Almost one year ago, the DSiWare service was graced with the appearance of Cake Ninja, an unrepentant clone of mobile craze Fruit Ninja. However, its lifeless approach to the formula, lack of addictiveness and total dearth of variety doomed it to receive a mere 2/10 in our review.
Now we have Cake Ninja 2, which seeks to atone for the crimes of its predecessor, but succeeds only in compounding the issues that caused it to fail in the first place.
We'll say this much up front: there is now absolutely no reason for anyone to purchase the first Cake Ninja game, so if you're absolutely dying to carve up cakes before your fat wife can eat them — the actual plot of the game — make sure you buy this one instead. It is, after all, the same price, and the entire original Cake Ninja is included here as one of the four game modes.
Now that we've gotten that out of the way, we can address the problems with Cake Ninja 2, as there are many.
For starters, the developers don't seem to have refined the original, flawed gameplay experience at all. Fruit Ninja succeeds because it's a satisfying, tactile experience. Its controls are responsive, its physics are fun, and the game gets progressively more frantic without ever feeling unfair. Cake Ninja 2 seems to believe that Fruit Ninja succeed because it's a game in which things are sliced, and as long as it provides that much it's done its job.
In terms of controls, there's a short delay in Cake Ninja 2 that your swipes trail behind your actions just enough that there's a palpable disconnect. You slice along the touch screen with your stylus and a cake is halved, but those two facts feel as though they're barely related.
In terms of physics, the cakes feel like they're out of your reach around half the time they're visible — Fruit Ninja, by way of comparison, has no such periods of "inaccessibility" — simply because they've drifted up to the top screen, and you need to wait for them to come down again. It's not fun, and it forces you to catch them as soon as they arrive or as they plummet into oblivion, robbing you of the satisfaction of slashing them at that perfect moment of stillness at the height of their arcs.
And as far as frantic fun goes, Cake Ninja 2 misses the mark entirely, with even two-minute-long play sessions feeling like a dull eternity. The difficulty never seems to increase, and you're more likely to be struggling with overcoming your own boredom than anything the game throws at you.
Those are problems inherent with all four of Cake Ninja 2's game modes, as each of the modes feels and plays the same: you're always slicing cakes and avoiding watermelons. In one mode you are asked to slice the cakes in specific combinations, in another you're asked to slice 222 cakes of one particular design, and in the third you're asked to slice cakes until you miss 10 of them. The fourth mode is a copied and pasted Cake Ninja 1.
The modes that ask you to slice particular cakes or combinations of cakes are even less fun than usual, as that information is displayed on the top screen while the action — as it is — takes place on the bottom. You'll be flicking your eyes back and forth and trying to memorise what it is you're supposed to be slashing, in what we have to assume is Cake Ninja 2's approximation of "difficulty." Additionally, in some modes the score is displayed and in others it is not until the game ends, which is a pretty bizarre choice for a score-attack game.
Cake Ninja 2 advertises online leaderboards, but that's more than a little misleading, as at the end of a round you're just told to go to your computer, log into the Cake Ninja website, and post your score there manually for others to see. It's better than nothing, but a far cry from the instant, real-time leaderboards most people will envision when they see that feature listed.
As with the first game, Cake Ninja 2 features multiplayer that requires two copies of the game. All four modes are playable in multiplayer, leading to a total of eight modes you'll get sick of immediately.
Cake Ninja 2 made an admirable attempt to add value to an existing product, but all it really did was provide a larger pile of something we didn't enjoy in the first place. If you're absolutely dying for cake slashing action, this is the game to buy. But if you're discerning enough to want a game that does more than throw cake at you until you get bored enough to shut it off, you'd better save your money.
Every bit as disappointing as the first game, Cake Ninja 2 opts to pile on additional modes in favour of correcting any deeper problems with its gameplay and approach. The result is simply a larger mess, and pretty conclusive evidence that bigger is not always better.