Developer Ryuji Kuwaki has proven, by logical deduction, that cows don’t get abducted by UFOs — it’s patently obvious aliens would go for the cute felines first! Add in a supernova that threatens all cat-kind, and you’ve got more than the weirdest premise to hit iOS in some time; Cats Away (Out Now, $0.99) is a surprisingly addictive casual feast if you’re looking for something that’s purr-fectly suited to short gaming spurts but gradually evolves over time.
As we noted in our preview a few months back, Cats is easy to jump into thanks to its one-touch control but also jam-packed with strategy. Whether you go straight for the small kittens and rack up combos or suck up vegetation to reveal power-ups, the idea is to strengthen your glorified vacuum sweeper so you can reel in progressively larger cats. With only sixty seconds to reach the highest score you can, the pressure’s always on — and chances are you’ll be able to get a few rounds in whenever the urge takes you. As you stick with it over time you’ll build up reward coins to purchase upgrades and entirely new ships. Your expanded capacity, in turn, lets you nab each world’s list of achievements and unlock new levels. The way Cats ties achievement-like feats directly into level progression is something I’d love to see more of in any genre.
On the downside, Cats is mighty repetitive. Your reward cash trickles in gradually over successive attempts, so you’ll be revisiting the first world numerous times before earning enough upgrades to unlock the next. Cats simply isn’t a game you can sit down with and conquer over a weekend; it has to be played in occasional bursts over a long period or else the experience will burn itself out pretty quickly. The question of In-App Purchases naturally arises, and while they exist here, Cats blunts the usual problem by serving up an occasional IAP item just for sticking with the game. The usual IAP sampling is an expendable time extension, which speeds things along effectively if you use it when you’re on a roll. Cats‘ upgrade prices are also reasonably structured so an upgrade always feels within reach — it’s saving up for that next UFO that takes real patience.
Cats is filled with more purrs and meows than you can shake a giant tabby at, and each level has day and night variations with accompanying shifts in music. For the number of worlds on offer, Cats is surprisingly rich with aesthetic variation — it’s just too bad players won’t notice it over the number of attempts it takes to get from one level to the next.
iFanzine Verdict: A casual action offering that lands on its feet thanks to an out-of-this-world premise, and more importantly, direct integration of achievements into game progression. Bear in mind that this is a long haul title that’ll stay on your iDevice for eons if played in occasional spurts, but one that will wear itself out quickly if you’re looking for long gameplay sittings.