I like puzzle games on my iPhone, and I like Tetris. With that in mind, I approached ShiveringKittens ($2.99, App Store) fairly optimistically since, since it is a puzzle game which resembles Tetris. Certainly, other apps for the platform have used this recipe to great success, like ngmoco’s Topple. Maybe I was making unfair comparisons with outstanding games, but ShiveringKittens left me a little cold.
The game from developer GiantCrayon features, appropriately enough, frozen kittens as the core gameplay component. There are also unfrozen kittens, and kitten-free blocks of ice, too. These three different types of blocks appear at the top of the screen in varying configurations (i.e., “L”-shaped, etc.), and proceed to slowly descend to the bottom of the screen. You can move and rotate the block, with the object of creating groups of five or more unfrozen kittens, at which point those blocks will disappear.
To rid yourself of the remaining blocks, you’ll have to make a solid horizontal row of either type, ie. frozen blocks or frozen kitten blocks. Unlike in Tetris, when a shape hits the bottom of the screen, blocks without any support underneaht do not hang in the air, and instead fall to the lowest level possible.
In theory, it sounds like an interesting enough twist on the basic Tetris concept to keep veteran players interested, but in practice, I found otherwise. Starting out on the easiest possible level, I figured the game would be simple enough to get the hang of. That was not the case.
Right away, I found the mechanics unnecessarily difficult and poorly thought out. Controls were awkward, especially the down swipe, which doesn’t simply accelerate the fall of the piece you’re working with, but sends it directly to the bottom. Getting kitten groups together while still trying to arrange ice blocks and frozen kittens in screen-spanning horizontal lines proved immensely complicated, too much so for the first skill level. I did manage to get a grouping of five kittens eventually, but by that time my screen was so cluttered and disorganized that it would’ve been impossible to dig myself out of the hole I’d created.
In the end, ShiveringKittens is too complicated to be a distraction, and not substantial enough to make me want to meet the significant challenge it presents. I’m not opposed to a good, difficult game, but this one just seems poorly designed, not intelligently tricky. If I were you, I’d take a pass on ShiveringKittens, even if you happen to be a cat person.