There are an awful lot of games involving cats on the App Store. Sometimes, their inclusion doesn't even make sense. Like most of the Internet, I love cats, so I'm not going to complain, but there are plenty of people out there who have a slightly more negative appraisal of the feline species, and I can only guess how many games they miss out on as a result. If that describes you, perhaps you've gazed longingly at Cat Physics [$1.99], the popular puzzle game released a few years back by Donut Games, wishing you could enjoy its physics-based puzzles without all that shedding on your freshly-laundered slacks. Well, person with an unusually strong hatred of digital cats, have I got a game for you. It's called Lightlands [$0.99], and although it has a few new ideas to freshen things up, at its core, it's essentially Cat Physics after TV's Alf has made the scene.
Since four years on the App Store might as well be a million, let me explain the basic gameplay. Stages are made up of a single screen filled with various obstacles and platforms. Your goal is to place little preset arrows to bounce a ball from the beginning all the way to the goal. You simply drag the arrows around and put them wherever you like, then hit the play button to see if your cunning plan worked. You're assigned points based on how much time and distance your ball took to reach the goal. As long as you reach the goal, you'll unlock another stage. The game contains 45 levels, which is about half of Cat Physics in its current state, although like that game, Lightlands seems set to receive more levels as time goes on. It just recently got an update with 15 new levels, building on the initial 30 it released with. On the whole, they feel more difficult than the stages in Cat Physics, with considerably fewer easy filler levels.
One very welcome addition to the formula is a zoom feature that affords you extra precision when you're placing your pieces around. There are also a couple of new types of pieces that slow you down or speed you up, and I don't remember Cat Physics having those. While the game incorporates many of the obstacles and level features of that game, you'll also encounter some new ones. Once you've hit the play button and set things into motion, you can tap on the right side of the screen to speed things up, which is another small but very appreciated addition. There are some excellent score boards in the game that give you a lot more information than you usually see in these kinds of games, and you can even save up to three solutions for each level, giving you the ability to try new ideas but still go back and tweak existing ones to squeeze out a better score.
Most of the differences in Lightlands are the kinds of things that will matter most to serious fans of Cat Physics, which makes sense as the developer is himself a big fan. To the layperson, these improvements mostly fall into the category of things that make for a slightly more enjoyable experience without being obvious. At heart, this is a set of new levels for people who enjoyed Cat Physics. Its refinements make it a slightly better game in a lot of ways, but there's no question the game comes up short in a couple of areas.
It lacks a strong sense of personality, since the cats have been replaced with, well, nothing. The levels themselves look nice enough, using light and darkness in conjunction with stark designs to create a good atmosphere. I especially enjoy how your star ranking is displayed at the end of the level by turning on the appropriate number of lights hanging in the stage. Some nice atmospheric sounds play in the background that contribute to the somewhat bleak feel. It's just a shame there aren't any characters to connect to. I know that's not something that matters from a gameplay point of view, but I guess what I'm saying is that if you're going to try to usurp cats, you need to bring something to the table more exciting than "ball with nuke symbol". I'm not the biggest fan of the questionable designs used in the similar game Foot Nut [$0.99], but at least it was something.
The biggest strength of the game is also its biggest weakness. The game is ultimately a deeper plunge into a very familiar experience. For fans of Cat Physics looking for more, Lightlands will definitely satisfy, as it has for many in our forums. If you've never played that game, I'd actually recommend this one over it, since Lightlands is a bit cheaper and has a lot of refinements. If you played Cat Physics until you got tired of it, however, this game doesn't really do anything exciting to add to that years-old experience.
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