Ever since Cooking Mama appeared on the scene, we have seen other games attempt new twists on the similar formula. Chain a bunch of baking or cooking-related minigames together for the enjoyment of a player, taking advantage of the DS or 3DS touch screen. The satisfaction in some of these games comes from successfully completing each step to see a finished product. But with Waku Waku Sweets: Happy Sweets Making, there is more to the process. Actual story elements surround these segments, lending more weight to the process.
In Waku Waku Sweets, players follow a young woman named Lime who has just begun working at Chiffon’s Fil Rouge patissiere. Her goal is to become a great pastrymaker who brings happiness to anyone who samples her sweets. You may even say this is her destiny, as a floating, talking rabbit with huge eyes named Paffi implies she is some sort of chosen one. This means there is a sort of framework around these baking minigames, making the game as a whole feel like more of a life simulation.
Each day, Lime wakes up and has the opportunity to engage in certain activities. She can make sweets in her room once each day, giving her an item she can either give to the assistant chefs Hiro, Sho and Tact or a random townsperson. If it meets the coworker’s tastes, he gives a new recipe you can not acquire anywhere else. Offering it to the townsperson increases the overall town happiness, making it possible to participate in a contest sooner. If one of Lime’s coworkers is at Fil Rouge, she can work a shift there and complete a recipe to earn money. Should she have pocket change, she can pop in at General Goods to purchase variants of owned recipes, an occasional new recipe or an item to dress up her room. It is even possible to stop by the Beauty Salon to change her appearance for free.
Then, there are the contests. As Lime gives out sweets around town, the overall happiness increases. Eventually, she can register for contests that raise her rank as a cook. Each of these involves two minigames in a row, with a competitor that is making the same recipe. In this way, Waku Waku Sweets tests your skills and sees if you are ready to progress to the next tier of recipes. It is rather effective, since these challenges can feature recipes you have and have not seen before and increase in steps as you progress through the game.
There is even a sense of character growth. When Lime encounters one of her coworkers outside of work, she learns a little bit more about them and the profession. We discover Tact’s family owns the local cafe and that he has a bit of a crush on her. Hiro encourages her to study and reveals his sources of inspiration for sweets. Sho is just… well… goofy! And whenever we encounter Mint in a competition or at the rival patissiere, it provides a sense of jovial competition due to Lime generally taking this in silly stride and Mint being so affected by the repeated duels.
Waku Waku Sweets: Happy Sweets Making attempts to inject a greater sense of meaning into a cooking minigame collection. The life simulation elements add a sense of progression to the experience. We feel like Lime matters in this world, even though she is just making cookies and puddings for people. It is a happy surprise and take on a familiar formula.