Aug 12, 2011
I’ve never participated in the “steampunk” sub-culture that has grown immensely popular in recent years, but I’ve always appreciated the aesthetic. Victorian-era clothing mixed with modern styles, modern devices modified with brass fittings, gears, rivets and bits of machinery sticking out — it’s striking, and I’m surprised that more designers don’t borrow this concept for their games.
In the case of Cranky Cat, the concept, backstory and visual style borrow heavily from steampunk. Characters, menu items and other objects all fit the steampunk ideal. The level select screen appears as a medicine cabinet with bottles representing each round. The actual game screen is a giant gear with a foggy lens revealing the machinery within, featuring dials, gears, belts and pulleys that move and turn when you rotate the cluster of bubbles. It’s fun just to watch it go.
The gameplay, however, has its roots staunchly in modern times. At its core, Cranky Cat is a match-3 game reminiscent of Bust-A-Move, but turned on its head.
To go a bit more in-depth, the point of the game is to operate a devious machine that’s been invented by Cranky Cat in an attempt to distill certain elements that will restore his youthful exuberance. By swiping or tilting your device, you rotate a cluster of colored bubbles arranged in intricate patterns as colored bubbles form on the edges of the screen and collide with the cluster. You just rotate the cluster to expose like-colored bubbles to the incoming bubble and try to match up 3 or more. Matching up like-colored bubbles causes them to burst, and you simply repeat until the field is cleared and the next round begins.
With enough practice, you can get a bubble close to the center of the cluster and hit a crucial point where several other bubbles are hanging on. This can cause all the bubbles that were hanging on to break off and go flying towards the edge before falling back to the center. This allows you to set up combos by rotating the main cluster to match up with the incoming bunch. If you’re not careful, however, the bunch will regroup and go off the edge of the circle, causing the game to end. It gets tricky in later levels.
Despite the excellent visuals and fun gameplay, Cranky Cat does suffer from some severe frame rate drop when you detonate bombs or set off a chain reaction. Sometimes, it’s barely noticeable, but it usually happens when there’s a lot happening on screen.
After having been drawn into Cranky Cat for several hours, and coming back for more, I can definitely say it’s worth the money. Performance issues aside, it’s just a great game that I had a ton of fun playing. Highly recommended.