Well, it’s not every day you come across a cute little kitten raising game that involves tile matching and alien abductions. That’s the premise of Kitten Sanctuary, a quirky match-3 game that’s surprisingly engaging. Don’t worry – the space aliens barely feature in the game play, and not a hair on a kitten’s head is harmed.  

When the game begins, the alien invasion of Kitten Island has already begun. These aliens are clever, and they try to lure kittens into their traps with goodies like milk and canned fish. Your job is to rescue the trapped kittens by making matches over energy squares, while gathering resources to support your kitten colony.

Kitten Sanctuary
is divided into two parts – the match-3 game, and the kitten raising “sanctuary” section. The rules are remarkably simple. To play the match-3 section, you must swap adjacent tiles, making matches of three or more of one type. Unlike many match three games, you may swap tiles diagonally. You can also move tiles into blank spaces, giving you more matching possibilities.

The power ups include bomb and fireball tiles, which destroy everything in a limited proximity, shuffle tiles, and time-stopping tiles. In addition, there’s a glowing kitten head in the corner. When it’s filled up, you can fire up a laser that destroys a good portion on the playing board.   

You are timed in normal and tricky mode (but not in easy mode), so the clock counts.  Should you fail, your kittens will be in a bad mood back at the sanctuary, but you’ll have a second chance to save the kitty. You can increase the difficulty level to “tricky” if you want more tiles to clear.  

There are also a few obstacles in the game (like locked tiles), although in general, it should be pretty easy for the average player. Worth noting were the basket obstacles. These baskets are full of items. You need to make matches alongside them to free the items inside, until the basket is finally emptied and cleared from the board. This is something different, although a bit tedious at times.  

If you haven’t made a match in a while, you’re given a hint to keep things moving. As for bonuses, you can earn a shape bonus if your tiles make matches in multiple directions. If you make large combo matches, you’ll earn more power ups.  

Clearing the board isn’t your only objective. You need to gather resources, much like in Cradle of Rome, in order to support your cats. There are three types of resources to gather during each round, which are gathered by matching the relevant tiles. If you can max out all three resources before beating the round, your kittens will get a mood bonus. However, if you fail to meet this goal, you must try to buy the remaining resources from the shop.

On occasion, you’ll encounter a trap board. For these, you must gather resources as quickly as possible in order to win against the alien invader. You can replay previous trap rounds by clicking the level marker.  

Once you’ve rescued a kitten, it ends up in the sanctuary. Your main goal here is to keep your kittens happy, or else they might run away and get captured again. A kitten’s mood is shown by the number of happy green kitten faces over its head. Random factors like the weather or special events can increase or decrease a kitten’s mood, but keeping them happy is pretty easy. Make sure you buy them nice decorations, take a bit of time to play with them when they’re feeling down, and make sure you don’t run low on supplies.  

Clicking on a kitten lets you learn more about it’s personality, likes, and dislikes. For example, Peaches likes evenings on the beach and romantic stories, but she hates beans on toast. These little clips don’t matter much, but they’re silly and fun to read.  You can “grab” a kitten and move it around, or dangle a toy in front of it to keep it happy and active. The kittens are very well animated, and do cute things like jump in the air to try and catch the toy if you dangle it high up, or swat at it playfully if you hold it down low.  

While you start off on the beach, you can eventually unlock three other sanctuaries for your kittens. When you move to a new sanctuary, you can buy new decorations, and earn new gifts. However, the toys stay the same, and so does the gameplay.   

All in all, there are 100 levels, three game modes variations, and 50 kittens to save, so it takes a while to beat. The length is very good, taking multiple hours to play, but the replay value is debatable.  

As for production values, they’re on par. The music includes several variations of the tropical theme. It’s pleasant, and fun, and fits loosely with the game’s theme.  The graphics sort of grew on me as I played. The animations are well done, and there are plenty of them. There are lots of fancy light-show effects, too. Other than that, it’s your typical hand-drawn cartoon style artwork.

Kitten Sanctuary
is one of those games that manages to be cute and fluffy, yet has a lot more going on under the surface. I have to admit, when I first glanced over the cartoonish 2D graphics and game description, I initially expected it would be simple and geared towards children. I was very surprised, however, at the amount of detail added. While it’s very simple to play, there are many ways to make large combos and use your power-ups. This versatility makes it a good family game, especially if you’re looking for one to share with your kids or grandkids.

For similar games, try Cradle of Rome, Cradle of Persia, and Fishdom.