When you’re a kid there are typically a few things you hope to have on your birthday. One is presents and the other is a delicious birthday cake. So when Niko’s birthday cake goes missing in Monsters Ate My Birthday Cake, he doesn’t take things sitting down. He rushes out of his placid town and seeks to find the creatures who ruined his special day. The concept is utterly adorable, but how does that storyline mesh with gameplay?
Monsters Ate My Birthday Cake is a puzzle game with a slant towards a younger audience. From a top down perspective, players are tasked with navigating a maze-like field to eat up all the cake slices. There are other goals per level too, such as nabbing dispersed coins and completing the stage in a short period of time. The puzzling aspect comes in via switches, patrolling enemies and other obstructions.
Things start out pretty easy as Niko can take care of all switches and navigating by himself. However, it’s not long before some monster buddies aid him on his journey. From this point on multiple characters must be switched between and their skills used in conjunction to make it through stages. Each has their own exclusive ability such as burrowing underground, freezing water to create new walkways, stopping enemies in their tracks.
Puzzles increase in difficulty at a very careful pace, slowly teaching players what tricks they need to be aware of. Eventually, puzzles actually become challenging and require a set method of execution. Those who wish to clear all challenges will even find themselves playing certain levels more than once. Unfortunately skilled puzzle fans might find that it takes entirely too long for Monsters Ate My Birthday Cake to become at all difficult, if ever. Most early stages are a total breeze for those outside the apparent child-focused audience.
Niko and the friends he makes across the world are all cute, un-terrifying monsters. Even the evil Boogins (who stole the cake) still look like darling little creatures. The entire aesthetic is very cartoon driven and appealing. Alongside the bright colors and cutesy designs is an equally enticing soundtrack. Tracks are fairly simple which leads to them getting stuck in your head. Each song is also mellow enough to keep from bothering you while thinking about each new puzzle.
Although it looks like a charming children’s game, older gamers might find themselves surprised by how much fun they have with it. Once you get beyond the sugary-sweet visuals, there is a script filled with teen-styled dialog. The writing feels similar to cartoons like Adventure Time and leads to a lot of purposeful silliness. Some may dislike the humor but you can easily skip text if that’s the case and jump right to more puzzles, over ten hours of them in all. There’s even more to the game than simple puzzle stages as you try to discover secrets, help the townsfolk, and purchase cool new goods for Niko.
The user interface is obviously smartphone-esque with large buttons and icons. Thankfully, the control scheme has been perfectly tuned for PC use. Players can navigate everything with mouse and keyboard without issue (and none of that “swipe” motion emulation). Xbox 360 gamepad buttons and colors are displayed prominently on menus even if you use keyboard and mouse. Speaking of which, the Xbox 360 controller support is fabulous. Although Monsters Ate My Birthday Cake can be nabbed on Android or iOS, PC feels like the ideal platform thanks to a larger screen and quicker control.
One thing definitely worth noting when making a choice between platforms is the price difference. Unlike many smartphone games, this is one of the rare titles that is absolutely free from in-app purchases. There’s no “pay to win” mechanics involved, nor any timers to delay progress. Because of this, a higher price on PC seems harder to defend. Usually a higher priced port is due to its inclusion of all in-app purchases, after all. The Steam release does offer benefits, such as the previously noted full Xbox 360 gamepad support, as well as Steam Trading Cards and Achievements. If you absolutely need those aspects then perhaps the higher price will be worth it to you, otherwise just nab it on Android/iOS for $4.99 instead.
If you’re looking for a puzzler with a gentle difficulty curve then Monsters Ate My Birthday Cake is a good choice. Of course, it also helps that the game is unabashedly adorable and has tons of puzzles to work through. The monster-switching mechanic is fun and lends itself well to a wide variety of levels. Players simply need to know that the game is mostly tailored toward younger audiences, which means puzzles are most often on the simple side. Whether you nab Monsters Ate My Birthday Cake for PC or smartphones, it should provide a great deal of puzzling goodness.
Version Reviewed: PC