In the early years of home video games, titles like Burger Time, Lode Runner, Donkey Kong, and others built fortunes by running their players up and down ladders, dangling them from ropes, and chasing them down with bizarre bad guys. In some cases the goal was to rescue the girl. In others it was to make a sandwich or the high score list.
In Sandlot’s Granny in Paradise, the goal is to rescue your cats from natives and dogs. You scamper around the game screen using your keyboard’s arrow keys, climbing up and down ladders, digging holes to trap bad guys, and jumping off cliffs to retrieve your precious kitties, all while spouting “granny power” quips at every opportunity.
When crossed, the cats follow you as you navigate the level and lead them to the goal. Cat owners will recognize herding cats as an impossible situation, but the game is much more fun to play if you suspend your disbelief for a minute. The more cats in your herd, the more points you’ll score when you safely bring them off the stage. But if you fall into the clutches of an enemy or off the screen, all undelivered cats will reset to their earlier locations, so there is some risk in going for the big points. Once all the cats are saved, a gate to the next level appears in the form of a flower with a swirling colored wormhole at its middle.
Other floral imagery adorns the game. As you step through a level, hidden flowers sometimes sprout in your path, scoring you bonus points. They’re very difficult to spot until you pass them, and make for another scoring opportunity for those who wish to see their names at the top of the daily or all-time Internet scoreboards. Other plant life in the game includes special man-eating flowers and ladder-vines, which you can grow by picking up a watering can.
Items scattered about the board give Granny special powers for thirty seconds at a time. The umbrella allows you to float through the air and reach areas inaccessible to platform or ladder. A handbag turns Granny into a brawling machine, swinging the thing like she’s competing in the Olympic hammer toss and smacking bad guys around a bit. The various items are introduced gradually over the game’s whopping 170 levels and are explained well. The game is easy to pick up and play, thanks to the exceptional tutorial. If you can’t get enough, a level editor is included, letting you build your own maps and share them online for free.
The play is quick and tense at times. Digging holes to trap enemies can be frustrating if you don’t have the timing down just right. Also, the cats following you can be skittish, leading them to go off on their own or get stuck somewhere and need more rescuing.
Granny in Paradise looks all right; neither overly polished nor an eyesore. Still, much of the character and enemy animation is rough around the edges, and in comparison to most new casual games, the lower quality graphics are quite noticeable.
The quality of the sound is something determined by one’s tolerance for puns, really. Granny shouts constantly about kitty this and handbag that and “I should have worn my bikini” or “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up.” These can be actually quite funny the first half-dozen times, but 170 levels makes for a long time to hear these lines over and over again. Add to that some repetitive calypso music and the game can grow hard on the ears.
Granny in Paradise is a game that you can get a long life out of, so long as you play it in short stints. It’s not going to leave you frothing to find out what happens on the next level, but it may make you laugh a bit – especially if you enjoy taking on the persona of an aggressive, active and rather high-spirited person. Of course, if you happen to be a cat and parachute-loving, sarcastic grandmother yourself (or the daughter of one), you may find that Granny in Paradise hits a little close to home.