When games set the bar so high in a particular genre, much like The Treasures of Montezuma 3 did for match 3 games, I often wonder if new variants are even going to be worth trying. I was especially nervous about this one because I had played its canine sibling, Puppy Sanctuary, on the PC and didn’t really care for it. I’m happy to report that not only is Kitten Sanctuary a much more interesting game than its puppy partner (or I didn’t give the other enough of a chance), but it can actually be quite addicting. The whole Tamagatchi style interludes aren’t even that bad.
Now I’m not sure which part of this story is odder to accept – the fact that they want me to believe there’s an island inhabited solely by kittens, or the idea that some aliens would actually want to capture all these felines. After all, we’re not talking about a race of Alfs here. That aside, the basic premise behind the game is that in each of the levels you must clear out all the energy spaces to free the imprisoned kitty. Just like most match 3 games, these energy squares are the type where the object on top of it has to be matched one or more times before it will go away. There are also your typical obstacles like objects that must be unlocked before they can be cleared, and not so typical things like crates that can’t be moved and can’t be matched, but are cleared when objects like the ones inside of them are matched around them.
There are also some nice mechanics that add to the strategy of the game. Objects can be moved diagonally and sometimes even matched diagonally, though I haven’t quite figured out when a diagonal match is allowed. You can move pieces to empty squares if you’re quick enough and make chain matches. Also, if an object “falls into” a match situation because a piece below it was removed, the match will occur even if the object could have technically fallen further. There are some other nifty mechanics you’ll discover along the way as well, in addition to a few power ups that are more powerful than similar ones you’re used to in other match 3 variants.
When you’re not busy making matches and rescuing kittens you can play with the ones you’ve saved in a Tamagotchi style setting. You collect coins through various methods on the match 3 boards, and you can use those coins to buy decorations for the cats’ sanctuaries as well as toys that you can use to play with them. Each cat has a 5 star mood counter, and I’m not sure what happens if that mood counter gets to 0, but the cats are so cute that you can’t help playing with them at least a little bit to keep their spirits up. This aspect of the game should appeal to the young ones, and if you’re discreet about it you big kids are allowed to have a bit of fun with it as well.
The visuals in Kitten Sanctuary are quite charming. Backgrounds are colorful and nicely detailed, the objects you need to match are easily distinguishable from each other, and the cats are cute and quite animated. There are even a few decent special effects, especially when it comes to unleashing the super cat laser on unsuspecting match 3 tiles. The sound effects are decent, though certain sounds like the laser can get annoying (and then there’s the trampoline, which my wife mistook for a duck one night). The music is rather upbeat and actually helps keep the atmosphere rather light. I’m not sure how many different tunes there are, but it’s enough of a variety that it doesn’t really get old.
Kitten Sanctuary proved two important things to me: I haven’t lost my interest in match 3 games yet, and there is life beyond Treasures Of Montezuma 3. The cute atmosphere and virtual cat interaction might turn away the more hardcore players, but I honestly don’t tend to equate hardcore gaming with the match 3 genre anyway. Despite the same old “clear the board” premise some of the mechanics make the game play feel fresh, and there are certainly plenty of levels to keep you occupied for a while. Best of all for some, this is a game you should have no qualms about playing with your kids – just don’t get mad when they beat you at it.
|Title:||Kitten Sanctuary||Developer:||Clockwork Pixels|
|Reviewed Ver:||Min OS Req:||4.3|