Monsters Ate My Birthday Cake Review
8.0our score

If there’s any game that will put a smile on your face after a week of illness it’s this one. Monsters Ate My Birthday Cake, hereby known as MAMBC, is a delightfully cheery puzzle game in a world filled with cute monsters and sugary baked goods. You are Niko, a boy who just had his birthday cake stolen (go figure), and you embark on a journey across Gogapoe Island to bring justice to the perpetrators.

The motive is simple at first, but as you meet more of the island’s inhabitants, you learn that things are far from okay. The scope of the issues Niko takes on rapidly expands, and by the time you reach stage 4, we’re talking about the life and death of civilizations.

Yeah, that was my expression too when I found out we had to save the world.

Yeah, that was my expression too when I found out we had to save the world.

Onwards!

Despite the game’s saccharine exterior, MAMBC is one helluva tough cookie. The puzzles are challenging, lasting anywhere between 40 seconds on the most basic ones to the 8 minutes it took me to wrap my head around the bigger levels. Each character has their own special ability which must be used in conjunction with specific environmental objects, and their introductions are always neatly bundled with easy to follow tutorials.

The number of puzzles on each stage feels like just enough to both get acquainted with Niko’s new friends and explore the extent of creative uses for what is otherwise very elementary mechanics. The stink monster named Poot, for instance, can grow mushrooms with his, eh, flatulence (there really is no nicer way to say that), and also change the direction of enemies that come within his stink radius.

I love you, little buddy, but please lay off the cheese.

I love you, little buddy, but please lay off the cheese.

Aside from just beating the puzzles, which is done by collecting all the bits of cake around the map, each level has three total objectives corresponding to three stars. Sometimes these goals are time-based, like finishing a level in under 140 seconds, or it could involve collecting all the coins, or freeing a random NPC from a cage requiring a key. These stars are then used to gate content – certain areas of a stage can only be accessed once you have X number of stars.

I smell a rat

It all feels a bit mobile-centric, and since I got my copy on Steam, I decided to check out MAMBC‘s official website. It turns out my initial impression wasn’t too far off as MAMBC is also available on Android and iOS for $4.99. Alas, the trend of pricing PC versions of games higher than their mobile counterparts exists here too (you can grab it on Steam for $14.99). More aggravating, however, is the fact that it only has one save state.

Exactly what I was thinking.

Exactly what I was thinking.

On a related note, the controls for PC are a bit uncomfortable, and I found movement was far more enjoyable on a controller. Of course, this is a puzzle game that works fine on keyboard and mouse too. So if anything, it’s a luxury complaint.

But there was one thing that had me facepalming in frustration and that is how absolutely unforgivable this game can be. Touch an evil monster by mistake? Instant death. Accidently put a foot over some spikes? Instant death. Leaving one of your characters just a pixel too close to the water when it becomes unfrozen? Instant death. Once one person in your party dies, it’s game over and you start from the beginning of the puzzle.

It’s not a big deal when the puzzle only needs a few moves (assuming you already know exactly how to complete it as efficiently as possible), but as things become more intricate and more complex, dying near the end of a sequence only serves to remind you how slowly the characters walk.

Worse yet, there’s an intriguing mechanic whereby you walk into a dimensional rift to reveal an alternate version of the map you’re on, which is cool in its own right but marred by changing the entire level into shades of grey. Getting rid of the game’s signature bright colours, if only for a short period of time on each puzzle, seems also like a luxury complaint until you realise how similar the ground looks to things that will kill you. Given how harsh it can be with hitboxes, I often found travelling the alternate dimension more tedious than anything else.

Pay exceedingly close attention to where you're stepping because you never know when your own stupidity might make you walk into a river, a bush of thorns, or lava.

Pay exceedingly close attention to where you’re stepping because you never know when your own stupidity might make you walk into a river, a bush of thorns, or lava.

Nothing beats the cake

But forgetting these minor gripes and vestigial markings of a game designed better for mobile, Monsters Ate My Birthday Cake really is a treat. The Biblio Monstrum, a kind of journal Niko keeps of his inventory and all the monsters he encounters, is done as well as all the supporting dialogue. The humour within it is great, matching the humour everywhere else in the game, and the only shame here is that you can’t access it anywhere except within a level.

For something equal parts cheer and challenge, an experience that will last five hours to complete or more if you’re chasing achievements and collectibles, MAMBC is something I would recommend for anyone itching for a good puzzle game.

  • MAMBC-12
  • MAMBC-11
  • MAMBC-10
  • MAMBC-9
  • MAMBC-8
  • MAMBC-7
  • MAMBC-6
  • MAMBC-5
  • MAMBC-4
  • MAMBC-3
  • MAMBC-2
  • MAMBC-1


Pros:

  • Great humour
  • Wonderful art style
  • Challenging puzzles
Cons:

  • Fiddly UI
  • Lack of options
  • Unforgiving at parts

System Requirements

PC System Requirements
Minimum:
OS: Windows XP or later
Processor: Core 2 Duo
Memory: 2 GB RAM
Graphics: DirectX 9.0c compatible graphics card
DirectX: Version 9.0c
Hard Drive: 600 MB available space
Sound Card: Any

Mac System Requirements
Minimum:
OS: Mac OS X 10.6 or later
Processor: Intel
Memory: 2 GB RAM
Graphics: OpenGL 3.0+ compatible video card
Hard Drive: 600 MB available space
Sound Card: Any

Linux System Requirements
Minimum:
Processor: 1 GHz CPU
Memory: 2 GB RAM
Graphics: OpenGL 3.0+ compatible video card
Hard Drive: 600 MB available space
Sound Card: Any

the author

Executive Editor of ManaPool. A student of game design, Amber is currently writing from the frozen north that is Canada. She has a penchant for tactical team-based games and a particular taste for theorycrafting. Want to discuss community and player experience? Talk to her!