Pudding Monsters is the first fresh title from Zeptolab since its smash-hit Cut the Rope took the App Store by storm in October 2010. That game received significant praise from IGN and other outlets for its collection of clever puzzles and very high level of polish. Pudding Monsters is jam-packed with Zeptolab’s trademark shine, but the puzzles themselves don’t quite stack up to the standard set by the company’s modern rope-cutting classic.
Pudding Monsters is essentially a collection of 75 block-sliding puzzles. Each stage opens with a handful of pre-placed little monsters. Swiping a monster up, down left or right sends it flying in that direction – it’ll keep going until it hits another pudding monster or another object on the stage. The goal of each level is to swipe your collection of pudding monsters until they’ve all glommed together, forming one big super-monster.
Like any puzzler worth its salt, it’s a simple and instantly understood premise that evolves over time. Players will need to swipe their pudding monsters in the proper order and in the proper direction to avoid one from flying off the stage forcing a restart. Zeptolab regularly introduces new gadgets like teleporters and spring-loaded bumpers to keep things fresh. New monster types also add fresh wrinkles. Green monsters leave a sticky trail of slime that will catch and stop other sliding monsters. Psychic monsters move as a group – swipe one and all the rest move too, regardless of where they are on the stage. All these new mechanics do keep things spicy, but they come and go very quickly before it feels like they have been fully explored.
There’s nothing explicitly wrong with Pudding Monsters’ puzzles but there’s nothing especially delightful about them either. Each stage is solved by swiping a handful of monsters in the proper direction and in the proper order, so trial and error can be used to reduce the difficulty of even the trickiest stages. I blew through all 75 stages in around 90 minutes, solving each via the most challenging three-star method. There are a few moment of lightbulb-goes-on puzzle-solving bliss but most of the puzzles are too simple.
Pudding Monsters does do something quite clever and laudable with its three-star system, however. Each stage has three star-tiles on the floor. To earn three stars, a player’s final, fully-joined pudding monster must rest on all three. This leads to the game’s most satisfying moments, as I often found myself knowing how to get my monster on one side of the screen, but unsure how to end the stage with him on the other side, where the star tiles would inevitably be. The twist is that Pudding Monsters also tracks whether you complete a stage with zero, one or two stars. Completing a stage in every way possible nets you a gold crown, meaning each puzzle stage is actually a collection of multiple puzzles. Although it is a smart way to stretch the content, once you’ve found the three-star solution finding the one-star or two-star solutions usually isn far behind.
Pudding Monsters doesn’t quite stack up to the great App Store puzzlers like Cut the Rope or Where’s My Water, but it’s still a pleasant and diverting puzzler with plenty of charm and polish. Gamers with a few minutes to kill will appreciate the bite-sized nature of the stages and the frequent introduction of new gameplay twists. Hopefully Zeptolab is cooking up a set of ultra-tough stages to challenge the community of mobile gaming puzzle veterans it helped create with its previous hit.