When this Cake Pop's a-rockin…

Cake Pop Party Screenshot Cake Pop Party Screenshot Cake Pop Party Screenshot

HIGH Great for children.

LOW Almost requires micro-transactions.

WTF It's a sugary sweet money-trap.

Caveat emptor: this review is probably not for people without children. Equally, Cake Pop Party from Fresh Games is probably not for these people either.

Unless interested in decorating virtual cake pops with virtual candies and trinkets, the average person will not find an engaging experience in Cake Pop Party. However, if somebody is looking for a slick app that simulates the current trend of making and decorating cake pops (little balls of cake atop traditional lollipop sticks) then Cake Pop Party might be the perfect experience to share with a child.

As a free app, Cake Pop Party offers users a slim selection of cake shapes, flavors, coatings, backgrounds, sticks, candies, and other confections to configure in innumerable permutations for use in crafting unique cake pop creations. Alongside a child's imagination, the process can be delightful and hilarious.

Unfortunately, if users want to expand the inventory of options, they will have to purchase items either individually or as packs through micro-transactions. In this way, the app follows the freemium model popular with current mobile and social games. As a result, parents should be careful not to let their children run wild with the app if purchases are not password protected. Children may end up with all the cake pop options they might want, but parents will find a corresponding credit card bill to match.

To the app's credit, the store does offer a wide selection of options that range in prices from modest to steep. For instance, a Starter Kit will run the user $1.99 while the larger Party Bundle sells for $4.99. In an era where this kind of transaction model is now customary, most users probably will not mind the choice and customizable experience. Still, the game's interactive and economic architecture come off as gimmicky at best and exploitative at worst.

With a business model relying on the ease of use and purchase, it's no wonder that Fresh Games have put together an interface that is as easy as pie (or… cake) to use. The cake pops can take a variety of shapes, often anthropomorphized and cute, and will probably entertain and delight most children—especially those inclined to the creative decorating of baked goods.

While not a perfect surrogate to the real act of baking, decorating, and crafting cake pops, Cake Pop Party presents a pleasant distraction that approximates the craft. With the ability to view pops made from users all over the world and game-like activities that include "virtually eating" your creations, the app can easily distract or engage a child for at least a short amount of time. Beyond that, Cake Pop Party begs the comparison to a sweet and sugary money-trap—although one that can be managed with enough willpower and supervision. Rating: 6.0 out of 10.

Disclosures: This game was obtained via retail store and reviewed on the iPad. Approximately 1 hour of play was devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was completed. There are no multiplayer modes.

Parents: This game is not rated by the ESRB, but I would say that IF it was, it would likely be rated E. It's safe for all ages.

Deaf & Hard of Hearing: No sound is necessary for the enjoyment of this application.

John Vanderhoef

John Vanderhoef

As a 5-year-old child forced to hang out with older children because their father was friends with his father, John recalls his first experience with video games -- wide-eyed, a big dumb look on his face -- in a furnished basement littered with imported Korean toys and illuminated by the glow of a cheap 19 inch television displaying mesmerizing, bouncing pixels. Yet because he was young and inexperienced and "bad at it," he wasn't allowed to play. Kids are like that. After eventually convincing his folks to buy one of those amazing machines for the family as a Christmas present, he did finally get to play, albeit while sharing with two older sisters. Luckily, they soon lost interest. But he has never looked back.

In college John fell to poetry, short story writing, and journalism, but ultimately took to writing critical, academic work on video games. He was actually surprised this was an option. For reasons he will never be completely sure of, he ended up in graduate school where he wrote about the discursive mapping of gender onto the terms "hardcore" and "casual" and the power hierarchy of legitimate and illegitimate games that creates. He is a proud feminist.

Currently, John is a PhD student in the Film and Media Studies Department at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He continues to study gender, race, and sexuality in video games, video game culture, and the video game industry. He also mulls over issues of creative labor, cultural hierarchy, and power, among other random subjects.
John Vanderhoef

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