Sawbuck Gamer

Cake Monsters

Let Them Eat Cake

The puzzle game Cake Monsters gets the most out its modest trappings.

By John Teti • October 16, 2013

Sawbuck Gamer is our daily review of a free or cheap game ($10 or less).

Kotaku’s Luke Plunkett recently wrote up a clip of Breaking Bad’s Bryan Cranston starring in a 1982 commercial for a video game called Megaforce. Cranston’s appearance isn’t terribly noteworthy—he’s only on screen long enough to slip into his chair with a flamboyant Riker Maneuver and smile for a half-second closeup—but the sales pitch itself is funny.

The ad intercuts between the game, with pixels as big as dinner plates, and live-action footage of the action the game is supposed to portray (which is taken from the Megaforce film). The message: Look how authentic this is! That was the marketing spiel for pretty much every game in the 2600 era, and yes, it was just as dubious at the time. Marketing departments just aren’t built to sell simplicity, despite the fact that it can be an essential ingredient for a good game. Matt Rix knows from simplicity, and he shows off his discerning design eye in his latest, irresistibly titled game, Cake Monsters.

Those Atari 2600-esque fellows above, the ones with the buck teeth, are the titular dessert lovers. They only like to eat cake that’s the same color as them, because they are apparently food-racist cake monsters. You control all of the monsters at once, and the puzzle is to navigate the pack so that they consume all the cake. The wrinkle: If the monsters run into each other, they eat each other and mix to form a new color. (A red beast who eats a blue beast turns purple, for instance.) From this premise, Rix crafts a series of tricky puzzles that, before long, ask you to maneuver the monsters in seemingly impossible ways. Cake Monsters is reminiscent of Rix’s earlier game Trainyard, and not just because of its bright primary-color aesthetic. In both games, you get the sense that Rix started with the most basic ruleset possible and then challenged himself to see how crafty and whimsical his puzzles could grow within those rules. And in that way, it gives you a sense of common purpose with the creator, since both you and he have found his work a pleasurable struggle. So while the blocky 1982 game Megaforce may passingly resemble the blocky 2013 game Cake Monsters, they put their simple aesthetic to opposite ends: One pretends to be something it’s not, and the other explores what it is.

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11 Responses to “Let Them Eat Cake”

  1. Chum Joely says:

    That commercial is great, quite aside from Bryan Cranston’s appearance. I love these little jingles packed with lyrics– common for action toys and certain cartoon shows, for example– that are trying so hard to tell you everything there is to know about the product and also how awesome it is, within like 15 seconds. This one is particularly insane… you’ll never be the saaaaAAAAAME!

  2. PaganPoet says:

    I didn’t know John Teti was into Shaker hymns.

    • Necrogem says:

      I came thisclose to having to sing that freaking song in high school choir, but we managed to convince our teacher that we wouldn’t have anyone in the audience left awake afterward. No offense to the Shakers of course, it’s just soooooo boring that it doesn’t lend itself well to modern choral performance.

  3. boardgameguy says:

    I got stuck. Cool game though. Reminds me a bit of some of the challenges in English Country Tune.

  4. Mike Mariano says:

    I was at my parents’ house this weekend and, while they sat reading the news and Facebook, I showed them Cake Monsters.

    “The monsters have to eat the cake, but only cake the same color.”

    “This looks really stupid,” said my mom.

    But I had fun with it and I beat it. It wasn’t until the last level that I learned the game has silly sound effects.

    There are many more games created in Puzzlescript, which is apparently a new game development engine. I’ve played maybe four of the games so far and this has been the most fun.

  5. Mooy says:

    Any game with Tycho in it gets a gold star from me.

  6. Matthew Smith says:

    Puzzlescript has really taken off it seems.
    The creator has listed a few stand out games here:

    http://puzzlescriptgallery.tumblr.com/post/63822094133/1-week-birthday