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REVIEW | Charming “Monsters” Satisfies Puzzle-Fueled Sweet Tooth

By
Posted on July 7, 2014 AT 06:30am

SleepNinja Games’ took me by surprise at this past year’s PAX East with their game Monsters Ate My Birthday Cake. It looked fun, cute, and appealing to just about everyone who loves a great puzzle. The real surprise was waiting in the wings of the full version, as it turns out how massively brilliant the game really is.

Taking place on the island of Gogapoe Monsters Ate My Birthday Cake follows a young boy named Niko. It’s his special day, and all he wants to do is eat cake for breakfast. Sadly his dreams are cast aside when he sees his birthday cake gone, with a trail of crumbs leading outside. Leaving his village behind he comes across Groggnar, a monster who is not interested in cake. He tells Niko that his dessert was consumed by the evil Boogins, led by a monster known as the Boogin King. Together Niko, Groggnar, and the rest of the friendly monsters they meet along the way travel onward to defeat the Boogins, and the deeper the adventure goes the more Niko realizes that it’s not just his cake he’s having to save.

In each level the main goal is to collect all the pieces of cake, and the trail towards the sugary goodness is never easy. Obstacles like boxes, lava, rivers, and Boogins are at nearly every turn, keeping you from reaching the goal by any means necessary. As you progress you gain the friendship of various other monsters, each of which have their own special powers to use to your advantage. Groggnar’s charge can knock out enemies and take down blocked areas that may help you reach cake or free up your other furry friends. Biff using his freezing techniques to turn water and lava into ice, as well as enemies into ice blocks that can be used for activating switches. Poot’s, um, poots can stun enemies, kill thorny vines, and grow mushrooms to reach those hard-to-traverse places.

If you or one of your monsters gets knocked out then you’ll have the start all over again. There are no checkpoints in the game, which may irk some players who are near the end of a level only to succumb to a dumb mistake. It’s one of (or, perhaps, the only) flaw in the game, but it’s something that I’m sure most players will easily overlook in the long run.

During Monsters Ate My Birthday Cake you are also tasked with various item-finding quests for your fellow villagers, as well as other monsters that may join your party later on. These items range from collecting honey jars for your friend’s badger, locating a rubber ducky for a water-loving monster, and obtaining stinky eyebrow-melting cheese for a guy to present to the girl he loves. (You can only guess how that turns out in the end.) Completing these quests will then give you access to more coin, new costumes, or just the overall satisfaction that you helped a friend in need.

What makes this game so delightful is its story. At first it starts out simple, with Niko’s lust for birthday cake being his main objection. However as the game progresses you find that his motives change as he sees the state his friends’ homeland has been ravaged by the Boogin King. There soon lies deeper meaning in Niko’s journey, one that will surprise any gamer walking into this adventure thinking it’d be just a silly fun time through-and-through.

Fortunately Monsters Ate My Birthday Cake is very funny, ranging from how Boogins react to some of the monsters’ powers to the dialogue spoken in the game. One of the funniest moments comes in the form of Prizzy, a Unihorn monster who appears during the final world. She speaks with little sense, in a way that will get more chuckles out of the older crowd rather than the younger. (One quip involving missing pants had me bust out laughing late in the evening as I played.)

The game is also quite easing on the eyes. Looking like something from Tokidoki or Japanese artist Mari-chan the characters and worlds are brimming with personality and lighthearted goofiness. Even when a serious moment arises, and the worlds get darker (especially when you cross into a colorless dimension) the overall appearance of the game will have you smiling from game start to when you achieve 100% completion.

Composer Disasterpeace, who has worked on such games as Fez and Shoot Many Robots, showcases how he has mastered the art of scoring video games. Ever as delightful as the worlds you come across in the music is a cheerful romp that acts as the melodious backbone to Monsters Ate My Birthday Cake. It’s adorable, yet at the same time quite beautiful, especially towards the end of the game.

Completing the story in Monsters Ate My Birthday Cake may take you around four hours, but even as the credits roll there may be other tasks you still need to complete. With new costumes, different monsters, and harder goals to complete there are various good reasons why you’ll want to come back to Gogapoe in order to complete the entire game.

PROS:

  • Fantastic puzzles
  • Great story, funny dialogue
  • Adorable worlds, sweet music

CONS:

  • No checkpoints if you mess up

FINAL THOUGHTS:

Monsters Ate My Birthday Cake may be this year’s best puzzle game. From its charming appearance to its challenging levels there is much to love in SleepNinja’s first video game, paving way to hopefully bigger adventures in the developers’ lifespan. In short: there is practically nothing here that’ll disappoint puzzle fans, and considering Cartoon Network has licensed this game we can only hope that we’ll get a Monsters Ate My Birthday Cake TV show (or at the very least a special) somewhere down the line.

FINAL GRADE: 9.7 (out of ten)

Steam review code provided by Angie Weiss of Cartoon Network

Evan Bourgault is an accomplished music, anime, and video game critic. His passion for discovering new bands, developers, and Japanese pop culture began in his college radio days and continues on today. Evan joined the ElectricSistaHood team in 2008, where he is a contributing editor and host of one of the network's weekly podcasts. Follow Evan on Twitter at twitter.com/King_Baby_Duck




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