There comes a time when a game is neither fun nor boring
As I sit here, my one and only final now behind me, I find myself with numerous ways to just allow my brain to relax for a bit. I could play a video game… but I don’t feel like playing any of the ones that I’ve got here. I could start up a PC game… but my laptop sucks and will probably explode by the 15 minute mark. I could read, draw, write, call someone up, daydream for a bit… Instead of doing any of those, I pick up my iPod and tap Bakery Story.
Quick synopsis of what Bakery Story is:
- Free app
- You’re in charge of a bakery/cafe combo and must build it up in order to become the most awesome bakery/cafe in town
- Gain hearts to have more people visit you, which means more money, more leveling up, and more time invested
- It apparently takes hours to make an espresso
- You have to balance the amount of food/drink you have available with whatever you’ve got cooking. Time management is key here.
What makes Bakery Story engaging to me?
Aesthetics? The bright, colorful scenery and cutesy, somewhat dopey art style may be appealing to my overactive maternal side. However, the art style itself isn’t that great or amazing. It also follows the tried and true approach of painting bright colors onto ridiculously round shapes. There is not distinct sense of it having a unique look–if you showed me this alongside a few other photos of similarly themed apps, I would have trouble distinguishing Bakery Story apart from the others.
Aurally? The sound is average. It’s nothing special, just a peppy, upbeat tune playing through the game. It loops and ingrains itself in your brain if you happen to leave your iPod open because you’re waiting for your 5 minute cookies to finish baking.
Subject matter? The topic is food. I have four loves in my life, and food just so happens to be a life-long one. When it comes to eating the little desserts and the type of baked goods you find in a cafe, I’m not really one to partake. However, I do love looking at cafe beverages/bakery food. Yes, I know that’s a bit quirky. I can’t help it, there’s just something so delicate and quaint about them, even as they grow in prevalence. I find baked goods to be a bit cute and fanciful, I suppose.
Mechanically? This game’s mechanic pretty much follows the tried-and-true method of:
- Tap to select an item
- Tap workstation to “make” it
- Tap workstation once more to really “make” it.
- Wait 3 hours for your mocha to brew.
- Tap mocha to allow for public consumption.
I hate that mechanic. I loathe it. I despise it. So why, then, do I find myself continually checking up on this app when I’ve let so many other apps that use this same mechanic go to waste?
I also have We City, City Story, and Tap Resort. These all use the same mechanic mentioned above–but with houses, mystical tiki rooms, and factories–and I’ve played these for at most a cumulative twenty minutes. Rounding up.
I think the “tap-tap-tap” mechanic isn’t so much a mechanic as it is a business strategy. It’s monetarily driven rather than, for lack of a better word, mechanically driven. It happens to work as a mechanic, but it’s definitely not an engaging one. The strategy: to encourage players to buy the “super special item” in order to enhance or ease their game playing experience. It’s a smart business strategy, and a successful one to boot–otherwise, the mechanic would have died out thousands of apps ago–but to the player who is fully aware of this, it becomes tiresome and distracting. It’s tiresome because “man, I could have used one of those special items to bring back my spoiled peach cobbler dish to life.” I don’t know if these types of games do this, but perhaps awarding non-paying players with a super cool item every couple of levels gained would give me something to look forward to rather than wondering why the hell am I still playing this game? As for the distracting part: it becomes painfully transparent when all the really awesome items are bought with like 80 super cool items and all the mediocre items are for free. But, I suppose, this is exactly what people mean when they speak about how so many casual games are a competition of money rather than skill. Those who have the most cash to spend will be the most successful. Those who don’t are either outta luck or have to work twice as hard. Or maybe these types of games are making a social commentary?
I know the “tap-tap-tap” is for ease of use as well, but wouldn’t it be fun to have the option of sliding your finger around, trying to mix the batter just right for your 12 hour carrot cake? It could turn into a quick little minigame a la Cooking Mama, take maybe just 5 seconds, and let the user be on their way. Or you could option out of it. I feel like it would disguise the obvious business strategy a little more and would also make for an enjoyable experience for the player.
All in all, Bakery Story does not break any boundaries, does not make any commentaries, and does not aim to make the user aware of an issue of any sort. Is that a problem? Most definitely not. It set out to do one thing primarily, and that was to make money. For players like myself who do not engage in spending money on in-app purchases, this game will likely run its course, and soon.
The food sure looks good, though.