When Electronic Arts bought Chillingo in October 2010, they took control of the mobile gaming publisher, but didn’t get access to their two biggest hit titles at the time, Angry Birds and Cut the Rope. As you can imagine, EA wanted Chillingo to replicate the kind of success enjoyed by those two franchises. The inevitable search for the next “Angry Birds” began, and many clones or similar titles would spring up – not only from Chillingo, but from pretty much everyone.
With Bombcats, Radian Games have given Chillingo a title that may seem a little like their previous hits on the surface, but is actually a different experience altogether. Players take control of a race of cats who have been turned explosive by the Wizard of their tribe, in order to help them rescue all of their lost kittens. The story isn’t anything to write home about – it’s paper-thin, and after the very short intro cutscene, won’t really have much impact on the game. It is gameplay, rather than story, that is key here.
You’re required to fire your caustic cats through hundreds of levels, whilst collecting sun tokens, gems and releasing trapped kittens – by exploding next to them of course. Their tail is their fuse, so you only have a finite time to aim and direct them before they explode. You fire your cats much in the same way as Angry Birds (although I’m sure the developers would not want to draw such close comparisons). You drag an aiming arrow to determine the flight path and power of the shot, then unleash the furry fury. Some real trial and error will be needed for some levels – especially until you get to grips with the physics and abilities of your cats – but most can be cleared without stumping you for too long.
The levels are made more interesting by the addition of special powers for each of the Bombcats under your control. For instance, after firing the basic cat, a second tap will make them jump again in mid-air, and a third tap will cause instant detonation – great when you need to explode at an exact location. Other cats have skills such as being a sticky bomb, being extra bouncy, or flying faster and further than other cats; you have to be well aware of the capabilities of each cat to successfully clear a level, as different cats clear different obstacles. All of the various techniques have to be combined – and sometimes timed very precisely – to clear the game.
You’re aided by boosts and power upgrades; if you collect enough gems throughout general gameplay you can buy these (along with other aesthetic upgrades) from the shop menu. Of course, you can pay extra money for in-app purchases to speed this up, but most of the important upgrades can be earned by normal play – which is a welcome fact. When you buy these boosts, you can fly further, explode more powerfully or slow down time, just to name a few features. When you have a particularly hard level, these can make things much easier.
Bombcats has literally hundreds of stages – all quite different from one another. There are also different stages requiring specific criteria to be met before you can clear them, and these will last you a long time. For instance, most levels only ask you to save all kittens to progress, but some ask you to collect all the suns as well. There is a also a variety of stage types, which keeps things interesting, with Marathon tasking you with simply travelling as far as possible before your cat explodes. Another, Time Trial, asks you to complete your last five levels within a short time period, so you really need to learn the best route through each stage. These different level types add some real variety, and stop things getting too repetitive.
The graphics are simple yet effective. The cats are likeable and the environments throughout different areas all have their own distinct personalities. The game is generally seen from a zoomed-out viewpoint, so great detail and depth is unnecessary really. The sound design is pretty irritating however, as not only do the cats spout the same phrases repeatedly, and make strange noise like the titular characters from the Worms series, but the same music plays throughout the game over and over again. This seems a little lazy and all of the sounds and music will soon annoy – playing in silent is probably the best option. A sad fact, considering that the level design and gameplay features some great variety.
VERDICT: Despite the aesthetics and sound not being particularly strong, this is a welcome addition to the casual puzzling genre on mobile devices. There is plenty here to keep you playing for a long time, but its short levels can be dipped in and out of for very short gameplay sessions, too. It may well owe its beginnings to titles like Angry Birds, but Bombcats manages to add new ideas into the gameplay and the title actually demands some very quick reactions and quick-thinking to get maximum scores across the levels. This game may not be the bomb, but there is still a lot of fun to be had.
VERY GOOD. An 8/10 is only awarded to a game we consider truly worthy of your hard-earned cash. This game is only held back by a smattering of minor or middling issues and comes highly recommended.