I Can Has Cheese?

When a wily cat steals The Big Cheese from Bouncy Mouse (Out Now, $0.99), you can bet this spring-loaded rodent isn’t going to take it lying down. In fact, he’s bouncing right off the walls and straight into iOS gamers’ hearts!

The player’s goal in Bouncy Mouse is simple enough: guide Mouse from one floating knob to the next until he reaches the cheese-stealing cat, at which point Mouse will sock it to him and recover part of his stolen cheddar collection. Imagine a cross between Angry Birds and the more recent Spidey Riley, and you’ll have a good idea how this works exactly. The player tugs on Mouse’s elastic tail once it’s hooked around a knob, hoping to release at just the right angle and with just enough power to send him safely to his destination. In addition to Mouse’s main objective of reaching the feline thief perched high up in each of thirty levels, the player can pursue a more challenging secondary goal of collecting all the little floating cheese balls strewn throughout.

The star of Eric Karl’s iOS debut proves a mighty mouse indeed, but that doesn’t mean Mouse or the player will have an easy time of it. Levels quickly grow to dizzying heights, summoning up curving arcs, spring loaded walls, and pulsing fans that challenge the player’s efforts to hit all the right notes. Should Mouse miss a destination knob, his rubbery body will bounce around until he either a.) gets near enough to another knob to latch on by chance; b.) gets stung by one of the many bees that seem to be in league with the cats; or c.) gets stuck in water or some crevice. The latter two possibilities shave a heart from Mouse’s health meter and send him back to the knob from which he was last flung.

Bouncy Mouse is every bit as cute, fun and challenging as you might expect based on the game’s description, and it’s a real credit to the developer that level designs often invoked my nostalgia for Sonic the Hedgehog. Bouncy Mouse‘s barely-there interface and fling mechanics work brilliantly on iOS to boot! The developer even pre-empted my greatest complaint with Spidey Riley in offering a pinch-zoom; there’s never any guessing where the next knob is here, because the player can zoom out to get a better look at Mouse’s environment at any time.

Bouncy Mouse reaches for true classic status with ease, but a few complaints prevent it from achieving its full potential in my opinion. First and foremost, I couldn’t get over just how much I missed the tilt mechanic employed to such great effect in Spidey Riley; if Mouse misses a knob his fate is removed from the player’s hands entirely, and occasionally the player will be forced to sit and watch as he slows to a crawl on a flat surface before the heart-removing penalty kicks in. If the player had a little control over Mouse’s trajectory after release, the player’s ability to get him out of a jam could only heighten his or her enjoyment. Believe me, there are enough bees floating around to get Mouse into trouble without him helplessly spilling into the drink so often!

Speaking of bees, it would be great to see a few more adversaries in Mouse’s environment during the game’s first half. To be fair, the bees’ behavior is varied enough: sometimes they create rotating shields around the cat, and sometimes swoop close to knobs and harass the player’s launch attempts.

Finally, I found it difficult to get truly excited over the rewards for painstakingly collecting all the cheese balls floating in each level. For every level completed with perfect cheese ball collection, the player can adorn Mouse with a miniature costume piece or colored contrail that traces his path through the air. I could still be missing something because I have yet to unlock a full set or Mouse’s little pirate sword, but it seems these have no effect on gameplay. Remember how many times you cursed at the difficulty of collecting all the Chaos Emeralds in Sonic the Hedgehog 2 and 3, but then jumped for joy when you saw what was waiting at the other end? Absent something of that magnitude here, I often found myself far less concerned with cheese ball collection than with simply surviving each level.

Rarely do aesthetics factor so heavily into my enjoyment of a game as they do here. Mouse’s silly smile and adorable little squeaks are sure to soften even the heardest of hearts; Bouncy Mouse is every bit as much a stress reliever app as it is a videogame, which is weird because it’s super challenging at the same time. Fun and fully fleshed music tracks, courtesy of expert composer Nick Pittsinger, are cycled well before they wear out their welcome — a real treat on iOS!

Bouncy Mouse can be counted on for a good three to four hours’ worth of play, and far more should the player try to become a maven of cheese collection. The developer appears to be at work on even more levels for updates coming in Fall, so Bouncy Mouse‘s full potential has yet to be seen!

iFanzine Verdict: Bouncy Mouse is one of those games kids would love to play, if only they could pry it from their parents’ hands — cute, cuddly, and insane fun! Its high-concept formula still has some room to grow in updates – or, dare we say, squeakquels? – but if you generally enjoy action games with a heavy physics twist, you can’t go wrong here.

[xrr rating=4/5]