Playing this game takes me back to the late eighties. A time based platformer unafraid to frustrate you is hidden behind a charming and amusing graphical style. That sounds a lot like a few ancient Amiga games I could mention.
Captain Cupcake is brought to us by publisher Astraware and developer Chaos Games, a one man band outfit. The game stars the eponymous Captain Cupcake, a tubby superhero who is out to stop the Veggie Villains from stealing all the donuts from Isla Cocoa.
The Captain must retrieve a set amount of donuts from each level in order to proceed. The stages are kept to a strict time limit and are patrolled by a variety of Veggie Villains. Each stage is usually only one screen wide, but can scroll vertically as you reach higher platforms, and in a throwback to old game design, if you walk past the edge of the screen you magically appear on the other side. It’s a nice touch and a handy tool that is pretty much essential to getting a good rating on many of the levels.
The game comes with a set of default controls, but these are really hard to get used to, especially when going for precision, so my advice is to go to options and switch to non default controls they are far superior.
When you begin each stage, there are platforms, donuts and enemies all laid out before you and you really just have to figure out how to finish in the best time. Enemies won’t kill you but will slow you down, with the amount of time lost increasing for each enemy beaten. Higher platforms must be reached by using jelly springs to jump high enough, and there are a variety of collectibles to help you on your quest, such as time freezes and the like.
Trying to beat each level to get the best time, and subsequently the most amount of stars to unlock new worlds, is quite addictive, and there is a cheery jauntiness to both the feel of the game and the look. Using the ability to pop over to the other side of the screen, especially when you are up high, is worked well by the designer and in general, the levels are pretty well crafted.
There are also Golden Donuts to collect that act as score multipliers, and actually offer a slightly different way to play the levels.
The game does have a few problems that really add to the frustration factor. The first has to do with the jumping, as it is really tricky to get even the simplest jumps across gaps right. This is because the Captain can only just make it over the little jumps in the levels, so you have to be precise at all times, there really is no margin for error. The way he jumps over the jelly springs is similar; you have to time it just right or you will activate the spring, sending him up and away when you wanted to bypass the spring.
Making his jump go 10% farther than it currently does and reducing the size of the springs a bit would really help here.
The second thing I have an issue with is the fact that, if you fall off a platform to the one below, the Captain stumbles, which basically amounts to a time penalty. If you jump and fall, there is no stumble. I understand it’s there for a reason, but I feel it interrupts the flow of the game. Making the stumble happen after the Captain falls two levels instead of just one would be a preferable option and would add a little more smoothness to the play, while also punishing players for falling too far.
Fix these quibbles I mentioned and you would have a far more robust game.
There is a full interactive tutorial to get you used to the game, and as this is a freemium title, you get two worlds spanning 48 levels for free, and you have to pay for any extra levels you would like to experience.
The free levels will keep you going for a few hours of play, and the asking price for extra content is fair and overall Astraware have used the freemium model well.
There is full Game Center integration with achievements and leader boards, always a good extra and the title also sports a local leaderboard.
There is a lot to like about Captain Cupcake. The game has a lot of character, with decent sprites and bright and breezy level design, and the presentation is good with great newspaper headlines detailing your antics. The gameplay is nearly there, and needs a little trimming and pruning, but if you can put up with the frustrations then what you have here is a solid, capable game that gives a lot of value and will remind you of the early days of platform gaming.