As part of Summer Game Fest 2021, Xbox is making a bunch of game demos available from their store. Playable until June 21st, the demos showcase upcoming games so that players can see what’s in store for the future. BattleCakes is an adorable indie rpg, where you play as a cupcake intent on being a hero. Interact with the sweet world of Pasteleria, battling friends and making enemies along the way. The demo is pretty short, only about 15 minutes long, but it’s still a fun little insight of what you can expect from the full game. Here are my first impressions of the BattleCakes demo!
In true rpg style, the controls are pretty simple. You move around the map, interacting with people and objects by pressing A. There’s no jump button, and you move on a 2d plane. You play as a custom cupcake, and you lead your own team of 3 that you’ve called the BattleCakes. Apparently it’s Funhouse season, and you’re tasked with clearing it from the evil honeybuns that have taken up residence inside. However, before you can go inside, you need to get a ticket. To do this, you need to visit a fishing shop and help the owner find her missing stock. Thankfully, this doesn’t take long, as there’s a broken down market wagon just outside. You simply collect the stock and carry it straight to her. After that, you’re able to go inside the Funhouse and fight the enemies inside.
My first impressions of the BattleCakes demo were that the gameplay is pretty linear. It’s very much a case of ‘go here, do this, go there, do that’. There’s no real challenge to it, however it somehow manages to not be boring. I think a lot of that is down to the fun dialogue between characters. The game has a very tongue-in-cheek writing style, and so you find yourself smiling a lot. The characters’ personalities are immediately apparent from their words, which is quite rare these days. Feeling involved in what’s happening between the characters helps you ignore the fact that you’re not really doing all that much. The demo is very much just about doing small side quests to help NPCs, and there’s not much exploration.
Once you defeat the enemies inside the Funhouse, you earn a wagon wheel as a prize. You take this to the broken down market wagon you saw earlier, and then the demo is over.
Fighting and Mini-games
As you can expect from a game called BattleCakes, you have to do some actual battling. The fighting in this game is turn-based, and very simplistic. You control the turns for all members of your party, and they play out in order. There are two attacks that you can perform regardless of ‘might’, and playing them gives you ‘might’ that allows you to then use your powerful attack. You can also use items or defend, but that’s unnecessary for either of the two fights in the demo. There’s not much skill or strategy involved, so it’d be ideal for kids who just want to play without thinking. If you’re after a game which has complicated fighting mechanics then this probably isn’t it. However, if you’re happy to have a more casual experience, then the fighting isn’t totally boring either.
The demo also includes a fishing mini-game, which can be found outside the fishing shop. You pick up the rod and cast your line into the water, where you can see the shadow of a fish. The fish will nibble a few times, and then bite the hook. At that point, you need to mash A to reel it in. There are several different kinds of fish available to be found, although they don’t have much use in the demo. You can give the enemies a fish as a peace offering, but they still fight you anyway. Still, no rpg worth its salt is complete without a fishing mini-game, so I’m happy it’s there.
It would be impossible to talk about my first impressions of the BattleCakes demo without focusing largely on the graphics. The visuals are truly what make this game, and they’re the reason I can so easily forgive the basic gameplay. The art style is cute, and very minimalist. Every part of the characters and setting are drawn with hard lines, there aren’t tons of little details. This helps make the shapes bold and sweet, and the aesthetic really works. The character designs are adorable, and really distinctive in their simplicity.
One of the coolest features about this demo is that it allows you to customise your character. Customisation is one thing I really love to see, and there are a bunch of different options here. You can adjust your frosting style, which is basically a haircut. And then you can change the colour of pretty much every part of the cupcake, as well as choosing the shape of your eyes, which have an option to look more feminine. You can also choose your name, and I like the vibrant design of those customisation pages. The only downside is that you have to move one letter at a time, and can’t hold down the analogue stick to move multiple spaces between selecting letters. The game uses a sans serif font that is clear and easy to read.
Unfortunately, I did notice some wiggly lines that went across the screen whilst moving. Presumably this is due to issues loading the new graphics smoothly, and the rendering is getting delayed. I expect this is due to the fact that the game is still in the pre-alpha stage, and will be fixed in the full version, but as this article is specifically about the demo, I had to mention it nonetheless.
BattleCakes has wonderful theme music that’s upbeat and cheery. It’s actually got quite a detailed tune compared to most indie games, and there are two consistent layers overlapping each other. One carries a pretty simple beat, the other is more melodic and varied. Together, they sound really fun, and convey the joy of the game. The in-game music is different to the theme music, but has the same vibe. It’s peppy, and you could bob your head along to it. It helps make the game feel more exciting, and the developers chose very wisely.
The music changes between areas, such as when you enter a building, or engage in combat. This helps to create auditory differentiation, and makes the pacing feel smoother. There aren’t any sound effects, though. When you speak to a character, not only is the dialogue not read aloud, but there also isn’t any sound effect to imitate speech, as you would usually find. Honestly, though, that doesn’t bother me too much, as those effects can sometimes be annoying. I would like to see sound effects in other parts of the game, though, to make it feel more complete.
All in all, it was a short but relatively enjoyable experience. My first impressions of the BattleCakes demo didn’t blow me away, but they weren’t negative either. I fully expect that the demo is just a small taste of the enjoyment that the full game will provide. A lot of the negatives feel like things that could easily be resolved, either through fixing bugs or just by playing for longer and having the option to go multiple routes instead of the linear path of the demo. I love the concept for this game, and the art style is so adorable. It’s a quick demo to play, so I’d recommend giving it a go to see what you think. If you’re looking for other demos to play, you should check out Tunic. Also, whilst you’re here, why not enter our giveaway for Sonic Mania?