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Catball Eats it All

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Product: Catball Eats it All | Developer: In-house | Publisher: Broken Compass Studios | Format: iPhone | Genre: Casual | Players: 1 | File size: 19.3MB | Version: Europe
 
Catball Eats it All Multiformat, thumbnail 1
It's not always easy to explain why something's good. Take the popular website weebls-stuff.com, for example, which has gained a large following with its surreal Flash animations about amorphous creatures and animals behaving strangely.

Some of these are conventional cartoons, and others are collage-style animations in which photographs of cats are torn up and sewn together to create vaguely disconcerting cat monsters that dance and sing and behave almost exactly unlike cats.

It's difficult to say exactly what the joke is, but I've seen grown men weep with laughter.

Catball Eats it All is clearly inspired by these animations, as well as by Monty Python, Ren & Stimpy, Pac-Man, and Katamari Damacy. Its eponymous star is a ball made of cat parts, and the aim of the game is to eat all of the objects in each stage. 

Unfortunately, the indescribable quality that makes the cartoons on weebls-stuff.com good is absent from Broken Compass Studios's game. 

Catatonia

Every level consists of a sort of maze made up of fragments of an animal's face embellished with other objects – rainbows, clouds, random shapes, and so on.

You need to roll Catball through the channels between these fragments by holding a finger down on the corresponding side of your screen. Holding a finger down both sides makes him double in size and float upwards like a helium balloon.

Every stage follows the same pattern: first you clear the maze of objects, and then some of the maze fragments themselves start flashing, indicating that you can now eat them. Once you've done that, yet more fragments start flashing, and so on until you've eaten, quite literally, “it all”.

All the while a timer is ticking down, and as you approach the time limit a giant dog appears, looming over you as you scramble to consume the last fragments.

Watching a surprisingly large dog face fill the screen is genuinely creepy, and this is the one instance where the game's art style manages to be anything other than superficially interesting.

Catalepsy

You get one to three crowns depending on how quickly you complete a stage, but before you reach the middle stages – and there are only 12 – you'll struggle to eat all of the objects in time.

The first three stages are free, after which you have to pay 69p/99c per bundle of three, or £1.99 to unlock them all. You can use the crowns you collect to unlock different Catball skins, but the game also generously offers you the opportunity to buy them at 69p a pop. In total you can spend nearly £7 on Catball Eats it All if you have a mind to.

Catball Eats it All is a skill game in the sense that you have to negotiate the maze – which rocks left and right as you move – by mastering the controls and the physics engine, but it's also a tactical game in the sense that you have to zoom-out to the map view regularly and plot your course. 

Catnap

There's nothing innately wrong with this central gameplay mechanic, but the time limits are so strict that unless you do everything more or less perfectly in the order the game prescribes you won't get very far. This isn't much fun.

The physics engine is up to the task in that you can just about master it, but the hovering feels hit and miss. Sometimes when you hold down both sides of the screen Catball levitates gracefully and sometimes he strains like a duff rocket.

You soon work out that this has something to do with his momentum and the degree of contact he has with a solid surface, but given that he's levitating rather than jumping the mechanic never feels logical or satisfactory, even after you learn how to use it.

Catball Eats it All isn't a terrible game, but nor is it anything like as interesting as it looks. If the art style leaves you cold – and there's only so much enjoyment you can get out of eccentric visuals – then you won't find much consolation in the shallow and excessively difficult gameplay.
 
Catball Eats it All
Reviewer photo
Rob Hearn | 20 December 2011
Visually speaking, Catball Eats it All is an interesting mashup of surreal and expressionist art styles. Unfortunately, the all-important gameplay doesn't do the graphics justice
 
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