Sometimes it amazes me how much Angry Birds took off. I never spent too much time with it; it was a fun little distraction for a while, but I never expected it to launch into console versions, Star Wars and Transformers tie-ins, toys, board game versions, gummi-based snacks, Halloween costumes, a TV show, and now a movie, all considering there were a million other versions of the same basic game on Newgrounds.
Angry Birds serves as an example of how a game with relatively simple design can be a hit; a classic even, and can act as an excellent foundation for any budding developer. Unfortunately, Cute Things Dying Violently is not an example of this.
CTDV is basically a boring Angry Birds. It’s a mediocre physics puzzler, where you throw “cute” critters around dangerous obstacles, such as spikes, buzzsaws, fire, etc., in order to get them to the goal. What happens if one of these critters hit one of these obstacles you ask? They die in an uninspiring ‘gory’ fashion. There’s blood and dismemberment and all that fun stuff, but it’s pretty lacklustre, barely being worse than an early Friday the 13th movie.
The gameplay doesn’t fare any better. It’s pretty bog-standard; you hold the left mouse key to pick up the critter and then hold the right mouse key to control the trajectory of your throw. The control is wonky and extremely touchy. Picking up a critter is annoying when your mouse scrolls farther off the screen than your grabbed critter and you have to constantly drop it to realign your mouse. And unless you turn the sensitivity all the way down, adjusting your trajectory will always feel finicky, and for whatever reason, trajectory is inverted by default, which was beyond annoying.
There isn’t even a real sense of challenge. While levels do become more complex as the game progresses, you only have to get one critter in the goal to pass the level. While you are awarded a star for getting all of them, it lacks a proper level rating system that incentivizes you to get as many as possible.
The critters themselves leave a lot to be desired. They’re not really as cute as the title may imply, and for some odd reason, they’re both annoying and vulgar. They have this weird voice that’s a cross of Elmo and Howie Mandell from Bobby’s World. When you pick them up and drop them they say what I’m sure the developer thought was hilarious stuff like, “you dick,” “pervert,” “douchebag,” or “I’ve been molested.” Of course, they swear when you throw them and it’s all the words I can’t put into this article. It’s really a failure on the game that the titular ‘cute things’ are so unlikable that you really don’t feel bad for murdering them.
CTDV looks mediocre as well and this might have something to do with the fact that it originated as a mobile game and has been pretty much copy/pasted onto Steam (and being sold for two dollars more). A telltale sign of this is when level and menu buttons have big, touch-friendly designs. Aside from that, it’s got a cartoon aesthetic that’s nothing really to phone home about.
The game is buggy as well, with the aforementioned mouse scroll, and menu option text staying frozen on-screen after you close the pause menu. What was most egregious was how the game becomes completely unplayable if you try to switch it from a windowed to fullscreen. It was only after I checked the Steam forums to find that other people were having this problem, where the developers let us know that by holding shift we could open a launch menu to open the game in windowed mode.
The biggest problem I have with this game is that it’s trying way too hard. It’s got that horrible, dissented, sarcastic tone that a lot of indie games that try to be funny have where the menus mock you and the whole game is a one-note joke that never gets close to being funny. It’s really more of a game that’s screaming “pay attention to me,” rather than actually grabbing your attention.
Right from the start, the game fails to deliver two of the things in its own title. The critters aren’t very cute—certainly not cute enough for players to feel and real apathy towards their dismemberment—and the deaths aren’t violent enough to evoke any real shock value from the player. It’s hard to know exactly who this game is for; the vulgarity makes it seem more for adults, but the cute things, tame violence, and sub-par challenge might make it okay for pre-teens.
Overall, Cute Things Dying Violently is a boring, frustrating, mediocre physics game that’s been done a hundred before and a hundred times better.