Must.Eat.Birds a disturbingly fun and creative “eat yourself” game

Posted: June 24, 2009 in Arcade, Casual

Every day, I see about a dozen games released on the platform that interest me to some degree. From there, I categorize them into one of three buckets: 1) must try, 2) don’t bother and 3) purgatory. Purgatory is for those games that seem interesting, but I may or may not try them due to time constraints and other personal obligations. Must.Eat.Birds is one of those games that almost fell into purgatory, but for the grace of iTunes I decided to give it a try which I’m glad I did. Beyond the aptly named title and seemingly new genre called Picnic Defense, Must.Eat.Birds offers a cartoony look, vibrant animations, and unusual premise that combine to deliver an entertaining diversion that at the least should put a smile on your face.

Japan is known for its innovation when it comes to technology, but it’s also known for its sometimes “off the wall” creativity (e.g. wacky game shows). The premise behind Must.Eat.Birds is no different. Your objective is to help Nomster—referred to as an innocent monster—prevent birds from eating his desserts. The story doesn’t clarify whether Nomster baked these desserts himself or acquired them in some other way, although I’m sure I don’t want to know. But that’s beside the point.

The game looks great and has that casual lighthearted feel to it, which I think appeals to a broader audience. On occasion, I did experience a slight lag with the animation on my iPod Touch 2g, but nothing that affected gameplay. The music has a Far East tone, and the special effects are thankfully subtle yet adequate for a game such as Must.Eat.Birds. The game offer 9 progressively difficult missions where you’ll need to eat a certain number of birds, and for each mission, you receive scores and grades ranging from A to D depending on the swiftness of Nomster’s feast and your ability to prevent desserts from being snatched. In addition, there are 4 challenges that you can unlock. The tutorial is pretty basic, and it could use additional information especially in the area of perks. The other thing to note is there is no auto save/auto resume, but the reality is that you won’t spend 5 minutes contemplating your next move so it shouldn’t be an issue.

These birds come in different shapes and sizes. The basic bird looks cute similar to something you would see in a Hello Kitty store (not that I’ve been to one, but I’ve seen pictures), but the ones you have to watch out for are the parachuting eggs and the overstuffed birds. Parachuting eggs are tricky because once Nomster hits one, it’s turns into two dessert-loving chicks which means twice the work for you. The overstuffed birds on the other hand are your basic cute bird on steroids which means they fall faster. In addition, there are parachuting bombs as well and these can generate additional points, let alone heartburn, if Nomster can eat them.

How do you defend against this avian invasion? Using your finger, you aim and slingshot Nomster at these seemingly harmless birds intent on snatching their unjust desserts. Seriously. Nomster is hooked up in a contraption consisting of two forks and a rubber band, and using your finger, you pull Nomster back and let him fly. Of course, you can bounce him off the verticals sides of your screen, and there are various additional powers in Nomster’s arsenal. The controls can sometimes stick a little especially when there is a lot of activity on the screen, but in general, they’re responsive.

Nomster has a unique talent…it can eat itself and grow significantly in size. Literally, eat yourself and get bigger. This gives you the advantage of covering more area on the screen and gobbling up more birds in the process. As Nomster eats more birds in a single bound, combo points are awarded. Generate enough combo points and you activate Monster Bake. Yes, I said Monster Bake. This temporarily turns Nomster into a red giant that will streamroll the screen and unceremoniously eats the avian scum. The occasional bonus cake will appear as well, and you want Nomster to eat that for additional points.

To add to the replay value, Must.Eat.Birds has an achievement system, which honestly have some funky names and requirements that you could probably find on a Japanese game show.

Menagerie Au Trois—eat 3 different birds in one shot
Atomic Nom—Destroy 5 birds with one bomb
Nom Nom Nom Nom Nom—Eat yourself 5 times
Tasty Combo—Get a combo of 10 or more in a single shot
Gateaux Blaster—Complete a level without losing a cake
Make Cake Not War—Complete all missions
Maximum Bake—Complete all missions with an A grade
Phenomenal—Score over 500k in challenge mode
Nomicidal Maniac—Eat 5000 birds

The gameplay is rather entertaining especially when Nomster eats himself and gets bigger. The background animations with the different cakes can be eye catching, but the game can be intense, well as intense as it can be for a bird-eating monster. Early on, you’ll have an unlimited capacity to shoot Nomster which means you can shoot haphazardly with less accuracy. But in later stages, you’ll be limited in how many times you can sling Nomster and if you don’t plan correctly, you’ll run out of moves meaning the birds feast, and unable to unlock the next mission or worse yet, reach a milestone such as Menagerie Au Trois achievement.

Overall, Must.Eat.Birds incorporates some unusual and creative ideas into a surprisingly fun and entertaining game of monsters, birds and desserts. And it puts a new spin on eating yourself.

Albie Meter: 4 Stars (recommended for those who want a fun yet different kind of pick-up-and-play game; I’d even recommend it for children although I wouldn’t go into detail on the various achievements)

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