Review – Freshly Frosted
Gaming, for many, is more than just a simple hobby, but rather a multifunction tool to assist your life in any sort of way. For people who enjoy engrossing stories, we have epic RPGS, both Japanese and Western. For those who have a borderline unhealthy power fantasy, we have titles that range from ultimate killing machine to best damn driver in the world. For those who want to educate and elevate, there are well implemented games that can teach anything from new languages to ancient history and everything in between. Sometimes, of course, we game just to is relax and unwind, which can take many shades and colors (The Binding of Isaac is my preferred escape). But for those looking for a sense of balance and well being from a game – something to really let you know that everything’s alright – I humbly suggest trying Freshly Frosted.
On the surface, there’s nothing revolutionary that you would see in Freshly Frosted. It’s a logic/puzzle game about getting donuts out of the oven and into a box via a series of constructed conveyor belts. Starting simple, you gradually work your way up to improving the donuts through different checkpoints (adding frosting, sprinkles, etc.) and then doing multiple donuts at once from different ovens. Naturally, there’s going to be the best (if not only) way to get the donuts to their destination, and it’s up to you to use your mouse and infinite patience to discover the correct way to get from point A to point B with all the conditionals needed done in order. That’s all, folks: make the donuts and put them away.
So why isn’t this just some throwaway mobile game? Why am I looking at this title more closely than the latest free-to-play drop on the Google Play Store? What on earth allows Freshly Frosted to not only cost money, but also to have gotten several accolades?
The answer is style and presentation. When you take something like Infinifactory, which ticks several of the same boxes, you end up with words like “addicting, frustrating, maddening.” That’s completely by design, and there are people who enjoy that. Freshly Frosted, on the other hand, is completely wrapped in a calming, warm atmosphere that is carefully crafted to make the player feel good about everything that’s happening. It starts with the narration, which is equal parts explanation and just simple exposition.
If you need to know what’s different about this stage, the narrator will tell you. Otherwise, the narrator will give you a little glimpse into their psyche, like how they imagine the clouds are hungry bunnies, or how whipped cream makes everything taste better. It’s not a saccharine, infantilizing tone that you can easily imagine in a game about donuts. Rather, it’s someone who sounds very positive and relaxed, and wants to share that same feeling of floaty good will with you.
This only progresses as the game moves forward and you, yourself, move forward. Each box of puzzles resets to a baseline difficulty while introducing the main target of the donuts (springtime, Christmas, Halloween) and how you’ll approach each course. If you make a mistake, the narration has a very affable manner that points out it’s not right without placing blame or agency on who made this error. You can reset and try again as many times as you’d like, eventually stumbling into the correct answer through trial and error, razor sharp logic or just dumb luck.
You’re rewarded in any case, and it’s up to the player to decide how they view their victory. Naturally, you’ll hit upon some Steam achievements if you’re able to do it with minimal resets (or sometimes even some achievements for multiple failures), but the real reward is the satisfaction that comes from putting things in place and getting the donuts to where they need to be. Even though you need to do a whole box worth of puzzles before moving on, there’s no sense of urgency. Everyone will get their donuts in time, and they are infinitely patient.
As a game itself, though, Freshly Frosted can sometimes have some bothersome moments. The entirety of gameplay comes through with the mouse in a click-and-drag way, both dictating where the conveyor belt goes and also the direction it’ll be facing. This means that an errant movement, even as small as a twitch, can set the pathway facing the wrong direction, and you won’t realize it until you start up the puzzle.
Thanks to the non-judgemental narration and the lack of lives or time limit, the only disappointment comes from disappointing yourself, something I’m very familiar with but still not comfortable. I’d prefer if there to be a more clean cut way to change the direction of the belt, maybe with the keyboard, so I could quickly adjust my mistakes before things get going too far. Still, Freshly Frosted doesn’t force you to watch the donuts fall into the void or something like that. It just doesn’t work: let’s clean up.
For someone who struggles with feelings of self worth or success, the gentle, supportive nature of Freshly Frosted cannot be overstated, and what a positive impact it had and continues to have on my mental health first thing in the morning. It takes so little just to do a couple of puzzles (or maybe even one puzzle) and get both the gamification feedback of “winning” a stage and also the light, sincere praise from the narrator, who is always cheering for you but never in a forced way.
There’s just something about the simple action of getting the donuts made combined with the feeling that your victory is everyone’s victory, but your loss is only a feeling moment, not a defining point, that makes it all work so well. You can just play and be alright. It’s like Kind Words, but with a puzzle aspect. It’s not addictive or demanding, but it’s there for you, and that’s a wild thing to say about a video game but that’s the sensation.
It’s rare to have something so nice come into my video game world that also feels so simple and benign. Freshly Frosted isn’t going to be recognized for blazing new game trails or crafting mind-blowing narratives that make you think about the human condition in a blistering reality. I’m just making donuts, and I don’t know or care who they’re for. It’s going to be there for me until I don’t need it or want it anymore, and that’s perfectly fine. Sometimes, you just need to focus on what you can control and what makes you feel happy in the moment. I feel happier knowing that I can make donuts sometimes, and, for someone else out there, maybe that’s all you need for today.
The clean, simple machines and fluffy donuts are delivering exactly what they need to in this very minimalist yet colorful approach.
It takes only a second to realize how to play, and everything after that is just gravy.
The ambient tones are soothing and the supportive, positive voice of the narrator makes me feel like I’m not doing this alone.
Such a blissful state of simple puzzling can do wonders for quieting the noisy mind and making you feel like things make sense for a change.
Final Verdict: 8.0
Freshly Frosted is available now on PS4, Xbox One, PC and Switch.
Reviewed on PC.
A copy of Freshly Frosted was provided by the publisher.