Space Kitteh (aka Space Kitty)
Me, I don't know of any problem that can't be solved through the liberal application of kitties. That must also have been the mindset of Zach Archer and Miles Johnson when they came up with Space Kitteh for our recent CGDC #4. I mean, here you have this breathtaking array of worlds which orbit each other in mesmerizing patterns, the beauty of the galaxy all around, cosmic audio pervading your ears. What could possibly make it better? That's right: kitties!
The game starts you on a familiar-looking blue and green planet in an alternate and terra-centric universe. Use the [arrow] keys to walk around the surface of the planet and talk to Mr. Shoehornhair (no, not his real name) who hired you to save the kitties in nearby planetary systems. Press the [spacebar] to jump off the planet and use the [arrow] keys to control your flight using the jetpack (of course you have a jetpack!). However, the gravitational field from nearby planets is strong and constantly in flux, so it may take a while to get used to the controls. Surrounding this blue and green planet are three portals to other planetary systems, manned by Rock, Paper and Scissors (yes, the real names). Each has a different challenge for you to complete. Finish them all and return to Mr. Shoehornhair to complete the game!
The biggest challenge in Space Kitteh is mastering the controls and timing your jumps. Rescuing the kitties is pretty easy. It does help to read the directions carefully so you know how to zoom in and out — it's a lot easier to navigate the swirling systems when you can see all of the gravitational sources surrounding you. However, zooming out too far diminishes the excellent visual effects — spiraling animations on the portals, for example. I found myself zooming in a few levels, trading broader vision for fuller enjoyment without rendering the game difficult in any way. Trust me, getting the full effect of the sun in the Gamma system is worth it.
Perhaps the most charming element of all is one that has absolutely no effect on the gameplay whatsoever — booting the rescued kitties off of a planet. That sad meow they emit when bumped is both extremely satisfying and slightly guilt-inducing at the same time. Between these little touches, and the solid all-around execution of the core game mechanics (physics, art, soundtrack, controls, etc.), Space Kitteh provides an immersive, top-quality, casual gaming, excess-adjective-inducing experience.
Zach and Miles have been working on an improved version with improved grammar: Space Kitty! In it you'll find new and (yes) improved features such as a welcome screen, an inset map, a laser-arrow to help you out when you are lost in space, and a guided help system to get you going. The dialogue has been changed to lend some coherence to the game, though it comes at the price of some of the whimsicalness.
dancemonkey - I wasn't too sure about this game at first, mainly I guess because of its name (I am vehemently and irrationally opposed to using "-eh" in place of "-y" at the end of a word). It ended up being one of my favorites. The competition theme is realized in a brilliant and unique way, and the designers (Zach and Miles) have created a fun and challenging platformer. I was also surprised at the differentiation between each of the levels: they were all challenging in entirely different ways, which I was impressed by considering how similar each level seems at first glance. One major wish I had was for some sort of guide or indicator that would lead me towards either the next cat or at least towards the exit portal, since I was getting frustrated eventually at constantly winding up at exactly the same spot after a several tries at finding the last cat. Otherwise, I found saving space cats realleh fun.