Overall Score 93%
There's a job available at the Magic Academy - they're looking for a pastry chef, which doesn't sound particularly magical in itself but I suppose even wizards and witches need to eat. And sweet things are always appealing. It's a good job with reasonable hours and pay. An intrepid young lady sets off, and as she's crossing the bridge to the Academy a baby dragon falls into her arms. This is Dino. Together, they set up shop in the pastry kitchen and prepare for the first customers.
Magic Sweets is a time management game. Customers appear at the counter with specific orders, and your task is to assemble those orders before the customers get fed up and leave. At first these orders are simple pastries in different shapes, but soon you'll also be providing drinks and different toppings, and possibly even stacking the pastries together. Do they want a cherry on top? Do they want a rainbow on their drink? (No, really - it is the Magic Academy after all!) Serve enough customers within the time limit to pass the level. Do especially well and you'll win a gold cup.
As ever with this genre, the game is simple to learn but can get remarkably challenging. When you have several customers at once, each after a meal and a drink and each meal with several components, you'll be struggling to get everything done in good time. Dino can be trained to help out in a series of simple minigames, after which he can throw cherries and similar onto your meals (saving you a step) and another set of minigames has you reassembling spellbook pages to learn basic spells, which are also used in the kitchen. The money you earn can be used to buy or upgrade equipment and supplies.
The graphics are rather high quality, with a range of otherworldly customers appearing, ranging from wizards and witches through to werewolves and ghosts (though why ghosts are ordering food is a mystery to me). Customer orders are shown in thought balloons above their heads. In some ways this higher quality shows up an issue that is less obvious in more cartoon-like games - the range of customers is limited, and the same animations obviously get reused. Still, it's a minor issue. Pastries come in three shapes (circle, star and... wibbly thing...) and it's always clear which is the one the customer needs. And Dino is disarmingly cute, even given that he can eat anything (including empty glasses). He's your garbage disposal system if you burn the pastries, prepare the wrong order, etc.
There are two background tracks to Magic Sweets - one for the title screen and map, and one for the game itself. This limited range is actually not that big a problem, as the general background noise tends to distract from it to some extent. Aside from a general hubbub, the various customers announce themselves with a variety of phrases and comments, and make further comments while waiting and when served. The various shop equipment has a range of sound effects too, and there's an audible warning when time runs out.
The controls are very forgiving, and there are three game modes to choose between. If you're finding it all too easy, you can up the difficulty - or you can lower it if you're struggling. You can replay a level at any time, which is great for trying to earn those cups and has the added bonus of letting you earn extra cash. Cash means upgrades. You may find your basic equipment too slow to meet demand later in the game. Later levels require the purchase of new equipment, toppings or decorations and you won't be permitted to play those until you buy them in the shop, so the replay option is very helpful.
There are sixty levels to beat, spread over three locations, which should provide plenty of gameplay. There's also a range of trophies to earn, ranging from the simple (feed Dino four items within three seconds, for instance) to the completist (beat all the levels) to the complicated (complete an order with literally everything in it). While the gameplay can be a little samey after a while, it continues at a manic pace. You'll be frantically trying to deliver all those orders! Training Dino up can help a little, but his efforts are occasionally a trifle haphazard, and haphazard trifles won't sell. Still, with flexible difficulty settings and as many replays as you like, you'll find it difficult to get truly stuck.
Magic Sweets has been subjected to an immense amount of playtesting. The balance feels good, the quality shines through in every department and I've not detected any bugs or faults thus far. The only comment I can really pick up on is that we've seen this sort of game many times before; still, the theme is novel and the gameplay is frenetic. If you like time management games, you'll be right at home here, and it'll take a fair amount of effort to finish it. And hey, it's better than flipping burgers, right?
Only one question remains - how DO ghosts eat cakes? Apparently, they use a knife and fork...
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