn’t have it in that sense – instead the 2D shooter aims to dazzle in the gameplay department.
There are six different fly-infested worlds in total, with a few levels and waves present for each, tasking you with flying Pancake around and shooting at any flies coming towards him or the vulnerable Cherry. A load of sugar cubes are placed at random around her to act as an added level of protection, but it’s futile in truth and they’re not to be relied upon. You are limited in terms of how many candy bullets you possess, however killing flies can provide extra ammo and fuel for a fiery special move for when the going gets tough. The whole pace of the game is frantic when the waves arrive, so having to be frugal with the bullets is a bit of a pain, especially whilst getting used to the controls.
You could call it a twin stick shooter, because the left stick works for movement and the right stick aims the weapon, but then the right trigger is required to actually fire the candy bullets. Don’t get me wrong, the flying and aiming work great; it’s just tricky to get to grips with the actions all being used together initially. If you’re overwhelmed, the additional special move and dash buttons are vital in avoiding the loss of your three life hearts, because if you die, that’s ‘game over’.
The further you advance through the worlds, from the sunny and pleasant environment to the spooky castle-like backdrop, the more new variations on the common fly are thrown into the mix. They all have their own attacking agendas too, with the yellow fly making a beeline for Cherry, the bull fly charging headfirst into everything, the burping fly slinging yucky toxic green stuff everywhere and the sniper fly picking you off from distance, to name just a few. At the end of each world there’s a boss wave to face and these pests range from a huge disgusting fly to a Space Invaders style swarm to decimate. The enemy variety throughout is pleasantly surprising, with the influx getting progressively more dangerous with their quirks.
Birdcakes really isn’t messing around by giving you an easy run, however there’s a Bakery available to purchase upgrades and such – to keep forevermore – to ensure further playthrough attempts should fare better. The biggest issue is the pure grind to earn enough cash to spend at the store, with the in-game currency hard to come by. The best way to grab some is by roaming about the level to try and find a piñata full of extra bullets, health and sometimes money. This isn’t made clear to be honest, but even when you catch on to it, you’ll be saving up for ages for stuff that’s barely worth the effort.
With just nine items in the shop, and a third of them being different types of dashing techniques, it’s a real missed opportunity. Even the bullet upgrades, which are the best of the lot, have some kind of drawback, whether it’s their uselessness against a certain ghostly fly or excessive expenditure of ammo. Granted, the ammo splurging Boomerang bullets are way more powerful, but there’s nothing worse than running out at a crucial point and having to embrace death, starting right back at the beginning moments later. In short, the shop sucks and whilst the grind is necessary, not all of the ‘upgrades’ are.
In respect of the visuals, Birdcakes does nothing extraordinary, but still manages to provide decent albeit generic looking environments to accompany the action and the fly designs are clear enough to notice what threats are heading towards you. The soundtrack though is damn annoying with its upbeat tempo on a loop and that really grates in no time at all – you’d be best firing up Spotify or something to drown it out.
On the bright side, Green Lava Studios have priced Birdcakes low enough for gamers to take a punt at if they’re fans of the 2D shooter genre. Putting aside the grind, the soundtrack and the frustration of having to watch the ammo usage during the fast-paced gameplay, there are reasons to be tempted. The gameplay mechanics are spot on and you won’t miss a shot or move into licking range of a fly unless it’s your own fault. Seeing all the different types of flies is good too and their attacks really keep you on your toes.
All in all, Birdcakes is an alright game with an awful grind that drains the excitement away, but the price point could be enough to tempt you in to killing a load of flies and having a little fun along the way.