Everyone loves a good sugar rush. It’s why, no matter how big the backlog, we gravitate to games that could generously be qualified as comfort food. But the sweetest sugar-rush I’ve run into lately isn’t some paint-by-numbers first-person shooter you’ve played a hundred times or some formulaic open-world adventure you won’t even need a tutorial for. It’s a little game called Cake Bash.
You might’ve slept on Cake Bash, which officially came out in October—sandwiched between Hades and that early November hell week—for Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and Steam, and just last month for the Nintendo Switch. Don’t sleep on Cake Bash. Anyone seeking a raucous party game would be hard-pressed to find a more raucous one.
Cake Bash reared its sugary head this summer as part of Xbox’s Summer Games Fest Demo Event. If you caught it then, you likely know what to expect: You and up to three other players choose an anthropomorphic pastry avatar (wth bots taking the place of any empty spots) and compete in bite-sized mini-games. Some might be traditional melee-style brawls, where you smack jelly beans off your opponents and stick them on yourself so you, not that ugly yellow eclair, can be the sweetest. Others might be more focused on survival; one standout is a mode called Fork Knife, which requires you to constantly sprint around a pie as slices give way, all while dodging cutlery that will disqualify you if hit. Another, one called Neapolitan, is all about balancing as many scoops of ice cream as you can without toppling your cone.
In the time since the demo, Cake Bash added a larger game mode called Get Tasty, which packages all of these mini-games together. You and your fellow muffins, cakes, and donuts start out in the pastry case of some chic, bubblegum-pink patisserie. Your goal is to cover yourself with as much glacé ornamentation—candies and the like—so as to be the most appetizing treat, ultimately getting chosen by the customer to, yes, be eaten. Every mini-game you win allots you some in-game currency, which you can use to buy said ornamentation between rounds. Whoever has the most at the end wins. (Don’t think too hard about what it means to win.) The more you play, the more mini-games you’ll unlock. Once unlocked, you can play them any time in a mini-game specific mode, side-stepping the need to play through an entire “full” game of Get Tasty.
The result is what you’d imagine would happen if Super Mario Party were set in a Dylan’s Candy Shop. And just like any round of Mario Party—whether you’re making your way through a 20-turn board or just dabbling in some mini-games—friends become enemies. Lovers quarrel. No one is safe from the fray. Evil reigns.
Still, there’s an inherent absurdity to Cake Bash that Mario Party and party games of its ilk don’t quite match—one that lightens the mood just enough. You might hate your friends while you’re playing, but you won’t actually lose any friendships at the end of the day. You’re playing as pastries! With cartoon limbs! And irrepressibly cheerful smiles! Turns out, once Yoshi’s smug face and Luigi’s cocksure arrogance are taken off the table, party games can be pretty sweet. In other words, Cake Bash might be a sugar rush, but it won’t ruin your appetite.