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Puzzler titles are seemingly a perfect fit for the mobile market. Bite-sized levels require you to use your noggin to complete the stage, but the ability to quit at a moment's notice serves the quick "one and done" mentality of the mobile market. Cartoon Network Games hopes to woo a market of mobile and Steam users with the release of Monsters Ate My Birthday Cake!, a humorous puzzle title with accessible, yet deep gameplay. However, is the search for delicious cake worth the download, or should you use that limited time elsewhere?
Author's Note: This review is based off the Steam version of the game. The iOS and Android versions of Monsters Ate My Birthday Cake use touch screen controls, which reportedly other than the typical touch screen concerns work fine. Otherwise, the Steam and other versions of the game are the same.
Monsters Ate My Birthday Cake stars a young Niko, who awoke on his birthday to find the most holy of all birthday objects--his birthday cake--stolen from his dining room table. He and his trusty wiener dog Bazooka go on a quest to save his cake from the nasty Boogins, a race of monsters that are bent on stealing all the food on the island, from humankind and monsterkind alike. Along the way Niko will meet other, friendly monsters that will help him defeat the Boogins, with differing abilities to help them overcome the various hazards placed in their way.
The story is light-hearted, cute, and full of fun little jokes. You're bound to chuckle once or twice at the title's antics, although the game does tend to use juvenile humor more often than not. Monsters Ate My Birthday Cake's simple, yet colorful artstyle also drives the point of the game's light-hearted nature home, as well to make it easy to point out characters and objects on a smaller screen.
Since Monsters Ate My Birthday Cake is a puzzle game, though, content and gameplay are more important than the title's charm. The game splits its stages up into four worlds, which with its different quirks that you'll eventually be able to overcome. Every stage involves Niko and up to three of his monster buddies working together to get the pieces of birthday cake strewn about the level. You don't choose the monsters that you take into each stage; instead, the stages are tailored around each character's unique abilities, and the game will instead dictate the needed characters to you. This certainly avoids the problem of getting caught in a stage because you brought the wrong character, but that also means that there really is only one way to solve each puzzle; you can't get creative with a different character set-up. This really isn't much of a negative, but it is worthwhile to note.
Throughout the game, Niko will also be able to acquire new outfits, some of which will give Niko abilities similar to some of the monsters in the game. While this is mostly just a nice touch, some stages and Niko's town have extra goodies unobtainable without these special costumes (since usually you can't get the corresponding monster over to the are), which give an incentive to go back and retry certain stages with the new outfits in tow.
When you clear each stage, you'll get up to three stars for completion. The first star is for getting all of the piece of cakes, which is required to complete the stage. The other two stars depend of the stages themselves. It may be to collect all of the coins, finish the stage under a certain amount of time, free someone stuck in captivity, or even sparing all the Boogins in a stage. These stars can be used to unlock bonus stages and alternate paths, offering more playtime for those that want to earn the stars.
Or... well, you can buy the stars with coins. Each world has a monster-run store that you can purchase various items with coins. In addition to the limited quantity of stars, you can also buy costumes and other seemingly useless trinkets that are usually helpful in the sidequests you'll find around town and on the map. Completing sidequests also helps in unlocking new stages and other goodies, and are typically just fetch quests involving giving the right person the right item, so doing them doesn't require much effort other than remembering who needed the item in the first place.
Monsters Ate My Birthday Cake! doesn't do much out of the ordinary. Charming premise aside, there are plenty of puzzle games, and even games of other genres, that involve using characters' unique abilities to get to the end of a stage. Nevertheless, this is still a solid, enjoyable title. Its quick, couple-minute-at-most long stages make it perfectly suited for a mobile setting, although it's still a fun little time waster on Steam as well. If you have a few bucks and a few minutes, make sure to give this endearing puzzler a download.
A portable gamer through and through, I tend to shun my poor consoles and PC to play the next mini-hit on the 3DS or Vita. I'm a particularly big fan of RPGs (of the Japanese variety) and fighting games... but don't tell anyone how terrible I am at the latter. When not obsessively gaming or writing about said gaming, I'm either learning how to account for other people's money or providing fresh-sliced lunch meat to the local populace.