What’s worse than a zombie invasion? A mutant zombie space bird invasion! A virus has infected our feathered friends on their home world, so they decide to load up and fly away to freedom. Just as they’re boarding their space ship, however, a couple of cats sneak in the back. Unless they’re just really interested in some sightseeing, you can bet some shenanigans are about to go down.
Claws and Feathers 3 is a puzzle game mixed with just the right amount of strategy. It takes place on a slightly slanted grid populated by empty spaces and quiet little colored birds. Click a bird followed by an empty space to move it to that square, assuming there’s nothing blocking the path, of course. Group three or more adjacent birds of the same color and they fly away, clearing a bit more of the screen and opening up new avenues of bird sliding for your future consideration.
What’s a game about birds without their mortal enemy the feline? Cats are stubborn path blockers that can be carried away if you use them in a match. They often hide useful items like shovels or bombs for digging up food supplies or blasting down walls respectively. Make a match, fly them away, then see what goodies they were keeping from you.
Each level has a base goal, usually something easy to understand like getting reactor cores to their slots, unchaining locked birds, or freeing cryo birdies from their capsules. On top of these are optional goals you can strive for to get bonus points. These range from simple things like “beat the level using fewer than six moves” to crazier stuff like “don’t match any red birds”. The alternative goals add an extremely fun level of challenge to each stage, and since they aren’t mandatory, you can pick and choose which ones you work on.
The strategy elements in Claws and Feathers 3 come into play when you start thinking about moves. You’re free to slide any unblocked bird to any empty space on the grid. However, if that movement doesn’t create a match, you’ll spawn eggs, hatch eggs, and maybe even drop a cat or two. All of these elements quickly fill up the screen, making your job all the more difficult. A certain economy of movement will need to take place if you’re going to get through this thing in one relatively sane piece.
One of the best things about Claws and Feathers 3 is how much freedom you have. You aren’t limited to swapping pieces in adjacent squares, you can slide birds across the entire screen if there’s space. This broadens your focus to the entire grid instead of a tiny little section, and it makes you feel like your options are unlimited at all times. There’s a fair amount of challenge to be had in this puzzle-strategy hybrid, but not the kind that will make you want to pull your hair out. It’s a surprisingly quiet, surprisingly thoughtful, and surprisingly hilarious game that will keep you entertained for hours with its creative level design and clever mix of genres.