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Developer: Clockwork Pixels
Price: $0.99
Version Reviewed: 1.1
Device Reviewed On: iPad 2

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★☆☆
Game Controls Rating: ★★★★☆
Gameplay Rating: ★★★★☆
Replay Value Rating: ★★★★☆

Overall Rating: ★★★½☆

Match-three puzzlers are everywhere and while I like that sort of casual gaming, I was pretty sure I’d seen every possible variant. Now it could be I’m partial because Kitten Sanctuary is an apt description of my home, but I still think Clockwork Pixels is onto something by adding a genre I would never think to mash in – a pet sim. Even on its own merits, the tile-swapping element has some nice twists.

I don’t recall why the kittens need freeing. It has something to do with aliens and frankly doesn’t matter. Just suspend disbelief and allow that kittens are trapped and the only way to bring them to a sanctuary for loving care is to solve a series of matching puzzles.

Like all games of this type, players are tasked with creating chains of three or more adjacent pieces bearing identical pictures – in this case of cat provisions and coins. Also as expected, the primary objective is to make sure the underlying red tiles all turn black by making matches on top of them. What’s different right off is that diagonal swapping allows for some pretty crazy combos.

When each level is cleared, a kitten is freed and sent to the beach, the first of four locales that are unlocked as one progresses through the game. The first kittens are happy on their own, but as new ones arrive, they come bearing gifts or “events” like rain, or a birthday.

There really isn’t all that much to do – players accrue coins by freeing them in the matching game and spend them on supplies and decorations. The toys are the most fun and the most useful. But food, drink, and wood for fires are not for sale.

To get the basics we are returned to the puzzle boards where one of the various goals on most levels is to collect enough matches of certain item types like food or milk in order to fill meters on the sidebar.

That isn’t the only unexpected gaming element. There are also levels where some tiles are locked, boards where it’s all about getting enough supplies before the tiles pile over a line, and there are power-ups that are unlocked by steady progress. There are a total of 50 cats and 100 levels, providing quite a few hours of gameplay.

There is no Game Center integration, but the developers promise it’s coming. The only other issue left is that the graphics look washed out.

Kitten Sanctuary doesn’t reinvent the cheese wheel here (sorry), but the game successfully blends classic genres in an unexpected way that kept me playing far longer than I anticipated. It’s a solid pick-up for casual gamers and cat ladies alike.


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