Birdcakes. Yes, you read that correctly. Birdcakes. Indie games are hitting thick and fast as of late. I guess they’re trying to get in on the action before E3 2018 and the heavy hitting titles that will follow suit. I love me some indies, that much I have to admit. Many of them prove that with time and effort, smaller studios or basement projects can go on to be something truly spectacular. On the other side of the proverbial coin, there’s those indie games that serve as little more than a cheap cash-grab. Then, ladies and gentlemen, there’s Birdcakes…
To put it as simply as I can, Birdcakes is a wave based game that throws players into the role of Pancake; a cupcake that has taken his girlfriend Cherry out for a picnic. Much like any sweet thing in the outdoors, it attracts the unwanted and in this case, it’s a huge fly. This sugar-hungry fly (get ready for it) licks Cherry into what can only be described as mush. Pancake grabs Cherry and must now navigate through six different stages, shooting down any fly that comes in your way. If you die, Cherry is done for and you’re back at wave one.
Mercifully the game handles much better than it sounds, simply requiring you to fly around and shoot your beans or power move at any fly that challenges you. The controls remain tight and responsive throughout, giving you all the leeway you need to be precise and accurate with your maneuvers and damage output. Sugar cubes will be placed around the map which you can place Cherry on top of, or indeed pick up said cubes and build a structure around Cherry to slow the flies down. However, this comes with downfall.
You see, you’re not given a lot of time to utilize this function. The moment you begin the wave commences and the flies are coming at you from all angles. The stages are indeed randomized so it’s nigh on impossible to judge what layout you’ll get, but the overall goal remains the same, kill the opposition. Dead flies will leave ammo behind that you can pick up, however if you run out of ammo, you’re screwed. Well, unless you’ve got a power move ready to unleash. These power moves tend to vary depending on their color.
Either way, if you die, you’re sent back to the beginning. The game’s only enemy type remains as flies, but there are many different (goofy) variations. There’s your standard house fly, flies with hats and even a pinata fly. The latter of which is especially useful, given that it will drop ammo, power-ups and gold upon death. Gold can be spent on upgrades that will bolster Pancake’s capabilities, something you get to keep should you die as often as I did, so that’s a win win, at the very least. Moving back to the controls, Birdcakes is easy work.
The right stick is used to control the angle of your shots, whereas the left stick moves you around the environment. It really couldn’t be any simpler than that if it tried. That simplicity, on the other hand, is all the leniency that you’re going to get. Fluid controls mean very little when the game itself is far too taxing. I appreciate that wave-based games come with a very particular challenge, but the amount of flies that will flood the screen is just ridiculously difficult and somewhat tedious. So much so that the game becomes irritating.
It helps of course that both Pancake and Cherry have their independent health pools – three hearts a piece – but again, this means very little when Cherry is pretty much done for the moment the flies start touching her. The lack of enabling players any reaction time is a huge disappointment. When you take into account that there’s nothing else to do in Birdcakes other than what’s outlines above, it makes the steep difficulty spike more bitter than it should be. Let alone how grindy the game can be when you’re chasing gold coins.
This lack of depth started to wear me down a lot sooner than I expected it to, which is a shame really, given how responsive the controls are and how detailed each stage is. The game’s design and presentation is nice and bright, with great color-usage and a solid distinction between each and every stage. The same can be said about the game’s upbeat soundtrack, which fits the mood and theme of Birdcakes quite well. Though, this doesn’t really amount to much in the long run, or the short run, when the game is puddle deep.
Even after just a few hours, Birdcakes initial fun-factor was completely chased away by its repetition, lack of evolving mechanics and its gradually boring elements. It totally failed to maintain its hold on my attention. It didn’t help matters that you cant really complete the game without power moves and you don’t typically earn enough gold in a handful of playthroughs to make much of a difference; bringing the game to a horrid grind-fest. Group this with its sheer difficulty spike come wave two onward and it’s hard to overlook.
Birdcakes is far too taxing for its own good, far too steep in its difficulty and far too lacking in its content. The requirement to constantly grind and persevere with its tedious singular mechanic just isn’t fun nor thrilling enough to justify a recommendation. Birdcakes’ distinctly designed stages and its tight controls are certainly commendable, but these few pros pale in comparison to its several cons.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.