It’s hard not to buy a game called Cat on a Diet, particularly after reading the premise, which sees you help the very round Dr. Meow find his way to the cookie jar, something he secretly does at night while his owner’s asleep. It’s the kind of genius cat lovers can’t resist. However, impulse buys don’t always work out well, so should you think twice before grabbing Cat on a Diet?
No, is the simple answer, as it’s one of the best physics games we’ve played in a while, thanks mainly to the lovable Dr. Meow, who helps make you forget about the game’s frustrations. The game is reminiscent of another Chillingo physics title, Cut the Rope, as the levels are set out in a similar fashion. They’re played on a single screen, and see Dr. Meow balanced, often precariously, on some kind of shelf, but too far away from the cookie jar to dip in a paw.
The challenge is to get Dr. Meow inside the jar, while collecting at least one of the three floating cupcakes dotted around the screen. Now, Dr. Meow, being a cat of size, isn’t one for moving around, so to get him to the jar you must slash the blocks and shelves apart, so wobbly Dr. Meow is guided to his goal. Cutting blocks is performed with a swipe across the screen. There’s no limit to the amount of slashes, and it’s possible to cut away enough so the blocks disappear.
This adds another dimension to the game, as it’s not just about understanding the physics, but also about speed and precision. Many times, the first swipe is the most important, but if your reflexes are good enough, levels can be rescued even when you can see they’re about to go terribly wrong. Each level can be restarted if Dr. Meow doesn’t reach the cookies, and it’s not essential to collect all the cupcakes to advance through the levels. Later on, things get quite difficult, so this comes in handy.
If you’re really having difficulty, there are a few power-ups – a magnet which attracts the cupcakes to Dr. Meow, and a bubble to see him soar through the air – but these are primarily acquired through in-app purchases. However, don’t worry, they’re not essential in any way to completing the game. You can also find bonus items of clothing on some levels, which Dr. Meow can wear, adding a degree of personalisation.
Dr. Meow is, of course, the star of the show. He’s round and adorable, and his expressions as he squeezes through gaps which are slightly too small are perfect. Watching him roll around, or hearing him meow when you tap his tummy, makes the game worthwhile. It’s right up there with Cat Physics in terms of cat gaming fun. It can get frustrating though, as Dr. Meow’s wobbly tummy can sometimes mean he unfairly misses the jar, and the physics of the chewing gum bubbles are annoyingly random.
Graphically and sonically, Cat on a Diet is fine, but nothing more, and there are plenty of similar physics titles available in the App Store already. However, it costs just £0.69 and is universal for the iPhone and the iPad, plus the in-app purchases are non-essential. The 90 levels included, which can be revisited to collect all the cupcakes, should keep even keen physics gamers occupied for a while, and Chillingo is usually good at adding content to its games following a successful release. Ultimately, the game’s appeal comes down to Dr. Meow. He’s even cuter in the game than he is in the screenshots here, and seeing his face as he rolls around the screen is worth the price alone.