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Sometimes you discover a game which can be summed up in just one sentence. Grand Theft Auto is one popular example – it’s (fundamentally) about stealing cars and committing crime. Grand Theft Auto. Simple. Cute Things Dying Violently is a good example of this kind of naming convention, except in this case it’s a little more straightforward – the game is about cute things, dying violently.
Available on Xbox Live for a mere 80 Microsoft points, Cute Things Dying Violently sees you taking on the role of omniscient god-being, shepherding and protecting hordes of small blue dots with legs and arms ("critters") through simple one-screen levels filled with traps and hazards. The gameplay is simple: you can flick critters by pulling back the right thumbstick and letting loose, or drag them into position for a flicking by holding the left trigger. However, you can only move your crosshair horizontally and not vertically, which adds a greater challenge and stops you from dragging critters all over the level to make it easier for yourself.
The overall presentation of the game is
good. The writing is full of humor and
quite witty, without giving the impression that it’s trying too hard; I
particularly enjoyed the messages that greet you when you fail a level. The sound is also mostly very good, helping to make the
critters quite endearing. It tells you how much they love life and how it’s
a beautiful day, until you send them sailing into a spike pit, at which point
they change their tune quite rapidly. The only downside in this area is the noise made by the occasional
bosses that you face, the "hate-bots." They repeat the same phrase over and
over in quite a grating robotic style that got on my nerves fairly
quickly. The graphics are also good – the
gore is endearingly over-the-top and cartoony and the fire effect in later
levels was particularly impressive.
While Cute Things Dying Violently is a fast, fun puzzle game in the same mold as a game like World of Goo, it does have a couple of flaws. The learning curve is quite steep, meaning that levels go from easy at the start of the game to fiendishly hard about halfway through; some of the levels seemed to be passable only by luck and not by skill, and some were downright frustrating. The special levels go some way towards alleviating this, however, by encouraging you to butcher the critters that you’ve spent the single-player campaign trying to protect.
In short, Cute Things Dying Violently does exactly what it says on the tin, and it does it well. The graphics, sound and writing are all very good, and the trial-and-error nature of the gameplay means that in the process of saving the critters you will see plenty of them being torn apart by circular saws, splashing cartoon blood all over the level. If that sounds too violent, I suppose you could always try Mahjong…