Cooking the Sweet Stuff on Facebook, Some More, with Baking Life
Baking Life, a new restaurant-style game from Zip Zap Play, is probably most similar to games like Restaurant City and Café World. Essentially, players are tasked with the creation of a successful bakery, and in the process, decorating it the way they see fit.
It’s a game mechanic we’ve all seen before, but at the very least, this newer application comes with a few nuances that make it at least feel a little bit different.
The concept is three-fold: Bake goods, display goods, sell goods. The mechanic works pretty much the same as Café World in that you choose a recipe (which costs a small sum of money) and click the oven half a dozen times to melt butter, roll dough, sprinkle cinnamon, etc. After all the prep is done, the food takes X amount of time to cook. Obviously, the higher level the food item, the more time it takes to create.
Once food is baked, it must be put in one of your display cases for customers to browse (if you wait too long, it will burn). Based on the item placed, it will generate a finite number of servings that will continue to be bought at one of your cash registers until consumed. As expected, once all servings are purchased, the player needs to cook more.
This is actually where the first nice change comes into play. Actually, it’s not so much an interesting mechanic as it is a usability improvement. Once your display cases are full, you are not hindered from making more goods. Well, you are prevented from making new types of items, but if you continue to bake the same ones, you can add that stock to the displayed stock.
Say, for example, you have a display case of cinnamon rolls. Now, they take five minutes to bake, but only have 13 servings. However, you could bake four sets of rolls and then have 52 servings. Furthermore, you can add more at any time.
As far as interesting new features go, the most curious is the ability to actually design and sell your own personalized cupcakes. Of course, this includes more than just frosting and cake mix, but you also get to pick from some fancy linings and some rather bizarre toppings that range from sprinkles to monster tentacles. The more fancy your design, the more it costs to make, but also, the more it sells for. Additionally, up to four varieties of these custom creations can be placed into a single display case, and you can even “send” your friends (though this just means post on their wall) one in order to earn extra servings.
Regarding other social features, users can also hire their friends to work for their bakeries in order to cut down on the cost of non-player character “Temp Workers” that actually get a wage. Unfortunately, this is a mere wall post, similar to Hotel City, meaning they have to click first to be eligible employees. Beyond this, the game has your typical leaderboard system based on each users’ level and you can visit one another’s virtual spaces whenever you wish (and even cash in on some of their revenue if they don’t come back often).
There are a few other minor elements that are worth pointing out as well. As users level up, more than just mere recipes are ungated. As levels increase, players are able to buy extra gas lines, electrical outlets, phone jacks, and expansion space. Each of these are needed to add extra ovens, display cases, registers, and… expansion space respectively. Basically, this is preventing people from simply constructing nothing but production décor in order to level quickly.
On the negative side of things, for every customer you serve, your bakery’s hype increases. This is how you get more customers, faster, but it rarely seems to go down. Even when customers are waiting in line for a good long while, they don’t appear to get upset; the hype just goes up by less. Eventually, they will get annoyed enough to leave, and your hype drops, but it takes a very long time before they do lose patience. It’s almost too easy. Furthermore, NPCs have little thought bubbles to display what they think, and thus far, we’ve only seen a happy face, a ticking clock, and the occasional angry face. Frankly, there could be a lot more they could complain about.
Other issues stem from the same complaints we originally had with Restaurant City. The décor doesn’t really do anything. It’s a great opportunity to take a page from city-building games and have it improve hype, but it’s strictly for personal aesthetics. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it just underplays the potential the feature has. Not only that, but a lot of the decorum is yet to be available.
Overall, Baking Life is not an original idea so much as it is a revised rendition of the older restaurant titles and repainted with a new premise. It’s still a decent game despite being rather easy to play, and missing out on more interesting mechanics, and its few new nuances do make it feel a little bit different from its predecessors at least (even if it isn’t a lot). Nevertheless, with almost 110,000 monthly active users the past few days, its probably safe to assume that any such qualms are either forgive, or overlooked, by many of the title’s player base.