Cat Quest Review

Once in a while, a game crosses my desk that reminds me of that cliched tagline overused by many: Don’t judge a book by its cover. In my case it’s: Don’t judge a game by its cover art or its title. I originally did both with Cat Quest. Judging by the name, I thought it might be a throwaway. A game obviously meant for the enjoyment of their creators and the few around them. I was wrong, and like many others, I wouldn’t of have given Cat Quest a try. Under the assumption that I bit a huge bullet for the advantage of market awareness, I’m happy to inform you that I found a cute and satisfying game underneath the odd title.

Cat Quest starts off simple enough: You’re a cat on a quest. A world populated by your humanoid cat species is in peril. Creatures roam the plains and caves, kings turn into silent vessels by spells, and huge dragons appear to wreak havoc on the felines. Your character, the last of his kind, can defeat these dragons (and is celebrated by the local populous). He’s also been separated from his sister, who serves as the trophy for our main questline. All of this is okay, a fairly simple RPG story, but the true fun of Cat Quest is in its execution.

Cat Quest takes place purely on what might seem to be an overworld. The flat 2D plain contains all the things necessary for RPG fun: quest givers, creatures to beat up on, and loot to upgrade your furry hero. It’s quaint, a perfect design for something small and surprisingly dense like Cat Quest. It’s a design I don’t think could have worked with many other games or even genres. Even more so, the really quick quests and instant action makes it perfect for handheld gaming on the Switch. There were countless times I was waiting in the car or taking a ride and had a minute or two to spare. In those minutes I was able to accomplish one or two very meaningful things in Cat Quest. This immediate reward and challenge loop made Cat Quest a great side snack to the many other games populating my TV nowadays. The exact gameplay was yet another interesting thing about this fairly small RPG.

Upon sighting a monster, you can easily enter combat by literally going up to it and swinging away. It was that easy. No elaborate fight music or cutscene, you just fight the monsters you want and run away from the ones you don’t. Combat had a satisfying balance of skill and button mashing as well. Your single sword attack could be done really fast; combine this with your many magical spells, and combat quickly becomes action packed and all about timing. Enemies attack in particular patterns indicated by a circle around them. Before their attack, it pulses red, and when they finally commence this attack (if you’re in range), they do damage. Your dodge roll is the key to making sure this never happens, but still I caught myself getting pummeled once or twice because I was being too greedy with how many sword attacks I utilized or didn’t exactly time an enemy’s attack correctly. This trade off type of combat made for addicting stuff, almost as addicting as collecting the XP bubbles and coins which fall from your foes upon their defeat.

That’s right, I’m saying I was impressed by a mechanic so old it might as well be ancient: XP bubbles and coins replacing an enemy’s motionless corpse. This is partly due to how great it feels to pick these things up and partly due to just how cute Cat Quest is. Upon picking up XP bubbles (a process sometimes made impossible by obstructing environments), a little popping noise reminded me of what I worked so hard to get. These XP bubbles are only used to level up, a process easily done by collecting more bubbles. The coins make a quick metal clinking sound that is just perfectly satisfying. These coins can then be spent to buy loot boxes (without having to spend real money). These boxes have different pieces of gear in them, making it a guessing game on what you’re getting. When you finally do get your helmets, chest pieces, and melee weapons, it’s hard not to just stare at how cute your cat is post upgrade. Helmets drape over the eyes like a child’s oversized dress-up toys. The chest pieces gleam and shine. The stylized graphical design is at its apex in Cat Quest.

Everything existing in the world is bright and colorful. Dragons even have a sense of ominous power despite being bright red and orange, and I never grew tired of it. I was living in a cartoon fantasy, and I loved it. Even in the wake of total annihilation and starting a boss fight over, I was happy to see my little cat character jaunting across the screen to his next foe. It’s a feeling backed up by the insanely great combat and the awesome sounds of bubbles and coins. It’s a feeling I never really wanted to leave, and through all my hours in Cat Quest, I wanted to go back to experience the melding of childlike visuals with a satisfying RPG gameplay loop.  

This isn’t at all saying Cat Quest is without its flaws. The combat stats sometimes get in the way of reading those enemy attack ranges I talked about earlier, the dungeons of Cat Quest all look very similar just with different paths, and I never really hit a point where the story hit the mark for me. It had its flaws, but by in large, the surprise I got out of Cat Quest has been amazing. Many of the people reading this will likely shake my opinions off, look at the game, and decide that they’ll just buy the next triple A RPG instead. If you are one of those people, I beg you, listen to me. Cat Quest, by far, isn’t a revolutionary RPG. It isn’t as gigantic as The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, as deep as Divinity: Original Sin II, or as classic as Final Fantasy. What Cat Quest lacks in all those categories, it makes up for in sheer personality. It’s cute, passionate, and insanely addicting on Nintendo Switch. Cat Quest is now in the upper echelon of my personal favorite RPGs, and if it has even a chance of being the same for you, I’d say risk it.

Developer: The Gentlebros

Publisher: PQube Limited

Platforms: PC, Nintendo Switch, PS4, iOS, Android

Release Date: 20th November 2017

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