Cat Sandbox harkens back to the good ol' days with its pixel-art visuals and retro-inspired soundtrack. It doesn't have anything overly complicated going for it, to be honest, but after my short but sweet romp through its colourful levels, suffice it to say that it's now one of my favourite experiences on mobile, hands-down.Table of contents:
I can't stress how alluring that is to me - seeing the wayward pixelated cat on my screen immediately activated my desire to reunite him with his little box house with a flag on it because it's simply equivalent to doing the Lord's work.
That said, the initial appeal never really waned throughout the whole thing, as the funky beats in the background - that took me back to my Family Computer days - kept me going from one level to the next.
Things start simply enough - just place a bomb or two here to create a pathway for Chubbs (okay, so I unofficially named my pixelated cat Chubbs) to reach his cardboard box. Eventually, levels get more and more complicated, as you'll get other tools like mines, sand, water, and even magical portals.
The levels themselves are vibrant and varied - one minute you're filling gaps with sand then redirecting the flow of lava the next. There are also different factors that come into play in the later stages, such as blocked zones where items aren't allowed and stages where timing is of the essence. For instance, you'll sometimes have to hit the "Start" button at precisely the right moment to make sure things go as planned.
To spice up the gameplay even more, each level has special conditions that you can aim for, like collecting stars, clearing a level within a specific timeframe, or using a limited number of items. These earn you points that you can use to unlock the rest of the levels, which conveniently gives you an out if you ever get stuck in a specific stage. You can simply skip that one and attempt to come back to it at a later time, provided there are other stages that you've already unlocked.
Even my husband - who kept peering over my shoulder making backseat-driver suggestions until he eventually ended up playing a few levels himself - found the game so incredibly engaging that we both spent an entire night laughing at how Chubbs and his grey friend would wind up flopping underwater or flailing their paws through the air thanks to our ingenuity.
The visuals, the music, the cats (sometimes, a chonky grey one joins the fun) - the whole game is just good vibes all around. Once or twice, I kind of wished there was a handy hint system or a level editor where I could create my own machinations to let Chubbs loose in, but those are just minor nitpicks, as the game is already precious enough as it is.
When you clear all the levels, you'll be rewarded with a shot of Chubbs happily thanking you for your efforts, as the gorgeous sea awaits him in the background. There's a ship in there too, which makes me hope there might be a sequel to this - but for now, I can rest easy knowing Chubbs is off to his next adventure, hopefully with fewer bombs and mines along the way.