ZeptoLab makes charming games. It's kind of their thing, judging by Cut The Rope's eminently marketable Om Nom. The studio's latest, Pudding Monsters [$0.99 / $1.99 (HD)], is certainly charming—it practically oozes character. It just lacks a little something else, a bit of the fun factor.

Aside from the flavour, you might have heard this one before. Pudding Monsters is a puzzle game about sliding pudding into other pudding until it forms one massive blob of eyes and goo. Ideally said blob will wind up sitting on top of three star tiles, thus achieving the coveted three-star ranking. There are variations, there are challenges, but it's all a bit by-the-numbers. Still, if you're looking for a game about sliding pudding into other pudding, you probably can't do better.

After all, I wasn't kidding about the character. The big, bouncy puddings are dressed up with giant moustaches, sleeping caps or snail hats. They slime and jiggle and wiggle their way around the screen. They babble in nonsense language, and the music jingles happily. One could go so far as to call the whole thing sprightly.

But man cannot live on charm alone, and Pudding Monsters doesn't have quite enough else to offer. The puzzles are straightforward. There are, generally speaking, around three obvious groups of pudding to merge. Decide which ones to swipe first, and which direction to swipe them in, and you'll already be most of the way there.

There are different kinds of pudding, each one less edible than the last. The first slides normally, stopping when it hits something or flying off the edge. The second is asleep until you hit it with another pudding. A third leaves exceptionally unappetizing slime behind, slime that will stop your other so-called puddings in their paths. These and a few others mix up the challenge in a variety of adorable ways, and the game uses a pleasantly light touch in teaching you about them.

Getting through all 75 levels is rarely a burden. This is one of those games where sliding through without getting the best ranking probably means you're doing it wrong. Getting through with all three stars on each is tougher—sometimes significantly, though the difficulty curve can be a bit wobbly. Not so wobbly it wouldn't be a pleasure for younger players at the most basic level, though.

If you're looking for something more complex there's another challenge, and that's where things get kind of interesting. Each Pudding Monsters level has an extra goal: crowns. Getting a crown requires that you earn every possible ranking in a level. Once you've mastered the art of getting three stars, it's sometimes pretty hard to figure out how to get zero stars, or one or two. It messes with the whole star-ranking paradigm in a very cool way.

Take that and a list of well-curated Game Center achievements and you'll probably be able to get a couple hours of fun out of the game. They probably won't be the most satisfying, but it'll be good, gooey fun. Though the puddings themselves would object to this characterization, think of Pudding Monsters as a tasty snack—it might not keep you fed for long, but it'll get you through a break or two. ZeptoLab has executed the recipe beautifully; it's just too bad it was rather bland from the start.

TouchArcade Rating

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  • jptsetung

    3/5 is hard for such a polished game with so much work and love put in it. If this game was make by a new developer, it would get a bit more I guess, but we were expecting a bit more from the "Cut The Rope" creators I guess.

    • MidianGTX

      It'd be nice if polish and love were all it took to make a game great, but alas, this is not the way.

  • regkilla

    I agree with review score. Game gets boring right away.

  • Tatiana

    I love that the characters remind me of the Minions from Despicable Me. But that's about it.

  • http://twitter.com/reidypeidy Reid Spottswood

    This game reminds me a lot of Run Roo Run, where the main progression through the game is not really hard (Like getting 3-stars on all the levels), but after you finish that, the real fun challenge starts. Finally getting all the crowns took over twice as long as just getting 3-stars and was so much more satisfying. Just like in Run Roo Run, the only fun levels were the Extreme levels you unlock after finishing each stage. I think this game isn't as great as Cut the Rope but it's still a great puzzle game.

  • http://twitter.com/matheszabo Máté Szabó

    completely disagree its a 5/5! cant wait for new maps

  • MidianGTX

    Sounds right to me, it was clear from the start it wouldn't have the same kind of appeal as Cut the Rope. It's not a particuarly new idea and this type of puzzle always runs the risk of being too hard and putting players off, or being too easy and losing the entire puzzle vibe due to the fact. It's a solid and well-made title though, I don't think they developers were trying for a CtR killer, it would only have been stressful for them to take on a task like that. It's better to be grateful for your success and then continue creating games you can judge on their own merit.

  • 1Fcm

    Like most people, I had high expectations from ZeptoLab... But, this game fell flat for me. Yes, it's highly polished, but that's not enough, It also needs compelling gameplay. Pudding Monsters just doesn't do anything new that hasn't already been done before with sliding puzzlers. The only thing this game had going for it was the developer pedigree. Definitely a 3/5 for me.

  • Flare_TM

    Completely agree, deleted it from my device within days

    • Flare_TM

      And yet I still have Cut the Rope on my device since I got it nearly 2 year ago...hmmm

  • http://twitter.com/studiomadison Madison

    3 stars is harsh. I can't wait for more levels. Love this. Doing the 'stars mode' now and that's very challenging. Not bland at all.

  • Lurkingiowan

    My (grade school aged) daughters three starred the entire game the weekend I showed it to them. We had fun, but its not terribly challenging. Also, they didn't understand why the pudding was red, and I think they have a good point..

  • jhamdotme

    So, to clarify, an innovative and perfectly executed touch-native puzzler gets three stars, because it’s “bland” and “by the numbers”, but Vice City, a port of a ten-year-old console game that’s nearly unplayable with touch controls gets four and a half stars? That makes sense.

    This title is only bland if you’re racing through it and playing like in that TA Plays video. If your aim is simply to “beat” each level with the first solution that you happen across, than sure, “bland” seems appropriate. But if you play more deliberately, and your aim is to “three star” everything, and later to “crown” all the levels, it’s at times fiendishly challenging.

