Monsters Ate My Birthday Cake [$4.99] is one of my favorite games of the year. It's a puzzle game that's bright & colorful, but decidedly not just for kids. It's a game that has complexity without frustration, and takes place in a wonderful world that helps make it so much fun to just play again and again.

It's a puzzle game where switching between multiple characters becomes necessary to solve puzzles. Each level has a specific character loadout, and it becomes about using their various abilities to navigate the levels. There's a lot of box-pushing, but different abilities for stunning enemies, creating new paths, and the like come into play. There are enemies, but the game isn't necessarily about combat: there are sometimes ways to defeat them, but often they must be avoided, or manipulated into being useful.

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There's a definite Zelda series influence here, from the idea of a child hero going on a seemingly-innocuous quest, to the feel of pushing blocks around, to some of the music, and even one direct name reference. There's a number of other gaming references sprinkled throughout, too, but make no mistake: this is a game that stands on its own as its own unique entity. It plays like few other games, but also has its own character and sense of whimsy to it.

The game is absolutely gorgeous: it's another good reason to have a Retina iPad. The characters aren't necessarily complicated designs, but are very charming, especially with the simple animations that give them just enough character. The soundtrack is fantastic as well, and sounds great on headphones.

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The controls handle manipulating multiple characters about as well as is possible. It'spossible to switch focus on the character by tapping their icon on top of the screen, or by just tapping-and-dragging from the character on the screen. When two characters are by each other, there can be some mix-ups, but otherwise, the system works well, and makes it possible to queue up movements for multiple characters.

The game does a spectacular job at striking a balance between being complex without feeling complicated. The puzzles involve switching back and forth often, yes, but rarely in a frustrating way, just in ways that require perhaps experimenting or looking at things in a different way. The star goals, which become required to unlock side levels, do a good job at not just being about completing levels more quickly, but about throwing in new ways to play levels. There's some good old-fashioned fetch quests and the occasional secret to find, but nothing feels unnecessarily obscure.

Don't be confused by the Cartoon Network's publishing of the game: while this is a game that can be played by kids, adults and any kind of 'gamer' will find that it puts up a good fight.

This is a game that's supremely difficult to put down, because of the balance between challenging players while remaining fun. Completing levels is so satisfying, in part because the world that's been created is so enjoyable. This game is just way too satisfying.

TouchArcade Rating

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  • Himmat Singh

    I'm not usually a fan of puzzle games (get too frustrating as you approach the 50% or 2/3rd mark), but yeah this does look good.

    Is there back-tracking involved? Any elements of other game genres, or is it a straight-up puzzler?

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  • Breinstein

    Surprised that the somewhat fiddly controls are not mentioned in the review

    • Danilo

      suspicious indeed. I gave it 1 star for horrible controls

      • Bri

        But Touch Arcade gave it 5 stars... how can anything NOT be absolutely perfect?

  • Donny K76

    With respect to the author of the review, the controls are downright awful. How this can come close to 5 stars is beyond me.

    • Himmat Singh

      Author might have played the PC version for the review, I don't know.

    • http://toucharcade.com Eli Hodapp

      It'd be helpful if you elaborated on why you thought they were awful instead of leaving a typical nasty five star review comment. I haven't had any issue with them, so I'd be curious where you're getting stuck? (Other people reading this comment thread would likely also be interested.)

      • Donny K76

        Eli, it was not a typical nasty comment. I said "With respect to the author," and I was sincere. The controls in terms of maneuvering the boxes, (pushing and pulling) getting them to the correct location, as well as switching between characters are frustrating. I have an iPad Air 128 gig non jail-broken. I've played Sokoban type games before and for me, the controls don't cut it. I always thought that no matter how wonderful the graphics, sounds, etc. are of a game, it all comes down to the controls.

      • bilboad

        Putting "no offense meant" before saying something offensive, or putting "with all due respect" before saying something disrespectful, doesn't really change what you said after your disclaimer.

        In this case, the reviewer didn't ignore the controls, and in fact explicitly said he thought the controls worked very well. So how do you respond to a situation where someone else finds the controls to work very well, and you find them awful? That depends on how much you respect that other person. If you do respect their opinion, then you'd probably think something like: "Hmm, maybe we just have different preferences for controls, or maybe there's something I haven't figured out about using the controls that he has." If you don't respect the other person, then you're likely to say something like "The controls are objectively awful, and it's beyond me how they could have given this 5 stars". Putting "with respect" before you say that doesn't make it more respectful.

