Trigger-happy shooter addicts may not get much out of Kitten Sanctuary, but its unflinching cuteness and relative simplicity make it a perfect match for the less bloodthirsty gaming crowd. It’s part Match-3 and part virtual zoo, and both components are handled skillfully and tastefully.
The core gameplay of Kitten Sanctuary consists of 100 levels of slight variations on the tried-and-true Bejeweled formula. The content is switched up often enough to keep from getting stale, and veterans of the genre have a surprising number of options to make the game more challenging for themselves. For less experienced players, a forgiving start and a gentle difficulty curve will make for a pleasant experience that provides hours of entertainment.
Do it for them.
As you make matches in the game, you earn food, drink, and firewood for none other than an adorable cast of kittens that you spend the game rescuing from an insidious alien force. In a majority of the game’s levels, you’re freeing a kitten from the evil clutches of said extraterrestrials, and– as you save them– they populate various sanctuaries, all with different themes. You care for the cats by keeping them warm and well-fed, of course, but random events and a lack of stimulation can upset them. To counter these forces, you can use in-game currency to spruce up their habitats with various decorations and toys that you can use to directly interact with your digital feline friends.
Many mobile game developers would have devised this structure for one very specific reason: microtransactions. At nearly every turn in this game’s design, there is an opportunity for its creators to nudge you towards a $0.99 in-app purchase, but they deliberately and admirably exercise restraint. You wouldn’t assume such a strong statement about the current App Store economy to come encoded in such a cute, fuzzy package, but all signs point to this being a very pointed effort by the developers of Kitten Sanctuary, and we enthusiastically applaud their decision.
On a far less political note, the kittens in this game are incredibly heartwarming. They each have a distinct personality described in a short (but charming) biography, and each of them has a unique look. While the sprites are all based on a generic template and they certainly don’t look hand-painted or anything like that, they are beautiful in their own cartoonish way. The animations are rather simple and exaggerated, but they play into the game’s aesthetic extremely well.
Other than the protest of what is often an exploitative and shallow revenue stream, there’s little about Kitten Sanctuary that is really revolutionary. However, it’s such an approachable, pleasant game that there’s no good reason to avoid it. Not every game needs to be about guns or swords, and Kitten Sanctuary is a great alternative to the violence that computer games are often associated with.