Cat Frenzy Review
Posted by Mike Mason
“Little kittens are trapped in a well!” yowls Cat Frenzy's press release, invoking worrying thoughts of helpless baby felines in peril. Actually, this sliding block game is a bit more cheery in reality – the background implies they're actually in a house, for starters. Phew.
Played with your handheld in sideways book-style, Cat Frenzy is a match-3 puzzle game of sorts. A grid filled with cute cat icons of all shapes and colours is plopped before you, and the only way to clear it is to connect three or more of the same type horizontally or vertically.
Rather than swapping adjacent squares, however, you select a cat with the stylus and then pull it where you want it to go; either to the columns on the left or right, or the rows below. Pushing a cat will also move any other blocks in the way in the same direction. Move a mewer to the right and any others on its right will move along with it, or might even be pushed off the screen.
Gather three or more like-cats in a row and they'll emit a cheerful meow – the sound effect variation is fairly decent, thankfully – before disappearing into the ether, presumably rescued. Any others left above them will topple down to fill the gaps, and as with many puzzle games of this ilk it's possible to chain together matches in this way for greater point rewards with a bit of planning.
In general it's a simple idea that works, though the dragging mechanic takes a little getting used to. When pushing a whole line along it can be awkward to work out where exactly you're dropping your primary purrer because where you're touching doesn't always correlate to the row or column you think it should. This sometimes means that you boot out a tile that you really wanted to keep imprisoned in the 'well' that little bit longer for a bigger chain. Grey indicators show where your cat is going to land, but it's less intuitive than you'd expect.
Cat Frenzy reflects two distinct sides of a pussy cat's personality in its modes. The cunning, calculating moggy would find itself right at home in the mission mode, a collection of 40 levels that each challenge you to clear a pre-set grid in a limited number of moves. Rock obstacles get in the way here. You can't shift them off the screen in the standard way; they're only vanquished by matching up nearby cats. The difficulty level is a little inconsistent, with some of the early puzzles hard to beat and the opposite true for later efforts, but all stages are unlocked from the off and can be tackled in any order, so you don't have to stay stuck for too long. There are optional hints for each level too, but they don't quite find a perfect compromise either; they range from helpful to a tad too vague.
The sleepier kitty might prefer endless mode, which seems designed to relax more than tax. This is a score-based game much like any other block puzzler since the dawn of ages, but it doesn't come across as frenzied as the title implies. It's very slow paced, with no time limit, and is an opportunity to match cats pretty much until you get bored; the lose condition is that you run out of cats. Games can last a long time as such, so it's a nice touch that you can quick-save and resume later.
New specimens are dropped in automatically every so often, but if you feel your options are getting a bit thin you can tap a 'stock' button to unleash a line manually. Some special cats bring bonuses, such as ones that perch in tins and replenish your stock, or lucky fish-clutchers that save all cats of the same colour simultaneously when they're matched up.
Cat Frenzy offers up two modes that feel completely different, making it suitable for those times you want to give your brain a little shake or just want to switch off before bed. Its controls aren't quite as intuitive as you would think, but they don't take too long to pick up. If cat sounds leave you growling, though, you'll want to hit that mute button pretty sharpish.