      • Donny K76

        Bilboa, you don't know me, so please don't judge me. I do not appreciate your extremely condescending comment, but we all have a right to say what we want, and how we want to. However, if you don't like the way I phrase sentences, tough tits.

      • bilboad

        I'm not judging you, I'm only judging your comment. Maybe you honestly aren't aware of this, but "How this can come close to 5 stars is beyond me." would be interpreted by most people as suggesting that the author was mistaken to give the rating they did. Maybe you didn't actually mean that way.

        In any case, I certainly think you have a right to not respect the author and to say so. I also think other people have a right to call you on it if you claim to respect the author when your words seem to suggest otherwise.

      • Donny K76

        We are the world...we are the children...we are the ones who make a brighter day, so let's start giving..:) I am trying not to take life to seriously this week as I await responses for a couple of job interviews. I simply got screwed out of 5 dollars, but others might enjoy the game immensely. To each his/her own.

      • bilboad

        Good luck on your job search. And sorry for adding some stress to your day. It's easy to slip into being more harsh than I would have been in person and forget how what I'm saying might affect the person on the other end.

      • Donny K76

        Thanks, Bilboa.

      • ImJPaul

        Ah. Resolution.

      • DrDoomRay

        That was intense!

      • Kakorot214

        Terrible controls bring out the worst in people.

      • dancj

        I don't particularly think the comment showed any disrespect, but I do agree with you in principle about phrases like "with all due respect" and "I don't mean to be rude but".

        A friend of mine named them 'absolution prefixes'. Works quite well I think.

      • Cookies

        The problem here is that it's not actually even remotely a disrespectful comment. There's a polite notice, followed by 2 opinions that don't insult or demean the author and it's clearly not directing anything negative at Eli. He made a valid point and then followed it up, when asked, with an equally neutral (if not actually positive) comment that is well worded and non-insulting.

        Whilst yes, saying "no offence" (or equivalents) is usually followed by something offensive, Donny clearly used the phrase correctly. Having an opinion and stating it in a non-confrontational manner is not the same as lacking in respect.

      • Cevan7

        How is switching between characters hard? You just tap on the character's icon at the top of the screen.

      • Superatomic

        Eli did you review on PC version or iPhone version?

      • http://toucharcade.com Eli Hodapp

        Why would we review an iOS game on a PC? Of course we're playing it on an iPhone.

      • Bri

        Maybe he didn't play it for very long... the way Eli churns out 5-star reviews, I doubt he actually spends any good amount of time playing through any game other than Hearthstone.

      • http://toucharcade.com Eli Hodapp

        I feel like you need to learn what a byline is before throwing out weird accusations.

      • Bri

        Is this Carter's site or Eli's site? Is there any editorial overview or can anyone post whatever they want...

      • HelperMonkey

        Whether you complain about the way "Eli churns out 5-star reviews" or change your complaint to say he is failing in his oversight of the site's content, you are still predicating your argument on the idea that Eli himself should be thoroughly playing and developing a substantive opinion on every game that the site addresses. In either case, your implication is that Eli doesn't spend enough time, or have enough time, to accurately judge every game on the site. You are correct, then. Good job! To rectify this situation, he could either severely reduce the amount of content on the site (and maybe stop eating or sleeping), or he could delegate responsibility to other staff. He apparently chooses the latter, so that the site can provide and maintain a broad and substantial range and depth of content. This is probably the reason that you are here on the site, complaining. Anyway, my main point is just that you sound silly. Stop it.

      • Superatomic

        Eli sorry.
        I only asked because some guy called "himmat Singh" above suggested you may have played it on PC so just wanted to know if that was true.

  • Danilo

    Wayward souls have already figured out what good controls are for this kind of perspective. Why would the developers want to insist in this kind of control?

    You have to put your finger usually in the very center of the screen and its imprecise and covers everything and the double click does not work, and suddenly you wanna throw the iphone on the wall.

    Maybe on IPad is not so bad, but on iphone (4) its horrible.

  • ImJPaul

    I personally like the controls. I wish they wouldn't zoom the perspective out but I think they work very well. As far as gameplay though, 5 BILLION STARS!!!! MUAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. Seriously though, game has oodles of content, deep, engaging gameplay, simple but clean graphics and is iOS exclusive. This is everything we ask for so enjoy it. ;-)

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  • Papa Deuce

    I don't have this game but I predict GOTW, just because it is always a gameinformer wouldn't choose.

  • Papa Deuce

    Bah, auto correct above.

  • Ultima12

    Crap!!! Another game that I have to buy!! Haha!! It's a good thing :)

Monsters Ate My Birthday Cake Reviewed by Carter Dotson on . Rating: 5