“They played the mash, they played the monster mash” – Monsters Ate My Birthday Cake
Throughout human history monsters and their existence have been used as a tools to keep naughty children in line using fears that reach down into the darkest depths of mankind’s psyche. It is a very interesting time we find ourselves in, because over the last half a century we have been turning our darkest fears into childhood playthings rather than things to be feared and overcome. In the spirit of such shows as Sesame Street and Foster’s Home For Imaginary Friends, Cartoon Network has partnered with SleepNinja games to create a new way for kids of all ages to get in touch with their inner monster, Monsters Ate My Birthday Cake.
In this puzzle game you play as Nico, a little boy who seems to have skinned himself a monster and woke up on his birthday wearing the poor thing. In a case of what is perhaps the most innocuous revenge ever, the “evil” creatures of the land have stolen Nico’s birthday cake, causing him to go on a mystical quest with his Dachshund, Bazooka to save the delicious pastry. Bazooka as is typical of his species always seems to be running off ahead of his master, but this dog’s over-enthusiasm pays off as you meet some of the “good” monsters who decide to help Nico on his quest.
You meet your first two monstrous companions very early on into the game. You discover a purple monster named Groggnar hiding in a bush while searching for your dog. He claims to be a friendly monster who hates the Boogin King, the creature that stole your cake, and all his minions. Groggnar has the ability to charge forward and break obstacles or monsters in his way.
The second and third monsters you meet are a rabbit monster named Claude and and a bat monster named Eek. Claude has the ability to tunnel underground in specially marked areas and Eek emits a high pitched screeching noise that can shatter crystals. At first they are afraid of Niko, but because of the “adorable sausage beast” he hangs out with, they decide to befriend him.
Each stage has a certain number of pieces of cake to collect, and similar to Scribblenauts each stage has its own set of sub-goals to be met so that stars may be collected. These stars give you the ability to face the boss at the end of each level, and progress further into the island of Gogapoe. Some are time based, some require you to collect all of the money in a stage, and others require you to open a treasure chest or cage held inside the stage.
Graphically Monsters Ate My Birthday Cake is a pleasant cartoon style that fits the storyline and the intended audience to a T. Even the deaths in the game can be described as “cute” your enemies will fall into a pile of bones upon their departure, and your allies will just fall down. It will not be taxing even on a low end computer as it only requires a dual core processor and a DirectX 9 graphics card to run.
The audio in the game is just as sweet and simple as everything else, and if you listen to long it may end up giving you diabetes. The music is good, a simple synthesizer doing most of the heavy lifting. The sound effects themselves come off as a bit quiet but fit the game very well which is sad because the music tends to completely overpower the sounds themselves with the default audio settings on.
Controls are simple, which should not be surprising at all given that this game was released on android and iOS first. You can switch between characters, using 1-4 or the shoulder buttons on a controller. A button or right mouse allows you to unleash your monster or manpeople’s power. You can also use Z on your keyboard or Y on your controller to look at the entire level. It’s an easy to master style that will be easy for kids and adults alike.
Monsters Ate My Birthday Cake is a surprisingly fun game even if you are an adult. It is a reminder of puzzle games gone by such as The Adventures of Lolo for the NES. Unlike Lolo, there is no suicide button, and Monsters is far less frustrating. The graphics are nice, the audio is good, even though they are a bit over sweetened. Controls are easy offering no surprises, and no lackluster conversion that can often happen in mobile games. If you have little ones, or if you just have a little one deeply hidden inside yourself, you should pick up a copy of Monsters Ate My Birthday Cake.