Review: Super Perils of Baking
The newest title from Lillymo Games is a SNES-era glow up
I played the first few levels of the original Perils of Baking while prepping for my interview with Lillymo Games founder Barry Johnson back in 2020. It was the studio's first commercial release, an ode to games like Super Mario Bros. and Donkey Kong Country. It did well to capture the spirit of those games while the unique baking theme gave the studio the necessary headroom to do something interesting with the enemy and level designs.
So I was interested to see how several years of experience and lessons learned from other game releases would benefit the "Super" treatment for this title. After playing through half of the game's 50 levels, I can report that the game improves on the original in every way. The graphics are well-made 16-bit styled sprites with nice animation touches, there's a lot of content and challenge to be had, and there's even a story for those who appreciate such a thing in their side-scrolling retro adventures. Throw in a character book giving context to the various enemies and a healthy dose of secrets and collectibles, and you have a great value at the planned $9.99 USD price point when it drops for PC and consoles on June 3rd.
As you can see from the screenshots, the new game features larger sprites and a lot more detail in everything on the screen, from your character to the enemies and even the UI. There's nice detail here too, with your character's apron flapping when he jumps and his eyes looking down as he falls back to earth. Everything runs smoothly and looks great, with enemy models that still pay homage to Koopa Shells, ParaTroopas, and more, all with a baking theme of course.
The gameplay is true to its spiritual heritage as well, jumping on enemies to defeat them and jumping over the ones you can't touch. Collecting cookies builds your heart meter, which gives you a beard after the first fillup, then a chef's hat after the second. Getting that hat gives you access to throwable ammo and a melee attack with which to conquer your foes, at least until you get hit again, sending you back to jump-only attacks.
Perils mixes up the action from time to time, throwing you into a mine cart for stages that give a thrill of speed and the most fun you can have throughout the game. Conversely, I didn't like the stages where you latched on to a balloon with a mustache (who goes by the name Larry), floating through the landscape trying to avoid flying enemies and still collect everything without taking too many hits. The controls are a bit too loose for my taste, causing me to take damage that felt undeserved. Of course, the ubiquitous underwater levels are here too, and they fall somewhere in between the cart and flying levels, not annoying but not altogether enjoyable either.
The action never feels unfair, but there is a high level of challenge in most of these stages. Careful observation and patience, quick-fingered timing and pixel-perfect jumping will all be required to get through to the end.
Each level has collectibles, including the letters of the word B A K E, as well as hidden nooks and secret coin-filled sub-areas that anyone familiar with Mario games will recognize. Between levels, you'll move around a world map where you can occasionally access, if you found it during the prior level, an extra-challenging bonus stage that will reward you for your skills. And before each level you can visit a shop where your accumulated points (garnered by picking up various food items) allow you to buy hearts for your meter, an extra chef's hat, and even secret playable characters once they are unlocked.
The music and sound effects are appropriately 16-bit and set the stage for the action, though like any game of that era they can wear a bit thin after a while. Thanks to studio co-owner Colin Moriarty and his love for in-game storytelling, several screens were added to the beginning of the game to give context to the plot (one brother is good, one brother is ambitious and becomes evil thanks to a possessed chef's toque). There's also some witty text on each level's intro screen, and a well-made book describing each character's "recipe", but it's all skippable if that sort of thing doesn't turn your crank.
In classic SNES-era style, this is an easy game to pick up and play a few levels between sessions with other weighty games, or if you only have a few minutes to spare. I've found my skill level and desire for these experiences wanes after five or so levels, so the ease of access makes it a perfect fit for what I want in this type of game.
There's a lot of meat on the bone in Super Perils of Baking, and a great indie studio responsible for it. I absolutely recommend picking this one up and leaving it installed on your console for when you just need a kick of nostalgia and some challenging retro gameplay.
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