Cake Mania spawned many copies, but none are quite like the unofficial “sequels” of Cake Mania that its developer churns out. The graphics are unmistakable, as are the quirky characters and over sized play area. Among these are last year’s Believe in Santa, and of course, this year’s Believe in Sandy.

Holiday Story is simply an expanded (and slightly dumbed down) version of Believe In Santa, which in turn is a dumbed down version of Cake Mania that deals with presents instead of cakes. You take “blank” toys off a conveyor belt, drop it off at an elf so he can paint them, and decorate them with flags, balloons, snowflakes and whatnot, then deliver it to a customer and perhaps put it into a shaped box, and collect the money.

What makes the series stand out are its list of customers. For example, the clown will cheer up all the children if you make him happy – perhaps by serving him first, or by giving him some candy. The cowboy will break out in song and give all your customers extra hearts if you manage to pump him up to five hearts. This customer interaction gives the game an extra layer of strategy so you’re not just choosing to serve the least patient of customers.

Believe in Sandy took away a few toys and added a couple of holidays, but the core gameplay remains exactly the same as Believe in Santa. One of the biggest disappointments was the disappearance of the witch, which made for a good challenge – Believe in Sandy became much too easy as I breezed through every level without having to redo any.

One of the most promising additions was the “create a toy” screen that you can get before every level. Basically, you get to create a toy with premade parts. This works very well and the results are gorgeous, but doesn’t blend very well into the game; there is always a configuration that creates the most expensive doll, and of course you’d want to do that every single time instead of being creative. As you go farther into the game, you also get more toys to create, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they cost more. The whole system is flawed, but it’s fun to doll up Superman nevertheless.

Believe in Santa had its myriad mouse problems – everything felt a bit unresponsive, accuracy when it came to giving a candycane was suspect, the conveyor belt system generally sucks. None of this was fixed in Believe in Sandy. If you tried Believe in Santa and didn’t buy it, this might be to the time to change your mind and get Believe in Sandy instead. It is still the best Cake Mania clone out on the market so far – but you do know that Cake Mania 2 is in the making, right?

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