Box Cat is sort of like the anti-Frogger. Instead of playing as a frog attempting to avoid being squished by cars, you play as a near invincible cat who just wants to smash every car in sight. It’s simple, deliciously retro, and at times hard to put down. There’s not a lot of depth to Box Cat but there’s certainly a lot of fun.
The game is retro in more than its presentation, though the pixelated graphics and chiptunes soundtrack make this a game with plenty of nostalgic appeal. It’s also the way the game is structured. The main adventure mode has you going through a series of streets, smashing as many cars as you can, and then moving on, with the only real goal being a high score. There’s no story to push you forward and as soon as you die you’ll have to start right back from the beginning again.
So it’s a good thing actually playing through those levels is so fun. Box Cat is incredibly simple. You control the titular cat and you can only move left and right across the screen (which can be done either via tilt controls or using on-screen buttons). Cars will come at you from both the bottom and top of the screen and you’ll need to smash as many of them as you can. In the adventure mode, you’ll need to smash a certain number of them without running out of time before you move on. You’ll encounter regular cars at first, but soon you’ll come across boss trucks (which require a special dash attack to defeat) and cars that shoot lasers from their headlights.
It may be simple (though the dash move takes a bit of getting used to), but Box Cat also proves deceptively challenging. In later stages being able to smash the required number of cars while dealing with a barrage of laser fire and the constant ticking down of the clock can get quite intense. And since you know you’ll need to start all over again should you die, the pressure is even greater.
Driving skills won’t help you.
In addition to the joy of the high score, the adventure mode also has a constantly changing achievements-style system, not unlike that found in Jetpack Joyride. You’ll be tasked with everything from smashing a certain number of cars to making it to a certain stage while avoiding hitting a specific color of car. And as you complete goals new ones open up. There are also power-ups that give you additional time and temporarily turn you into a massive box cat, as well as two additional modes: survival and rush. The latter is particularly fun, as it allows you to let loose without worrying about the more dangerous enemies.
Box Cat wouldn’t feel out of place on an NES, but at the same time it works great on the iPhone. Its retro aesthetic is thorough and charming and the gameplay is perfect in short bursts, though it’s the kind of game that can make you miss a bus or train as you forget to take your eyes off the screen. It may have an awfully generic name, but Box Cat is an awful lot of fun.