Maximize path drawing for speed: Monsters Ate My Birthday Cake utilizes a path drawing system as opposed to tap-to-move controls. Niko and his monster pals will follow whatever path you draw for them. This means if you draw a path that directs Niko across the map to stand on a button, so long as he can reach that button, he will head that way. You can draw this path and then switch to another monster and Niko will continue walking towards the button, saving time. Instead of finishing each character’s action individually, try to maximize path drawing, especially when your team needs to walk long distances or you’re attempting timed challenges.
You need to guide your team around obstacles: Although Niko and friends will follow the path you set for them, they are not savvy AI: they will walk that path, even if it means walking straight into an enemy. Be sure you draw around or prepare for obstacles, otherwise you may send someone into a trap. This is also true for general blockages: you’ll need to draw around walls in order to circumvent them.
You don’t have to start a path on a character: You can start drawing away from a character and the path between them and your finger will automatically fill in. You can also tap and hold on a specific area (for about two seconds) and a full path to that location will appear. It takes the shortest possible distance, so keep point #2 in mind: if it sends someone into a wall, you’ll need to direct them around it. This half-distance trick is helpful if two monsters are right on top of each other and attempting to draw for one of them keeps switching your active character to the other.
The order you collect cake matters: As soon as you pick up the last piece of cake, the level is complete. If there is treasure left to collect, you will have to replay the level to do so. Some treasures or keys are hidden directly behind must-collect cake, so be aware of this ahead of time: it’s sometimes helpful to save a single piece of easy-to-access cake so that you can reach all the treasure in one go. An example of this is Nogport Meadows level 1-10 pictured above: you should get the cake near Niko last because Claude has to pass through cake to get to the treasure chest.
Star challenges are separate: You don’t have to complete all three challenges for a level in one attempt, although you often can. It’s usually easiest to do the time-based challenges separately from the treasure-collecting challenges: treasures are often in out-of-the-way places that will suck time out of your run. For time-based challenges, just focus on getting the cake.
Anyone can pick up keys or use tears: Keys for doors or treasure chests are added to your party’s inventory once they’re picked up. The character that collected the key doesn’t have to be the one to use it. For example: Niko can pick up a key on one side of the map, and you can then switch to Eek on the other side and have him open a door with it. The same is true for tears that begin appearing at the end of Apricot Acres: although story-wise only Niko can see tears, any monster can enter a tear.
Tap once to make a monster stop walking: If you draw a path incorrectly or into a danger by mistake, all you have to do is tap to make a monster stop following it. The only exception to this is tapping another monster’s avatar or icon, which will switch to the second monster while the first continues walking. This is helpful for quick pathing changes or to maneuver characters into very specific positions, like below.
The double button trick: You can hold down two buttons that are next to each other with a single block. This requires some specific timing because Niko will push blocks in whole tile increments—this means if the block is on one button and you draw a path for Niko towards the next button, he will push the block entirely onto the second button. In order to leave the block in the middle of the two, simply tap when Niko is between the buttons. He will stop walking, then you can double-tap to drop the block and it will be holding down both switches. Note: characters are not big enough to step on two buttons at once, it must be a block.
Earning extra coins: Although there are more than enough coins in the game to purchase all available items, if you’d like to earn extra you can always replay levels. Enemies or destructible objects will randomly drop coins even after you’ve finished and three-starred a level.
View the entire level: To zoom out on a level, pinch in with two fingers. From this distance, you can scroll around the level by dragging one finger. When you’re zoomed out, no character is selected, so you’ll have to re-select someone to take action. Note: be careful of zooming while someone is active and walking along a path you’ve drawn. It will cancel their walk.
New events are marked with a green [!]: When you’re on the island map or a specific region’s map, check for green exclamation points for new events. These are usually item requests that will open up additional paths or costumes for you. New levels you haven’t attempted yet are also marked this way.
What it means to “spare” Boogins: Some challenges in Monsters Ate My Birthday Cake require you to “spare all Boogins.” Usually the difference between “sparing” and “killing” is fairly clear: if an action leaves the Boogin on the screen and in tact, you have spared it. If it’s off screen or turned into a pile of bones, you have killed it.
Specific actions you can use while “sparing” Boogins: Eek’s shriek (Wattson’s zap), Poot’s toot (Hucklebaum’s burp) to stun a Boogin. Biff’s blizzard (Pip’s crystal) to encase them in a block.
Actions you cannot use and which count as “killing”: Groggnar’s charge or Prizzy’s beam. You also cannot drop them into a pit, water, or lava. You cannot raise spikes underneath them.
Your own monsters’ actions don’t affect each other, except…: None of your monsters’ abilities will hurt your other monsters or Niko. This means Groggnar can dash into Niko without harming him, Eek can shriek near your team without issue, etc. The only exception is Prizzy: her beam will kill your other teammates, so do not use it when they are within her line of sight. Also remember that her beam stretches in a straight line across the entire map, so if someone is out of view but still on the same row as her, they will be hit.
Costumes are needed to get all stars on some levels: This is a bit unclear when you first encounter it, but levels with the Niko-face wooden platform require a specific costume in order to access all of its treasure and/or goals. You will always be able to collect all cake to complete the level, but there might be a treasure chest, coins, or trapped Willis that requires a special costume. The wooden platform indicates which costume and the part of the map where Niko will need to use his special ability in order to progress. These are areas you must return to over the course of the game: the first costume is not accessible until you get to the shop area of the third world, Apricot Acres (and you have to go back to the first world, Nogport Meadows, to actually get it). In the image above, Powder Peaks level 2-3, you need the badger costume in order to get the treasure. And you’ll need to use it to burrow right next to the costume platform, which is where Niko first spawns.
Check for costume platforms before attempting to get treasure: If you’re replaying a level for three stars or missed treasure, be sure to check the entire screen for a costume platform. If you don’t have that costume yet, you might as well come back once you do have it.
Timers don’t start until you walk or activate an ability: You can zoom out and scroll around a level freely, as well as switch between characters, without the timer starting. You can also draw out a path; until you lift your finger and the character moves, the time remains paused. Use this to prepare your plan of attack ahead of time.
Claude and Terrance can travel through dirt and bushes: The obvious areas for Claude and Terrance to travel underground are marked by muddy areas, usually that appear on either side of a hedge wall. However, keep in mind that there are some hedges they can travel through. It’s not always obvious when a hedge is navigable, so just try drawing a line into one to test. If they can travel through it, your line will continue. If not, it will be diverted to one side.
Be sure your characters are on solid ground before deactivating an ability: If you unfreeze a river while a teammate is standing on it, they will fall into the water and die. The same is true for unshrinking mushrooms or raising spikes. Be sure everyone is clear of an obstacle before moving the character that is maintaining it.
Tears don’t kill people, bushes do: Tears don’t appear until the end of the third world, but they’re a bit tricky. If you find yourself randomly dying upon entering a tear, it’s likely because a character is standing somewhere that contains an object in the dark realm. For instance: on Apricot Acres 3-11, if Poot / Hucklebaum is standing in the wrong location, he might warp inside a bush in the other realm. This will kill him and end the level. Most tear levels have specific spots characters will be standing, but if you’re dying randomly, check their locations before entering the tear. Also, remember that the dark realm might be hiding coins or other items in places you’ve already traversed in the light realm: be sure to zoom out and scout around when you enter a new realm.