Catty line-drawer fails to land on its feet
Why did the cat cross the road? Because you drew it a path, of course. That’s the premise of Cat Run, as an endless parade of kitties queue up to cross a busy road. It falls to you to help them negotiate their treacherous journey.
Under this cute and fluffy exterior lies a simple variation on Flight Control‘s line-drawing mechanic. Rather than directing hulking aircraft to their runways, you must sketch out the path for a variety of helpless felines, ranging from the nimble and slight to the decidedly podgy and slow.
If at any point mid-crossing you spot imminent disaster, you can touch the oblivious cat to stop them in their tracks. You can then re-sketch a safe path for them, or even send them back to their starting position, ready to try again.
Cats being cats, things frequently descend into, well, cattiness. As the numbers waiting for safe passage stack up, fights often break out. When this occurs you must give the duelling animals a swift tap to sort them out, lest their squabble carry them into the path of oncoming traffic.
In the same way – and slightly bizarrely – an intruding skunk may well send your cats into danger if they’re allowed to let off their stupefying stink. When you spot this striped intruder you must act quickly and brutally to send them into harms way the only way you know how – towards the wheels of a car.
As if you didn’t have enough on your plate, you also need to look out for obstacles placed in the middle of the road. These range from the relatively benign (such as a street lamp) to the treacherous (a manhole cover) and the downright malicious (a sewer-dwelling octopus). Each needs to be negotiated around, though it’s possible to take the octopus out of the equation with – you guessed it – a tap.
While my description of these gameplay elements makes Cat Run sound both varied and involved, it really isn’t. In fact it swiftly becomes quite monotonous.
The problem is that none of the systems require a great deal of skill or imagination to use, and many of them seem to merge into one. The game essentially boils down to a thinly disguised procession of prods and swipes. While you could argue that every single iPhone game amounts to this, the difference is one of perception.
While the aforementioned Flight Control sucks you into its world, replicating the tension of the air traffic controller perfectly, something just doesn’t add up with Cat Run. Its workmanlike innards are left cruelly exposed, like one of the less fortunate members of your cat crew.
Sketching crude lines from one side of the road to the other quickly becomes tiresome, and yet the game will demand that you do it 80 and then 120 times on a single level just for the privilege of playing the third and fourth levels. This is at odds both with the casual nature of the game and its inability to sustain long-term play.
As a result of this misjudgement, I suspect that a large proportion of players will never even see the second half of Cat Run. Cat lovers will no doubt get a kick from saving their favourite animal time and again, but for the rest of us Cat Run lacks the nuanced joy found in the finest line-drawing games.