I’ve roared through the spaces between worlds as warfighters bore down on me, lasers tearing across the hull. I’ve barreled headlong over barricades as flames collapsed the building behind me into a fiery heap. I’ve stalked giant monsters across the landscape, unleashing brutal combinations of might and magic. I’ve done all these things and more, but sometimes you’ve just gotta sit back and have a slice of cake.
Lemon Cake is a bakery simulator. Stumbling into a broken down and abandoned bakery, you see the immediate potential to build a business, and who better to help you than the friendly ghost who haunts it to teach you how to run it? Cookies, candies, cakes, and all the various things that bake are your new stock and trade, and the customers are lining up – let’s get started.
Ten small detail options await you to bring your would-be baker to life. What color socks, skirt, apron, hair style, hat, or even cat ears to wear are crucial when opening a bakery, so choose wisely. You wouldn’t take food from an improperly dressed taffy transactionist, would you?
As your bakery is abandoned and dilapidated to begin with, you’ll need to start small. Only one table and chair set is available, and that’s good, as you have only one working stove. That’s perfectly fine as well, as you don’t even know how to bake! Why did we decide to take over this business? That’s a very good question, and one I can’t readily answer, but we’re here now, so let’s not dwell on it.
Our little ghosty friend, Mrs. Bonbon, provides your first recipe – a simple bread loaf. It’s hard to mess that up, so it’s a good place to start. Customers will come in, very few at first, and most of them will simply want a bit of bread. Soon, you’ll start figuring out how to put delicious icing on those bread pieces to turn them into cinnamon buns. Delicious buns give way to pulled taffy, poured coffee, cookies, croissants, cakes, and more. Pretzels and pies will become your pastry push as you set up tiny window displays for your confection concoctions and delicious devil’s food delights.
With more customers and newer treats comes different challenges. Like other games in this genre, you’ll need to slowly grow your enterprise as demand increases. That means unlocking additional ovens, more mixing bowls and tables to stage your pattsier delights, and other more unconventional contraptions to help sling your sugar. Eventually, though, you’ll need to start putting fruit in your food. That’s when the real work begins.
Your bakery, despite its humble looks, holds a tremendous amount of real estate. One room is reserved as a dining room, the next being the bakery itself. The third room, however, is a mishmash of various things. In here you’ll grow the various plants, fruits, and vegetables that you’ll be putting in your food, meaning you’ll need to water and maintain them. It’s also the perfect place to plant entire trees, and even house a full-sized, but very Chibi-cute cow. These plants need watering, and you’ll need to feed your chickens and cows, but they’ll produce new ingredients for your cafe as a result. With the cherry trees and honey bees all settled, and ingredients in hand, it was time to turn my attention to the upgrade menu.
Spread across three tabs, namely Store, Kitchen, and Greenhouse, lie 36 upgrades to your cafe. As you earn funds, you’ll be able to buy these upgrades, granting things like confections and refreshments. Once purchased, you’ll be able to add them to your bakery menu and customers will begin to order them like clockwork. It’s as easy as that.
The biggest challenge in Lemon Cake is timing. Cakes that are left in the oven too long turn into charcoal briquettes, and nobody wants those, no matter how much frosting you put on them. Dump them in the trash can, try again, and serve ’em fast lest your customers get upset. A little coffee or some small sweets go a long way to soothing their impatience. If you’ve played a game like this before, you’ve got the gist of it.
There are a few changes from the usual formula here and there, but honestly my only complaint with Lemon Cake is that I’ve seen this before. You can tinker with pricing to push customers towards one pastry or another, or you can use that to line your pockets in search of better upgrades. Your ghostly buddy will join you eventually as a helper, but getting coffee for your customers feels like it should be one of the first things you get instead of the last. The cart is a nice upgrade, but it still feels like it requires a little too much manual intervention.
Lemon Cake often falls into the trap that all of these games do – when you buy an upgrade, it almost feels like a punishment for the player as they now have to manage whatever subsystem serves that upgrade. Be it a new thing in your greenhouse to grow, another ingredient to manage in the kitchen, or just having to run back and forth between three rooms, more can sometimes feel like less.
What I hope for games like this, not just Lemon Cake, is that they begin to understand that the formula needs to be moved forward. It should be difficult – running a business is, but either getting more help to do the work, or better still, automating a process (e.g. “Here’s an oven that connects to the conveyor belt to carry it to the frosting machine, and then directly out to the customers – you just have to keep it fed with sugar, flour, and fuel”) needs to be the progression. Without it, games like Lemon Cake can start to feel like the pastries in the window – identical. It’s a good feeling in the mouth, but after just a few hours you feel like you’ve had enough.
Cute and fun for a period of time, Lemon Cake is a familiar comfort food. Small slices taste good, but consuming the whole cake in a few bites is just going to give your stomach the rumblies.