Movie studios like Walt Disney Pictures, Pixar, and DreamWorks craft films capable of entertaining both children and adults. But in the realm of interactive entertainment, few firms outside of Nintendo have been able to consistently charm both types of audiences. One of the rare outsiders who has been able to generate crossover appeal was Cooking Mama Limited, the Yokohama-based developer responsible for a succession of cheerful titles which loosely simulated the culinary arts, eventually sold over four million copies.
At first, the recent eShop release of Waku Waku Sweets: Happy Sweets Making seems like a brazen clone of the Cooking Mama formula. Similarly, recipes are broken down into steps that will have players swiping and tapping on the 3DS’ touchscreen, feigning the steps used to create a variety of different foods. But where Mama’s franchise didn’t offer much beyond the mini-games, Waku Waku Sweets extends characters, a congenial setting, and contests, providing motivation for your actions. It might seem like a fairly insignificant addition, but the presence of a lighthearted plotline enlivens Sweets Making, concocting an experience that almost as irresistible as the food represented within.
The title’s prologue introduces players to Lime, the game’s youthful protagonist, who has recently hired by the Fil Rouge patissiere. While she lacks experience, she personifies ganbaru, approaching every recipe and task with uninhibited enthusiasm. At the bakery, she’s mentored by a team of sociable coworkers, while at home she interacts with Paffi, an anthropomorphic rabbit. Save for a friendly competition with Mint, a recurring rival who often appears during baking contests, Waku Waku Sweets is teeming with supportive, buoyant rapport. Sure, it’s idealistic and the encouragements are a bit repetitive, but it’s the kind of escapism that makes can games so gratifying.
But it’s the gameplay that makes Waku Waku Sweets special. Unlike Cooking Mama, were recipes were often undetermined by a step with dodgy controls, inputs have been thoroughly thought out. While the stylus-based taps and swipes err on the simplistic, they avoid misinterpretation and the frustration that emerges from a single botched action. Whether you are spreading anko between two cakes to make dora-yaki or cutting a cake in eight sections, Happy Sweets Making offers on-screen guidance, highlighting the actions you need to take.
Sure, all the mini-games, aren’t winners (setting the temperate and cooking time on a microwave oven is a bit too simplistic), but each mini-game is responsive, and typically concluded with a satisfying visual representation of your baked food advancing toward completion. Whether it’s the tantalizing golden bronzing of a perfectly baked chiffon cake, or the realistic swirl of blending ingredients in a bowl, Waku Waku Sweets does an admirable job at depicting each of the game’s 100+ recipes. What’s especially commendable about the game is the multicultural approach to foods, with American, European, and traditional Japanese available to players. I don’t have children, but if I did, I want them to see the variety of dishes on display,
Another successful constituent is the way Waku Waku Sweets goads gamers along. Instead of thrusting you down a succession of just cooking confections, there is a pleasing gameplay loop that drives the action. After you complete your training, foods created at the patissiere earn you a bit of coin, that can be used to either purchase recipe variations, or even spent at the town salon to give Lime a makeover, possible encouraging you to take on extra shifts. Or potentially, you can pursue professionalism, trying to impress the palettes of your coworkers, thereby earning new recipes. Of neither of these pastimes interest you, you can also chase altruism, baking good to increase the overall happiness of your fellow townfolk.
Occasionally, you might run into minor glitches. Once, I nailed a recipe, with the game devoting a perfect score of one hundred for my efforts. While my co-worker was supportive, I was told that skills could be improved upon, which brought the odd bit of frustration to Waku Waku’s world. But any vexation was soon lost by an approach that’s a little too close to real life, as I drown any irritation in chocolate eclairs and matcha dora-yaki.
Sure, Waku Waku Sweets: Happy Sweets Making isn’t for everyone. There’s little conflict to be found when you’re stirring batter or putting the layers of mille-feuille together. But there is satisfaction to be found in this light-hearted cooking simulation, both in the process of making each delectable dish and witnessing Lime grow as a budding chef. Mama, make room- there’s a new prodigy in the kitchen, and she’s filling hearts and stomach with cheerful sense of ganbaru.
Waku Waku Sweets: Happy Sweets Making was played on
the 3DS with review code provided by the publisher.
Developer: Sonic Powered Co., Ltd.
Publisher: Sonic Powered Co., Ltd.
Release date: March 29th, 2018
Price: $9.99 via digital, Nintendo eShop