Being a diligent and serious games journalist, I make it my business to investigate the games that come across my desk for review. In Cake Invaders, the newest title from Eastasiasoft, the whole purpose of the game is to protect some “Baumkuchen”. Now, my A-level German lets me translate that as “tree cake”, so I decided to check into Baumkuchen. And lo and behold, it is indeed known as tree cake, built up in layers that resemble the rings of a tree when it is cut. It turns out that Baumkuchen are also very big in Japan, and this may have something to do with the inspiration for the game. So come with me to a world of delicious cakes, hungry aliens and ladies wielding miniguns.
The story of Cake Invaders can be summed up in a simple phrase – Space Invaders want your confectionery, and will stop at nothing to get it! What this translates into is a game where many, many waves of invading aliens will stream down the screen, trying to get their hands – and even worse, their mouths – on the precious Baumkuchen. I will gloss over the fact that in order to defend said Baumkuchen, the ladies with miniguns are actually stood on the cakes… I’m not sure I’d fancy a cake with footprints on, but the aliens are obviously less fussy.
The graphics of the game are, as you’d expect from an Eastasiasoft title, firmly on the retro end of the scale. The visuals are pixelated in a good way, seeming to hark back to an earlier age, and as a result all moves very nicely and smoothly. However, there isn’t a massive amount of animation on the sprites or the aliens if I’m honest, with the player characters just swinging their miniguns around wildly, and the aliens sliding down the screen towards the cakes. The sound is pretty good as well, and as the amount of Baumkuchen reduces, the music gets progressively faster and more tense, adding to the feeling of peril. By the time you are down to the final slice, you’re sat on the edge of the seat, willing your bullets into the oncoming swarms.
Now, a game like this has to be fun in order to earn its place in your library, rather than arrive as yet another of the seemingly endless choices. And luckily, it is. The actual shooting action is non-stop, apart from the gap between waves, and the variety of different enemies is interesting as well. You have foes that just fly straight at the cakes, enemies that zig zag about the screen, even opposition that don’t approach the cake directly but fire little creatures that do. They all take a different number of hits to vanquish as well, so learning which enemy does what and how is a vital part of the learning process.
Simplicity is the name of things here though, mostly as you aim the on-screen cross-hair with the left stick, and fire with the right trigger – that’s the basic controls. However, as with any good shooting game, there are a number of power-ups that can be obtained to make your life easier. As you shoot successive enemies, you’ll see, in the bottom left of the screen, a Rainbow Baumkuchen begin to form, and when it is complete, it spawns on the screen. Shooting the Rainbow Baumkuchen will then give you a random power-up, ranging from different bullets all the way up to another team member with a gun.
The bullets can be useful and activated with a press of the corresponding face button on the controller, so X will change the bullets to lasers for a short period of time, for instance. Lasers are better than regular rounds as they penetrate enemies and kill rows of invaders in one shot. The most useful of the power-ups is without doubt the extra crew members, and you can have up to five people all shooting wherever you aim, which as you can imagine makes Cake Invaders a whole lot easier. Due to the random nature of these power-ups, however, it is very hard to play this game with a plan; winging it until you are a fully fledged alien mincing machine is required.
So, we’ve seen that the game is fun to play, different every time due to its random nature, and it both looks and sounds good as well. But there are obviously a few little downsides to the experience, particularly depending on your point of view. You see, the only issue I have with the majority of Eastasiasoft games is in regards the achievements, and how easy it is to complete all of them. And once you have nothing to work towards, with the best will in the world, the spur to keep trying disappears. Without a word of a lie, I got the majority of the achievements for Cake Invaders on my first attempt, and the rest within half an hour, due to some specialised requirements. After this, there’s a drain in the need to play through what Cake Invaders has to hold. It’s a shame, as there is a good game here, it just doesn’t have the long term appeal that is able to keep me playing.
In conclusion, Cake Invaders is a fun game for a limited period of time. It’s exciting and can be challenging, depending on how the power-ups fall, but equally after about half an hour, you are likely to have seen all it has to offer. For achievement hunters, it’s an easy sell, but for folk looking for a return on their investment, that’s less so.
Pick up Cake Invaders from the Xbox Store