Beneath my bearded, haggard exterior and receding hairline lies the soul of a 13 year old girl. I like my drinks neon and sweet, got teary during The Muppets and often emit high pitched squeals around fluffy creatures - cats in particular. Though the App Store has no shortage of adorable games starring felines, Kitten Sanctuary might manage to out-cute them all with its delightful mix of traditional match-three style puzzling and pet simulation.
The gist is that aliens have been abducting kittens. Why is unclear, but if ALF is any indication, it's probably not good. Your job is to rescue them from puzzle box traps, comprised of a series of cat-related paraphernalia on a grid. To open the trap you must clear a series of red tiles by matching three of the same type of items together over them.
Matching items converts them into resources. Gather enough and you'll gain a special ability allowing you to vanquish everything on a large section of the board. Kitten Sanctuary isn't a terribly challenging game on its default setting, but bump it up to "tricky" and this cat has claws.
Clearing the board is only part of the equation, however, as each level has a sub-goal of gathering a quota for certain types of resources. Collecting enough of these before finishing a stage will make your rescued cats happy and allow you to purchase new items for your brood.
This brings me to the other half of Kitten Sanctuary; the actual kitten sanctuaries. You see, when you rescue cats they come to one of four different refuges where you can interact with them by buying them toys. They'll swat at a ball of yarn, chase wind-up mice and purr as you brush their fur. You can also decorate their environment with things like wind chimes, flowers, and beach buckets. None of this is handled via in-app purchases, but rather acquired by earning in-game currency.
The interactions themselves are quite shallow, but superb writing gives this aspect of the game its soul. Each cat has its own profile detailing their history, likes, and dislikes. For example, Olly is a greenish colour, leading him to believe that he's actually an octopus missing limbs. He likes to tie balloons to himself to make up for this. Lizzie, meanwhile, is a playful lass fond of match-three games, but dislikes magnets because "they're just too strange".
Between stages events occur like alien sightings or tax returns arriving, which alter the cats' moods, so it's best to show them a little love now and again.
Kitten Sanctuary may not be a substitute for a real cat, but it won't leave a trail of pee outside its litter box either (I sure hope my cat's not reading this). It may not while away the hours, but it's perfect for a brief commute and will likely bring harm to procrastination addicts. Like an actual cat, it's a low effort investment that's a joy to cozy up to after a stressful day, while the amusing script is the icing on the cake. It's the cat's pyjamas alright.
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.