Don’t judge a book by its cover is a principle that I try to maintain when browsing the Xbox Live Indie games channel. U Want Cookie is one such game that has awful presentation, but in execution the game is actually fairly unique, and pretty fun. The game is unfortunately (but aptly) titled, and its box art does not lend to its appeal, which is sad because this is a pretty fun game. U Want Cookie does have its flaws–some more glaring than others–but it does not deserve the incredibly low score it has received on the marketplace.
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The central goal in U Want Cookie is to get the cookie in each level (there are around 100 levels). The game is played from a top-down perspective, where the player controls a small sprite, dodging missiles, lasers, bullets, mines, and more in order to get the cookie at the end of each level. This works fairly well. At times, it does feel like the character is too slow, but this is only in especially difficult times.
The main problem with U Want Cookie is its difficulty. It starts out ranging from easy to moderately difficult levels, a good balance of the two. Then, around a third of the way through the game the difficulty begins to go up and down more than an EKG. A set of levels may contain three levels that can be done on the first try, while the other two will be mind-numbingly difficult. Most of the time, this cannot be attributed to “fair difficulty,” i.e. legitimately challenging the player with cleverly designed obstacles. Rather, it is just poor level design.
For example, one particular level that I struggled with placed the player behind a group of turrets. In front of one turret was a shield power-up. Keep in mind that as soon as the player moves into the turret’s line of sight, it will fire at the player; and this particular turret fires a wave of bullets rather than just a single shot. There are turrets of this nature placed on each wall in this rectangle-shaped room, with the cookie on the wall opposite of the player. So, in order to beat this level, the player has to miraculously dodge the first turret, whilst simultaneously dodging the other four or five turrets, and then manage to get across the field without getting hit twice, and then pick up the cookie. This took me approximately 25 minutes to complete, and felt like the gaming equivalent of Russian roulette.
Despite the difficulty, U Want Cookie’s other mechanics make the game a lot of fun. As the game progresses, more power-ups and moves are added to the player’s repertoire. Initially, the player is able to temporarily cloak (invisible to enemy turrets) and dash for a short amount of time. New power-ups include slowing enemy turrets, shields, faster speed, and slowing all gameplay. This helps to keep the game fresh, and there are several legitimately well-designed levels focusing on these various aspects.
The multiplayer mode in U Want Cookie is merely an adapted mode to allow for two players. The goal is still to get the cookie, but instead both players race for it. This is surprisingly addictive, and a lot of fun. I only played a few games, but it was definitely enjoyable, although in some stages the competition was fairly one-sided. Once one player gets ahead, it’s basically guaranteed that the player will win.
U Want Cookie is not the prettiest game to look at. Based on the box art and screenshots, I was not interested in this game at all. The color scheme is uninteresting, the graphics are fairly minimalist, and there’s not a lot going on in several screenshots. That said, U Want Cookie is a much better game when in motion. It just would have been nice if the developers had put as much effort into the presentation as well as the gameplay.
It’s too bad that U Want Cookie has such a low rating on the Xbox Live Marketplace (around 2.5 out of 5 as of this writing). The game definitely is not incredible, but for the price–which is 80 Microsoft points, or $1.00–U Want Cookie is a great choice. U Want Cookie has variety over its 95+ levels (giving it a good amount of longevity), a solid concept with fair execution, and some genuinely well-designed levels. Its flaws are not to be ignored, but if you are able to look past the game’s difficulty and middling presentation, then U Want Cookie is a good purchase.