There is something deceptively familiar about this hero.
Critter Escape tells the story of an unnamed test subject who grazed the land when he/she/it got involuntary drafted for science. Now it has to escape detention across a myriad of levels avoiding guards, alarms and scientists. Not much of a story, but all that is needed to set the scene.
I am a softie for line drawing games, and there have been some true highlights on iOS. One of the best line drawing games seems to be a direct inspiration for this game: Spy Mouse. The kind of sneaky stealthy gameplay in Critter Escape is close to that of Spy Mouse in that it demands both planning, and quick adjustments to the plan. Where Spy Mouse went for more compressed levels, and an easier way to plan ahead as you see the obstacles and enemies Critter Escape has larger levels that have to be retried to learn where to go. In my book this makes Critter Escape inferior in design, and ultimately it makes it less fun for the consumer. Having to start every level by looking around by drawing the path of the critter kind of spoils the immediate sense of escape.
The controls in Critter Escape are all based on drawing the path of the critter. When you start drawing the level moves with your finger, and you get to see more of the actual level. If you draw too fast you kind of bump into the walls, and there is a lot of faulty lines where you go back and forth. Thankfully you can draw new paths whenever you want, and how often you want. Laying out a path for the entire level straight off the bat is always enticing, but ultimately it is better to make smaller adjustments. Guards move about on set routes, but it is hard to fully predict how fast they are compared to the critter. Furthermore it is not always certain that items you think you have drawn a path through for pickup gets picked up. In these cases it is really important to adjust the lines.
Every level have three level goals. Completing the level gives one star, yeehaw, and picking up the red crystal gives another star. Not that exciting goals govern two thirds of the reward, but at least the third is usually a goal that can excite me. It can be a race to complete the level before a timer runs out, or that you have to sneak past the guards undetected, or that you have to clobber them using the monster potion. These goals are what makes the game fun, as without them it is too simple. I completed the 100 plus ordinary levels in less than three hours, and still got three stars on most of the levels. There are some bonus levels as well, but these don’t add much to challenge the average line drawing player.
There are a couple of powerups that affect the game, and governs strategy if you want to get all stars. For example you might have to pick up the flash for speed before getting the monster potion to make it to the guard you need to clobber before the potions wear off. This is by far the most fun aspect of the game when it wants me to plan ahead. Too often levels are simply pedestrian not adding anything, but time spent.
The presentation is promising with a nice looking title screen, and an even better looking movie showing how the critter is captured. Sadly the level of polish found in these initial parts of the game doesn’t carry over to the actual gameplay that is muddy, dark and lacking in flair. Even picking up powerups does little in regards of visual bling. The same lack of detail is found in the sound department that could have saved the game from a presentation standpoint.. The critter itself lacks personality, and a resemblance to the famous Crazy Frog isn’t enough to make it appealing. Why not go the full distance, and try to license Crazy Frog for the game? That would have given it personality, and a lot of cool noises to use in the presentation.
Critter Escape has some glimpse of greatness when level goals get challenging, but that happens too seldom. Most of the time the gameplay feels pedestrian, and paired with a boring lead character not even named it is a title that I at least won’t remember six months from now. If you desperately need a new casual line drawing escape game for the bus it will do just fine for a day, or two. If you look for some quality gaming on your iOS device you are better off with Spy Mouse, or Robbery Bob in the same genre.
Critter Escape $0.99 Universal for iPad/iPhone/iPod
Seller: Chillingo Ltd