It's hard to know what exactly our hapless hero in Critter Escape is meant to be. He looks an awful lot like a smudge of plasticine with arms and legs wedged into it, but it says something about the care that's gone into the creation of this character that you almost feel a little bit bad for describing the little fella in this way. Regardless of what exactly he is, he's found himself locked up in a high-security detention center, and it's down to you to get him through the many rooms of the game and away from the guards who would otherwise perform devilish experiments upon him.
This is a maze-chase game that combines stealth with action as you attempt to reach the exit door. You draw lines across the screen to dictate the critter's path which he then embarks upon immediately, hiding behind cupboards and tables to stay out of the line-of-sight of the patrolling guards. While normally these guards deliver a game-ending baton-whack if they catch up with him, it's possible to swig some magical potions that allow him to go toe-to-toe with them.
This pathing mechanism is (for the most part) fairly dependable, although we had a few occasions where our hapless hero got a little stuck and some urgent replanning was called for. Thankfully, the action pauses whenever you press the screen to set up a new route, so if the guards are on your tail they won't catch up with you until you've finished making any adjustments.
There are a handful of objectives to be met if you want a maximum three star rating in each of the game's many, many levels. Clearing the level at all awards one, while somewhere on each level there'll be a crystal (usually heavily guarded) that awards another. There are challenges too such as clobbering X many guards before reaching the exit, or getting through the level without being spotted once. Successfully completing these challenges will round off your perfect completion of a level.
To spice things up there are various upgrades that can be acquired both from the level itself, or from the store before you start. Grabbing the lightning flash symbol temporarily ups your movement speed for example, while swigging a potion turns you into a raging hulk, one capable of destroying the prison's guards. Your choice of whether to grab these or take a safer, quieter route adds some fun variety to what would otherwise be a rather repetitive exercise.
While it's graphically a very competent game, with some wonderful cut scenes and genuinely emotive characters, it's not a perfect title by any means. While it seems churlish to accuse the developers of including too much content, there is a sense of weariness that accompanies the game's extensive set of levels. A shorter, snappier experience may actually have helped with player motivation, but this is still a fun diversion that maze-solving fans should definitely check out.
What's Hot: Some genuinely likeable characters, great maze-solving gameplay, and the path-finding controls are pretty slick for the most part.
What's Not: When those path-finding controls don't work it can be very frustrating. There's also a heavy sense of repetition in the level building.