App of the Day: Box Cat

Mi-OW.

Version tested iPhone

I hope no real, flesh-and-blood cats ever get hold of Box Cat on iOS. For one thing, their cute, fluffy little paws would struggle with the game's simple controls, regardless of whether they were using the tilt sensors or the virtual buttons, and they'd probably get all upset. For another, the game would leave them with entirely unrealistic beliefs regarding their own durability on busy freeways. In Box Cat, cats tangle with traffic. In Box Cat, the traffic generally loses.

Man, what a wonderfully straightforward setup. This is leaderboard-chasing at its simplest and its most endearingly chaotic: you guide your pixelated little moggy back and forth across the road, colliding with as many cars as possible in order to rack up points. Box Cat's not big - most of the time, at least - but he must have been eating bricks or something, because when he hits a vehicle, the vehicle goes spinning.

1

It works with the iCade!

You can cobble together huge scores by sheer enthusiasm in Box Cat, but this slight wooliness doesn't really matter: the feedback's lovely, the controls are surprisingly well-implemented, and the carnage that ensues is sufficiently surreal to keep you playing even when it seems to be luck more than strategy that is driving your success. When the action heats up and the metal's really flying, Box Cat reminds me of lazy days spent traffic-checking my way through the streets of Burnout Revenge, or of all that time I wasted pinballing baddies around in Bulletstorm. Why did nobody buy Bulletstorm, eh?

Occasionally, a boss truck or a shooty van turns up to make things a little more interesting - they will kill you instantly unless you smack them with a charged dodge - but Box Cat doesn't really need the variety, just like it doesn't really need the coins you collect or the occasional super-size form you can take on. The basic idea behind the game is so good, and the moment-to-moment action is so mindlessly destructive, that I'm happy to just be lulled into a kind of bloodlusting stupor by doing the same things over and over again.

2

We had a cat called Gauguin, because I am a middle-class embarrassment. He died. (Spoiler.)

Unlockable cats, though, are a pretty good idea - if only because it's nice to see screens filled with all of the cats I've unlocked. I also think the optional modes - Survival and Rush Hour - aren't bad either, since they provide the game with a little extra focus for when you've finally tired of the main campaign. Survival feels a bit like Fruit Ninja, incidentally, because you're only allowed to miss three cars before it's game over, while Rush Hour ramps everything up to - ulp! Almost said ramps everything up to 11, there. After I've finished writing this I must go and have a lie down.

Is Box Cat a particularly well-balanced game? Not really: it's Cat Beats Almost Everything Except Truck, as far as I can tell from an afternoon of playing it, and that means the developers have to chuck in optional objectives and boost the difficulty with a timer. But balance doesn't matter in something as intentionally throwaway as this. A cat is for life, then, but Box Cat's probably just for a weekend. Enjoy him while he lasts.

App of the Day highlights interesting games we're playing on the Android, iPad, iPhone and Windows Phone 7 mobile platforms, including post-release updates. If you want to see a particular app featured, drop us a line or suggest it in the comments.

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