By Kris . August 4, 2012 . 1:30pm
Cats Away makes me very, very sad. It’s a adorable localized Japanese iOS game, but it suffers from two unfortunate problems:
1. It’s not very fun to play.
2. You need to either play the game a million times or pay to make any progress.
Cats Away’s moment to moment gameplay isn’t much to write home about. You’re in a UFO, picking up cats with a tractor beam to save them before a nearby star supernovas and and destroys the cats’ planets.
Basically, you do this by holding your finger above a cat and slowly drag it to the top of the screen, assuming your generally weak beam is strong enough to pick it up. You need to go after the smallest cats at first, but the more cats you capture, the stronger your beam gets, allowing you to capture bigger cats.
Picking up a cat in your tractor beam is painstakingly slow and slightly finicky. Cats will often jump right out of your beam, and bigger cats will often just ignore your beam completely (I think they’re supposed to be sticking their claws onto the ground). Combine that slow, fussy mechanic with repetition, and things get frustrating.
I’ve spent probably 45 minutes replaying the game’s first 90-second level, and I’m only a quarter of the way to level two. You see, progress in this game is essentially “achievement”-based complete an arbitrary requirements (like getting 10 of one kind of cat) and you get a gold star.
You can use 30-second time extensions (which you are occasionally given after you finish a level, or can pay $.99 for a set of three), but these achievements are really tough with the standard ship. You have to use in-game coins to upgrade your ship or buy a new one to stand a chance.
How do you get coins, you ask? Well, each time you finish a level (or the level, in my case), you get one coin. You can also occasionally get more coins by sucking up bushes in your tractor beam to reveal them, then absorb them. It’s a long, arduous process, but the game also offers you the option to pay for coins, an option I opted to ignore.