Anybody moderately literate in art history should have a good time playing through Pickpawcket. The game’s delightful send-ups of the most iconic paintings of the last few centuries are easily the greatest reward the game has to offer. The gameplay itself isn’t tedious or broken, but it’s definitely not the highlight of this title.
Pickpawcket has you sneaking around art galleries, stealing valuable paintings. The super cute twist on this is that they are cat versions of classic human works of art, and you’re stealing them back from dogs. Monet, Dali, Pollock, Da Vinci, Picasso, and virtually every important artist of recent history is represented in the adorable parodies featured in the game. They’re a lot of fun to see, and the promise of unlocking new ones is what compelled us most to continue playing.
Unfortunately, that means the gameplay isn’t as exceptional as what surrounds it. It’s not a chore, but it’s generally a breeze and not exactly revolutionary. You study guard routes and figure out how to evade or distract them on your way to and from the painting. Sadly, the levels just don’t get very tricky until the very last one, which demands an irritating level of precision. Your character’s hit box is considerably smaller than the actual sprite, and it can make navigating through the final stage’s tightly-spaced laser beams very frustrating.
Each level has three gems scattered through it, which you’re required to collect to make new museums available for play. If you decide you want to pick up all of them in addition to the painting, it requires a little more planning and finesse, but you don’t need to grab anywhere near all of the gems in the game to unlock all of the stages. Furthermore, once you’ve reached the game’s final museum, there’s no real incentive to grab the gems unless you want to earn a top spot on the game’s leaderboards.
You control the game by putting your finger down in the direction you want your character to move, and it works fine for the most part. It’s not terribly uncommon for your hand to get in the way of the screen, though. There’s also the mildly annoying late-game mechanic of throwing a squirrel to lure the guard dogs away from you. It’s controlled by quickly sliding your finger away from your avatar in the direction you wish to throw. However, it’s very easy to accidentally move instead, and that is a good example of the occasional control imprecision that we experienced as we played.
Pickpawcket probably could have worked better with a mouse and keyboard, but we’re generally happy that it’s on the App Store. It has standard Game Center hooks, a reasonable price tag, and a good number of levels to play through. It’s not going to rigorously test the skills of most players, but the charm surrounding the gameplay makes the whole package worth the price of admission.