    And never mind the promised levels that are soon to come, there’s already tons of replay value included. Beat the first seventy-two levels and unlock three extra-challenging levels. Beat those three and see that you have to go through the whole game again and find the other possible solutions, which are sometimes quite a bit harder to get than even the three-star solutions. And then there’s the achievements you can play for, many of which can only be achieved in very specific levels. So, even before the forthcoming updates, there’s lots to do.

    I’m having a hard time finding something to pull this down from a perfect score. It sucks that there isn’t iCloud syncing right away, but I can't imagine this not coming in an update. And then there’s that annoying buy-a-three-star-rating in-app “cheater button” that's cluttering up the screen, but even with that, when we’re struggling it gives us a perfectly charming animation with a pudding monster banging their head against the wall. So, really, as misguided as this monetization attempt is, I can’t really stay mad at that.

    Aside from these minor annoyances, there isn’t really anything wrong with this game. Five stars, all the way. More like this, please.

    • http://profiles.google.com/fleshman1992 Laszlo Tuss

      GTA Vice City is flawlessly playeble, your argument is invalid.
      Also they still forcing their pointless HD versions like GL and EA did. I skip this game.

    • http://twitter.com/GrumpyMoaner Grumpy Bastard

      jhamdotme said it perfectly. This reviewer should be ashamed of their hash article.

    • http://twitter.com/JaredTA Jared Nelson

      Because a sliding block puzzle should definitely be compared to a port of a ten year old 3D action game.

      • jhamdotme

        They're not similar thematically, and their gameplay couldn't possibly be more different. That I brought up Vice City was pretty arbitrary; I only mentioned it because it's the most recent console title that's been given undue praise as an iOS title. It's a great game, just like Pudding Monsters, but it's not a great iOS game. Pudding Monsters *is* great on iOS, and it scored considerably worse than a title with shoe-horned and imprecise touch controls.

        > "Yeah, yeah, but [Rockstar Games] was so preoccupied with whether or not they could [port the console title to iOS] that they didn't stop to think if they should."

        — Dr. Ian Malcolm. Sort of.

      • http://twitter.com/JaredTA Jared Nelson

        Haha ok props for dropping Jurassic Park references. My issue really was that the Vice City review has absolutely nothing to do with this review. Two completely different games, two completely different reviewers, two whole completely different situations. It just struck me as odd to bring it up.

        Anyway, all the things you say about Pudding Monsters are true. If you're just completing the levels and moving on, you're missing half the game. The 3 star solutions are pretty clever and tricky.

        That said, I still got bored. I don't know if this matters but I thought Cut the Rope got boring too. Nissa covers all aspects of the game in the review, including the additional challenges of getting 3 stars and crowns, etc. Bottom line though was that she just didn't find it very fun. There's really no amount of pointing out polish and graphics and interface or anything that's going to change that, ya know? The core gameplay just didn't do it for her.

        That you and other people found Pudding Monsters a lot of fun is fine, it's great actually! But people pointing out she is somehow "wrong" for giving it just an above average rating rather than a perfect 5 stars is what's annoying (not your comments specifically, but some of the others have been pretty nasty).

  • PureRumble

    1475 players (by current counting) couldnt disagree more...

    Yes i know; not all of them voted 4 or 5 stars, but get the point! average grade is 4.5... Thats a success

  • PureRumble

    Also qualityindex grades it 8.3/10 based on 12 reviews (thats NOT user reviews)

  • http://www.facebook.com/Split82 Jan Split Ilavsky

    3/5 stars? Ok it was extremely easy and maybe short, even getting the crowns is not such a big deal. But I had a lof of fun playing it.

  • http://twitter.com/GrumpyMoaner Grumpy Bastard

    Wow - reviewer fail.
    Remind me never to trust a review from Nissa Campbell again.

    • Doctorossi

      So, you disagree on one review, therefor the reviewer's entire opinion on everything is invalidated?

      I, on the other hand, have never encountered a reviewer of anything that I've completely agreed with about every single review they've ever written.

  • http://twitter.com/JaredTA Jared Nelson

    Whoa, who put the call out to the Pudding Monsters Defense Brigade? I think this game is just "alright" but if you think it's better than that that's ok too!

  • Gemutlichkeit

    Did they design a proper backup save system for this game? Cut the Rope doesn't restore saves if you ever need to restore your phone. Biggest flaw in an otherwise perfect game.

  • JPhilipp

    The inherent benefit and problem with stars is that they're optional, and designed to be that way in order to allow players of all skills to continue while still scaling a bit towards better players. However, it won't stop a portion of those better players to go the "I don't care about stars" route, and some of those will then perceive the game as too unchallenging.

    My 3-year old had fun playing it for a bit, though after a while it still becomes too hard for him, as will all level-based games. That's why I prefer more toy-like, open-eneded games for him, because he can solve and learn on his pace. The "stars system to make it easier" definitely doesn't work for him. Open-ended games like Minecrafty "Ender", for instance, he can play for a loong, long time and make discoveries on his own without "falling off the table".

    From a usability and UI perspective, Pudding Monsters is fascinatingly well-done, though. I just love the non-textual and balloon-assisted "pseudo speech" approach as it communicates to players of all languages and ages in the quickest way. I would not have been surprised if this game would have been given 5 stars here, but the reviewer explained the reasoning well and it's a harsh reminder on the importance of core fun. However, the polish and name brand is probably what pushes this into the front of the app store, and makes this a good seller there. Easy to pick up, easy to learn, easy to succeed, and very satisfiyingly executed.

  • http://www.facebook.com/kartihk.vasudev Kartihk Vasudev

    Very cool game....

Pudding Monsters Reviewed by Nissa Campbell on . Rating: 3