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Disney's Mittens Review

Despite its wide catalog of beloved characters, Disney’s mobile games (like the great Where's My Water?) have often introduced their own leads created especially for each game. The company's latest such entry is Mittens, a physics-based puzzle-platformer starring that favorite of Internet obsessions: Cats. Mittens is strung together by adorable animated cutscenes, which show the irascible titular feline attempting to woo a prissy purple kitty. Every time Mittens tries to give her a gift, she inevitably grows distracted by some other potential sign of affection. As a result, each set of stages introduces a new target gift to win her heart, like milk, balloons, and chocolates.

That conceit lends itself to a broad range of settings. One moment you’ll be leaping along rooftops, the next you’ll be in a circus, and then a cave. Mittens himself is largely a spectator in the proceedings, as you’re tasked with controlling his environments with simple swipes, taps, and drag maneuvers to push, fling, and bounce him towards his goal. The settings change, but for the most part, the mechanics are identical. A portly circus monkey provides a horizontal bounce in one set of stages, while a bat performs the same function in the next. All of the obstacles and aids are wonderfully animated, matching the story’s aesthetic.

Main Screen

Mittens' puzzles are never too taxing, though nailing a perfect line can get vexing in the later stages. Gathering every collectible requires an exacting path, and is actually sometimes a bit too exact. Disney’s mobile games have excelled at flexibility, letting the player experience a feeling of creativity as he or she forges the solutions. In Mittens, we’re not creating the solutions, but rather discovering them. The functions often feel magnetic, like they're meant to serve one particular purpose and allow one ideal path. It works fine for this particular puzzle type, but we were left wishing we had more say in the solutions, instead of being so clearly guided along a set path.

The bottom line.
Mittens is a cute and cuddly time-killer that hearkens back to classic cartoon sensibilities, but its puzzles are a bit more linear than in Disney’s finest.

Review Synopsis

Product: 

Company: 

Disney

Price: 

$0.99

Requirements: 

iPhone or iPod touch running iOS 4.3 or later

Positives: 

Adorable story with a newly minted character. Environments are varied without sacrificing core mechanics. Light and progressive difficulty curve.

Negatives: 

Puzzles feel fairly linear. Hitting a perfect line can be frustrating.

Score: 
3.5 Good

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Race to the Pennant Review

Something about the great American pastime brings out the best in app designers. MLB.com At Bat's breathtaking ballparks and pitch trackers are the gold standard for professional sports apps, Topps Pennant turns lifeless box scores into beautiful works of art, and iScore reimagines the dull, antiquated scorecard with lush textures and vivid charts. Race to the Pennant makes a strong case for joining that list. With a simple, colorful interface, the app offers a slick visual interpretation of baseball standings that makes following your favorite team a lot more fun – whether they're headed to the playoffs or stuck in the cellar.

Right off the bat, you can tell Race to the Pennant is serious about baseball. A random set of career statistics from a Hall of Famer greets you each time you launch, arrayed neatly over a faded blue splash screen reminiscent of an old-time pennant banner. Inside, leagues and divisions are clearly delineated, with each of the 30 teams represented by an appropriately colored bar that inches up the screen with every victory. Tapping one of the divisions brings up detailed win-loss records, including runs scored vs. runs allowed, home vs. away, and number of games out of first place. Instead of box scores, Race to the Pennant includes an MLB.com feed of headlines for each team, which display in an in-app browser window when tapped.

Mainscreen

While Race to the Pennant combines a great concept with top-notch design, it doesn't quite hit it out of the park. We experienced a couple of crashes, but the most glaring issue is with its updating. Our smartphones have spoiled us with effortless, up-to-the-second scores and highlights, but Race to the Pennant relies on an outdated dialogue box to push updates. It barely takes a second, but having to tap a download button nearly every time we logged in quickly became tedious. Since the in-app browser only links to the full MLB.com desktop site, stories were sometimes slow to load and a bit tricky to read; a more elegant solution would be to offer Instapaper or Readability-optimized versions.

The bottom line. Race to the Pennant's interface is major-league caliber, but its updating system is stuck in the minors.

Review Synopsis

Company: 

Tyler Hillsman

Price: 

$0.99

Requirements: 

iPhone or iPod touch running iOS 5.0 or later

Positives: 

Fantastic way to view standings. Fun, colorful interface. Detailed stats.

Negatives: 

Very outdated updating method. Somewhat clunky news reader. Occasional crashes.

Score: 
3.5 Good

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