Game Reviews

Critter Crunch

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Critter Crunch

Life in the jungle can be hard: less dog-eat-dog and more tarantula-eat-tiger-eat-monkey. Although not necessarily in that order.

But not for everyone. Take Biggs, for example. He's a round orange fella who lives in the jungle, spending his time gobbling up cute critters hanging from the jungle canopy. His manners could do with some work, though: he then spits them into the mouths of bigger critters to make them burst, munching the resulting gems that fall down.

Okay, so you've twigged that this isn't a natural history lesson, and Biggs doesn't actually exist in the real world. It's the plot of Critter Crunch, one of Pocket Gamer's favourite ever mobile games (click to read our Critter Crunch mobile review) that's just been converted to iPhone.

It certainly deserves a wider audience than it got on mobile. The iPhone version follows the same formula, introducing you to the game's various elements over the first few levels. Essentially, it's the catch-spit-pop dynamic described above, working against a time limit as the critters advance down the screen.

So what are those elements? Well, you score extra points by popping a critter that's part of a chain of similarly-coloured friends, who'll all pop at the same time and give you extra points.

There are also 'Food Chain' combos. If you feed a small critter to a medium-sized critter who's under a big one, the big one will then chomp him straight up and pop, dropping a coin to boost your combo further.

As you work your way through, you'll start to encounter power-ups, or 'Power Foods' as they're known here. Pop a sparkling critter, and you get a power food, which turns into an icon at the bottom left. When tapped, you get a special ability for a limited number of uses, such as being able to spit watermelon seeds to pop critters and clear some space.

There's much more to discover too, with new elements constantly being added to keep you on your toes: Toxic Creatures, Bombers, Blockers and Wild Cards.

Mode-wise, there's the regular Adventure mode, but also a Puzzle variant, where you have to clear the screen of all critters within a certain number of moves. It's brain-taxing in a different way. Meanwhile, Time Challenge sees you working against a direct time limit.

That's the game itself, but it takes far less time to grasp than it does to explain. Critter Crunch is one of those beautifully intuitive puzzle games that sucks you in (no pun intended) and keeps you gripped for a long time.

The basic dynamics are fairly simple, but the strategy in lining up combos is very, very deep indeed. The game is also full of character, from the marvellous squishy sound effects to the expressions on Biggs and the critters' faces. It's absolutely charming.

Naturally, the controls have been reconfigured for the iPhone touchscreen. You move Biggs left and right by dragging him with your thumb or finger, while tapping on him flicks his tongue up to grab a critter (tapping again spits them out). You can also swipe upwards if that method suits you more.

It works well enough, although there were times when we hankered for the keypad controls of the original for digital precision (i.e. we occasionally spat up the wrong column, and want to blame someone else for our clumsiness).

Critter Crunch isn't the most high-profile iPhone launch game, but it's one of the most addictive, most well-crafted and, above all, most fun examples. It's not marked quite as high as the mobile version because of that slight control niggle, but we'd still recommend it as one of your first purchases from the App Store.

Critter Crunch

Less-than-perfect controls take a bite out of this otherwise charming puzzler adapted to iPhone
Stuart Dredge
Stuart Dredge
Stuart is a freelance journalist and blogger who's been getting paid to write stuff since 1998. In that time, he's focused on topics ranging from Sega's Dreamcast console to robots. That's what you call versatility. (Or a short attention span.)