When I was preparing for PAX East a few weeks ago and deciding what games I would want to cover I received an e-mail from Cartoon Network Games listing the various releases they would be displaying. My eyes immediately jumped to Monsters Ate My Birthday Cake which I knew absolutely nothing about except that the name made me smile. Well, I can happily report that sometimes you can judge a game by its title, as Monsters Ate My Birthday Cake is one of the most charming video games I’ve had the pleasure to play in quite some time.
I was able to get some hands-on time with an almost complete build of the game and what I played truly impressed me. The first game developed by SleepNinja Games and a success via Kickstarter, Monsters Ate My Birthday Cake puts you in the shoes of a boy named Niko on his birthday. Upon waking up for his special day he learns that shadow monsters known as Boogins have stolen his birthday cake for use in their nefarious plans. Taking the dungeon gameplay of old-school Zelda releases and using a cute Earthbound-esque art style, MAMBC puts a new twist on the genre by allowing you to switch, at will, between Niko and various friendly monsters whose powers will allow you to traverse the island of Gogapoe.
Puzzles, even in the beginning levels can be very tricky and caused me to utilize the monster friends that I had made. Groggnar is a furry purple cyclops with a powerful rushing attack that can break down barriers and in the early areas he was extremely helpful. Then after an adorable cut-scene where Groggnar and Niko meet a yellow bat creature by the name of Eek, I was able to use his powerful shriek to stun Boogins into submission and sneak by them. As mentioned there is a delightful Legend of Zelda vibe to the dungeon design that I really appreciated and anyone looking for something new and yet nostalgic at the same time will find a lot to enjoy from MAMBC. The feeling of accomplishment when completing a particularly tough area is gratifying and even with my short time with the game I can tell this is looking to be something special.
I was also pleased with the fact that SleepNinja are clearly going for a retro 16-bit visual style, yet not relying on pixel-art as many other games tend to do these days. Vibrant colors and the character design by Justin Baldwin caught my eye immediately, as MAMBC is shaping up to be one of the prettier games for iOS and Android. The music by artist Disasterpeace also captures the mood that the game is going for perfectly. Having a whimsical yet foreboding soundscape can draw you into a game in a way that only music can and Disasterpeace’s past soundtracks for games like Runner 2 and Fez are proof of that.
SleepNinja really seems to know what they want and how to get it and when the game releases in a few months on Steam, iOS and Android platforms, I’m pretty sure you’ll be just as charmed as I was. Monsters Ate My Birthday Cake was one of the coolest new games I saw at PAX East 2014 and that release can’t come soon enough. So keep it tuned to LevelSave in the coming months for more on the game as well as our review.