Overall Score 72%
Plinky plunky piano and lone guitar music - gentle, yet somehow odd - plays in the background. Then I hear the "whup whup whup" of an approaching zeppelin, laden with stolen milk. Grab the nearest kitten as it sails by on a handy skyboard ("Miaow!") and sling it at the foe ("MiaAOW!"). Crash! Boom! The zeppelin explodes, and cat, skyboard and flying helmet all tumble down off the screen. More zeppelins are coming - more kittens! Fire! "Miaow!" "MIAOW!" BOOOM!!
Speed Kittens has to be the most demented game I've played for at least... a fortnight? Zeppelins carrying milk bottles cross the screen of your iPhone/iPad and it's up to you to stop them by hurling cats at them. Relax - the cats knew what they signed up for. These aren't your standard alley cats but fearless felines of the sky, such as R Lion, S Kitten and the highly enthusiastic Big Cat, all of them out to save their milk at any cost. The kittens coast the sky on little boards and wearing helmets - in essence, this means that each kitten, when it strikes a foe, splits into three components that can do further damage. Big Cat is tough enough to withstand all manner of damage and can cause havoc.
It's simple enough to play. You select a passing kitten by holding your finger on them, then moving them in the direction you wish to fire them. The further you swipe your finger, the faster they launch. You can also use this method to perform a "kitten dodge", preventing kitties from colliding with each other (a form of friendly fire, perhaps). Beware! Once a kitten is launched, you won't be able to select them again without the Relaunch powerup. But kitten collisions aren't necessarily a bad thing - they'll up your multiplier and help you to score even bigger points.
The graphics are charming - little kittens on surfboards and wearing sunglasses are instant cute - and the simple style means that things don't slow down even when the screen gets hectic (which it will - particularly if your kittens collide in cataclysmic chain reactions). There are only three types of cat in play at any one time, but a range of alternative kitties can be unlocked if you have enough milk, either earned in play or bought as an in-app purchase. There are also three backgrounds to choose from (again, to be unlocked with milk). Despite the tiny kitten graphics, it's easy to see what you're doing and the kitten-grabbing controls are excellent.
Music and sound effects can be individually switched off, and you may want to switch off at least the sound effects if you're playing in public without headphones - the constant tirade of miaows is likely to attract the attention of the local cat shelter otherwise! The music is a little... odd. Not in terms of quality, but sheer style. It feels like this game is slightly warped, which is possibly a good description!
Speed Kittens is a very easy game to learn but can get surprisingly challenging quite quickly, especially when the screen is filled with kitties and they start colliding with each other, causing a chain reaction of kitty collisions. There are a number of power-ups available, however, such as "kitten rain" (raining cats and dogs, but without the dogs), the ability to relaunch kittens that miss their targets, or the option to stop the zeppelins for a few seconds. You can also buy these power-ups in the game shop for 150 milk each to use when you see fit.
It's a bit of crazy fun for a few minutes here and there, but I fear the long-term appeal of Speed Kittens is limited. The main challenge, aside from surviving as long as you can, is to unlock all the various features - however, these features are purely cosmetic. Whatever cats you unlock, for instance, you will always have two types of kitten and a Big Cat. They all play in the same way. The backgrounds, too, are just that - they don't feature any different play dynamics. None of the unlocks actually change the core game, which may get tedious after a while.
Still, something about Speed Kittens is compelling. Maybe it's just that I'm cat mad, but there's something adorable about these little fellows as they soar across the sky. The gameplay is simple but fun. The atmosphere is quirky enough to attract interest without being so odd that it loses appeal. All that Speed Kittens really needs is a bit more variety in the gameplay itself, such as different enemies, a progression of unlockable levels, different kitten abilities, that sort of thing. I just hope these cats have parachutes - it's a long way down...
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