These days, keeping up with games can be a full-time job. So how do you separate the signal from the noise, the wheat from the chaff, the Temple Runs from the Temple Jumps? Allow us to help by regularly selecting a game You Should Play.
I'm usually not the type to drop money on mobile games, so believe me when I say the $5 entry fee for SleepNinja's Kickstarter-fundedMonsters Ate My Birthday Cake is totally worth it. This charming environmental puzzler hits every box on my mobile game must-have list: Superb gameplay, polished graphics, snappy dialogue, and--of course--adorable monsters.
MAMBC is funny and cute right off the bat with its tongue-in-cheek storyline. You are Niko, an innocent kid who wakes up on his birthday only to discover that his birthday cake--which, naturally, he was going to eat for breakfast--has been stolen. Stolen by evil, shadowy monsters with an "insatiable cakelust." And, apparently, an insatiable other-sweet-things-lust, because a quick jaunt around your village tells you that the monsters have also stolen the goods of various townspeople.
Fueled by your own cakelust (really, who isn't), you decide there's only one thing to do: Embark on an epic quest to track down the jerk-monsters and take your cake back! Luckily, the monsters (known as Boogins) aren't too smart and have left a trail of crumbs and cake pieces to help you out. You recover your cake slowly, piece by piece, by completing puzzles and earning stars. Along the way, you also meet friendly monsters with special powers who will help you solve puzzles, gather coins and cake, and thwart the cake-thieving Boogins and their king (aptly named "The Boogin King").
If that's not enough to entice your sweet tooth, here are three more reasons why this game is so scrumptious:
Made-for-mobile gameplay: MAMBC is an environmental puzzle game in which you manipulate objects to get what you want. This includes moving heavy objects, toggling switches, and tunneling under obstacles, among other things. You alone have relatively few powers (you can push/pull boxes, that's about it), but the monsters you meet on your quest have their own special powers that you'll be able to use. For example, one monster can emit an ultrasonic shriek that shatters ice.
There are enemies--the Boogins--but they're simply a more active part of the environment. To complete puzzles, you'll have to avoid them, trap them, trick them, and, possibly, kill them. The main goal of each level is to collect cake pieces, but there are also side goals (which lead to a higher star-rating; stars let you access extra levels), such as collecting coins, opening treasure boxes, and, of course, doing everything really fast.
The game itself is familiar, especially if you're a Zelda or a Pokemon fan, but its gameplay is nicely adapted for touchscreens. Moving, switching between characters, and activating special powers is a snap, thanks to the game's intuitive controls. For movement, you simply tap your character and draw a line that indicates where you want them to walk. This lets you basically queue up actions--you can collect a bunch of coins, cake, and keys in one quick swipe--and feels much more natural than wrestling with virtual buttons. To switch between characters you can either tap the character (if they're on the screen), or tap the character's icon if you can't immediately see them. To activate special powers, just double-tap the character (another double-tap will turn off their special power, if applicable).
Polished, totally adorable graphics: MAMBC's graphics are a point of contention--the developers have been accused of plagiarizing--but we'll get to that in a second.
This is one of those games in which every little detail (and there are a lot of details) looks fantastic. Even your sleepy little fishing village is full of whimsical touches, including textured grass, variegated stone paths, shadowed rocks, and multi-colored apples in barrels. The game's map and settings menu looks polished and thought-out, with animated weather and hexagon-shaped buttons. Graphics, while not complicated or realistic, are high-definition and crisp; this is definitely worth playing on a tablet. The soundtrack, while a little repetitive, is pleasant to listen to and sounds excellent over headphones.
However, MAMBC's artwork may not be entirely original: Greek illustrator Ilias Sounas has accused the MAMBC developers of stealing the artwork he originally completed in 2012 for MonsterUp Adventures. MonsterUp Adventures is a mobile game for Android, iOS, and Windows Phone that is similar to Doodle Jump (or Hyper Jump)--not at all like MAMBC's storyline.
After MAMBC launched, Sounas posted a comparative graphic of his artwork versus MAMBC's artwork, and I have to admit that MAMBC looks more than a little inspired by Sounas' graphics. At the time of this review, MAMBC publisher Cartoon Network has not responded to Sounas' allegations.
It's an adventure for everyone: This is going to sound like a line, but I'm serious: MAMBC offers the perfect blend of puzzle and adventure for all ages.
Seriously! The game is full of things to do: The main levels are environmental puzzles, but there are cute cut-scenes, star ratings, extra levels, and some good old-fashioned item-finding quests to keep you busy. There's also a shop where you can purchase upgrades and outfits for your character, and there are plenty of conversational NPCs. Niko's village alone is full of colorful (literally) characters and houses to be explored as you gain experience and special abilities.
MAMBC is probably made for kids, but as an adult I had a lot of fun playing it. The puzzles are just hard enough that you'll have to think, but not so hard that you'll throw your phone across the room in frustration. What really drives this game is the storyline and the dialogue, which is kid-friendly yet witty and genre-referential in a way that only adults will fully appreciate.