Nintendo’s handheld consoles face the ever-growing prominence of smartphones, particularly in terms of the games on these devices. Cake Ninja is undoubtedly influenced by a thoroughly popular game on Android and iOS that involves slicing fruit: this ninja, however, has lost his way.
The gameplay within this title couldn’t be any more simplistic: use the stylus to slash cakes as they appear on the touchscreen. To be fair to the developers, the first words in the game overview are ‘a simple casual game’, so expectations are very clearly set. Cakes, donuts and other treats move between the screens, with your task being to simply swipe wildly with the stylus to slice them up. Parcels provide useful assists such as arrows and shurikens, while accidentally slashing a watermelon – the story is that the ninja’s wife needs a diet, so watermelons are a must — will cut your remaining time and your score.
A typical round will last two to three minutes, at which point a local leaderboard is displayed and, if your inner-ninja was sufficiently deadly with the stylus, you can add your own score to the rankings. You then realise that you’ve seen all the game has to offer: there's no challenge modes, no varied levels, no progression. All you can do is play the same level again and aim for a higher score, swiping away with no other goal. There is a multiplayer option where you face off with another DSi owner, but that requires the second player to have their own copy of the game. If you and a friend both have the game, then you’ve both made the same terrible mistake.
The issue with Cake Ninja is that providing one level, with no variety, of an incredibly simplistic game is utterly unacceptable. It's possible to see everything that this title has to offer within five minutes, with practically no replay value. It’s also ludicrously priced at 500 Nintendo Points, or £4.50 on the 3DS eShop; it seems inconceivable that there is another download on the service that represents worse value for money.
Joining the shallow content is humdrum presentation. While some respectable 3D visuals are present in the menu cut scene and the cakes are decently rendered, it lacks any vibrant colour to lift the overall look. As you may have guessed, there’s only one background screen as you slice cakes, while tolerable music is let down by an awfully clichéd ninja voice.
We can say one good thing about Cake Ninja: the stylus controls work just fine. Everything else is wrong, with a spectacular lack of content combining with mediocre presentation. There is absolutely nothing wrong with casual, easy-to-play games, but they should still have plenty to do and demonstrate genuine creativity. This title does neither of these things, and this particular ninja should bow out.