If you’ve been owned by a cat, then you know that the feline master race prizes sleep. Playing with string is also dear to the furry overlords’ hearts, though, and Wake the Cat may be the definitive portrayal of the epic struggle within this Maslow-vian hierarchy of needs. That, or it’s just a cute puzzle game about a kitten.
The goal will be familiar to anybody who has played Chillingo’s Cut the Rope. An adorable little white kitten is sleeping on the floor, dreaming of playing with yarn. You wake the kitten up by rolling a ball of yarn so that it bumps the kitten. As you progress through the levels, you’ll find your way blocked by toy trains, slippers, fans, drums, pipes and gates, and you’ll have to figure out a path that gets the ball to the kitten in one roll.
Many of the obstacles can be moved or manipulated. The drums and pipes can be turned to send the ball in a new direction. The moving trains can be stopped, the fans can be turned on and off. The game uses a simple but effective way to clue you in on which items you can tinker with: you can interact with anything that’s blue.
It’s a good thing that the game follows consistent rules, because the tutorial skips over some of what you need to know. The drums are introduced with little explanation, but at that point you’ve played enough levels that remembering the “blue to move” rule is all you need to understand how they work.
A more serious problem is that the game doesn’t teach you the most effective way to roll your ball of yarn. If you put your finger on the ball, then move the finger in the direction you want the ball to go, you’ll get a controlled, accurate roll as soon as you lift your finger. You learn that through trial and error, though, and we suffered through a lot of inaccurate swipes and flicks before we figured out how to do it right.
Despite the occasional learning difficulty, though, this is a polished effort that uses everything Chillingo has learned about making a good puzzle game. Each level poses a clear problem that is just difficult enough to be satisfying when you solve it. There’s a good hint system if you do get hung up– you get a free hint every hour, and can buy unlimited hints via in-app purchase– and even a few achievements for having to try a level over and over again.
While the game is polished, it’s not innovative. If you play a lot of puzzle games, then you’ve seen all this before. Everything works the way you would expect it to, and you’ll get three stars on each of the 60 available levels very quickly. Chillingo is promising more content soon, so the game is likely to provide more challenges, but they’re unlikely to change up what has been a very successful formula.
That’s understandable, because casual and new gamers will enjoy the formula as it is. If you’re not tired of this genre, then Wake the Cat is a lot of fun. Besides, who can resist the temptation to entertain a virtual kitten despot?