This is how my non-gamer girlfriend shows me which games are worth playing: She stays up until 3 a.m., wearing down the iPad mini battery to 22 percent while she tries to solve the next level.
This time, she bathed our dark bedroom in colorful reflected light while she moved Niko, Groggnar, Eek and Claude around on the screen in Monsters Ate My Birthday Cake. If it’s so important to solve environmental puzzles on the bright screen in the middle of the night, I know the game’s addictive.
This morning, still playing on the couch after charging up the iPad while she (finally) got some sleep, she told me like it is.
“It took me 15 minutes, but I finally got that level,” she bragged. “With three stars, bitch.”
Monsters Ate My Birthday Cake, from developer Sleep Ninja and published by Cartoon Network, is a super-adorable, eminently addictive romp that has you figuring out how to best use the various characters on offer to gather up all the birthday cake stolen by monsters from Niko, the erstwhile protagonist of the story.
The puzzles start out easy and then ramp up the difficulty with a progression curve that always feels fair: You may get stuck, but the answer is often tantalizingly close.
The level design is fairly ingenious, and features cute little monsters and twee conversations. Groggnar, the first monster you meet, can run and smash into certain obstacles to clear the way for more cake. He speaks in achingly cute grammatically incorrect sentences, while Eek, the little yellow bat-monster that can freeze enemies with her sonic scream, only speaks in emoticons. Claude is a cyclops-eyed bunny who can dig under obstacles to get more cake or find keys to unlock bearded men with big ears who have somehow been caged by the shadowlike Boogins, who stole the cake in the first place. We don’t like Boogins.
You get a lot for your $4.99, which is refreshing in a world full of free-to-download energy-timer games. There are tons of levels (my girlfriend is only a third of the way through them and she played all night), and they all require your brain to be engaged. You’ll never have to stop playing to wait for a time, nor will you have to shovel in more money to keep playing when you’re super into solving a puzzle.
If you’re a fan of charmingly endearing characters and a habit-forming dose of puzzle solving, Monsters Ate My Birthday Cake is the one to get.
Me, I just want my iPad back. And maybe a nap.
Monsters Ate My Birthday Cake by Sleep Ninja, Cartoon Network ($4.99)