Narrative cooking games have had some gems released recently. VA-11 Hall-A, Coffee Talk and the upcoming Venba all provide a more relaxed approach to the often high stress world of food and beverage production. Instead of racing against timers to get your order out, the goal of these games is to figure out what combination of ingredients and what order of steps to use them in will produce the results required to drive the story forward. Each interaction becomes a little puzzle trying to figure out a recipe and sometimes requires experimentation to succeed.
Cookies Bakery by leafthief is another worthy entry into this genre with a very charming and cozy game made for this year’s Secret Santa Jam. Set in a small town preparing for an upcoming winter festival, the world of the game is condensed to the town square and your shop within it. Each day you get a chance to explore the square and interact with towns folk as they prepare for the festival. When you decide it’s time to open shop, the challenge begins.
The customers who enter ask for something special, but don’t know the names of the product they are looking for. It’s up to you to take their requests and figure out which cookie is the one they want using your recipe book (accessed by pressing the Select button). Sometimes the customer will hint at the shape of the baked treat, other times its taste or texture – it’s a bit of a guessing game if you made the right item until you present it to the customer. Each character is unique and has its own charm making the world feel very fleshed out even in its tiny presentation.
What’s also unique about this game is the gameplay itself. Whereas other “recipe puzzlers” present to you what is essentially a menu system in a nice user interface, Cookies Bakery opts for the top-down view of the bakery. A small map is included in the itch page to help you navigate, but enough visual information on screen is present to allow you to figure out where to go. Having worked in a kitchen professionally myself, I loved this presentation and it recalled to me a lot of memories. The recipe book itself also helps keep track of what you’ve used with a nice little check beside each ingredient once it’s added.
Besides the wonderful gameplay and cute story, Cookies Bakery also offers a great visual and auditory experience for Game Boy with beautiful pixel art and music (even a charming font!). The only thing lacking is a save system, but being a relatively short game, it’s doable without. Make sure to take a look at the game on leaftheif’s itch page here: https://leafthief.itch.io/cookies-bakery
Audio Engineer, Mac Technologist and Video Game Developer. Managing Editor of GBStudio Central. (he/him)