Pudding Monsters review: Another hit from the creators of Cut the Rope

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Mobile games tend to lean toward cutesy and quirky in presentation and style. The idea, started thanks to Rovio’s success with Angry Birds, is to capitalize on every opportunity for marketability. The game doesn’t sell for much, but mark up on merchandise is significantly more profitable. It’s not uncommon to see wannabes fail at this, and even successful studios can’t always recreate the magic. For ZeptoLab, the creators of Cut the Rope, the task would be harder than usual. Not only was their first game a huge hit that dethroned Angry Birds, but it also became a commercial success outside of the virtual world. The studio’s new title, Pudding Monsters, has a lot of expectations as a game and a brand. It definitely doesn’t fall short on the game front, and we’ve got a feeling we’ll see Pudding Monsters plushies on store shelves soon.

Stripping this game down to the bare bones reveals little innovative. It’s a sliding puzzle game, something that has been around well before it found a modern home on tablets and smartphones. There are plenty of games already available in the App Store with a similar premise, but those titles weren’t made by ZeptoLab. Even if the studio didn’t break any new ground in the genre, it still put together one of the finest and funnest sliding puzzle titles around.

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As one would expect in a sliding puzzle game, you’ll be sliding things around a game board for the majority of your play time. In Pudding Monsters, your pieces are little blobs of pudding, though they look and act more like gelatin (or Jello). Different colors have different abilities that will affect how you approach each puzzle. Variables are added at consistent intervals, with new types of pudding or new objects on the game board that change the dynamic of the slide. The only problem is, all of these elements never seem to accumulate into anything especially big. You’ll also have the same goal in mind every time: to combine every pudding piece on the screen into one solitary monster that’s large enough to fight back against the hands of the invasive and gluttonous human.

Pudding Monsters operates on the premise of “easy to play, difficult to master.” Odds are good that you will be able to figure out some way to put all the pudding together in every level. That isn’t the challenge, though. The real goal is to put together your pudding in a way that will have it encompass the three star pads on the game board. While most games opt for a star system that encourages speed or collecting a certain amount of an item, Pudding Monsters ditches the rushing clock and the out-of-the-way objectives and instead allows you to take your time and try to get the perfect placement. There are sometimes multiple solutions to levels and you may get the same stars in different ways if you were to play again. If you’re playing through Pudding Monsters with no intention of collecting every star, don’t expect the experience to last long; You can blow through the 75 levels in no time. It’s the head scratching, trial and error of trying to get all three stars that adds extended play time to Pudding Monsters.

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While the gameplay tends to play it safe, the real step forward for ZeptoLab is in the visuals. The animations are impressive and it’s fun to see the way the pieces behave with one another. Watching pudding blobs combine and take on traits of the other, like adopting the hat or moustache that one piece was wearing, is a simple but joyous element that keeps the mood light and friendly. The cartoony style of the entire experience is pitch perfect, from the nonsensical, Sims-like chatter between the pudding to the watching eyes of each piece that will follow the moves you make on screen. There are little details that really add to the overall ambience of the game.

Despite what could be debated as a lack of difficulty, Pudding Monsters manages to add a new flavor to the sliding puzzle genre. The cute and clever style that ZeptoLab has mastered combined with an ever-changing game board and deep puzzles make this a late contender for mobile game of the year. ZeptoLab is promising more levels soon. We can’t wait.

You can download Pudding Monsters from the iTunes App Store for $1 on iPhone or iPad.