Tuesday, January 7, 2020

REVIEW: Cat Quest

I love the Nintendo Switch. After a decade of futzing, Nintendo finally found a way to make a normal console with normal buttons without losing the casual market. In fact, the Switch is perfect for indie developers to to get more players for their innovative, adorable, and cheap as hell games. One of which is the delightful Cat Quest.

Cat Quest is a 2d Open World RPG set in the fantastic and wonderful world of cats! Play as a cat-venturer as you explore a massive continent crafted in the unique style of tapestry! Relive the good old days of exploring an overworld map as you raid dungeons for epic loot, complete quests and meet the many furry denizens of this world! Cats galore!

I bought Cat Quest during a Black Friday deal aided by the Nintendo e-Shop's cash-back coin gimmick. I had been eyeing the game for months but had heard that it only had about 6 hours of gameplay, which isn't much for the $13 price-tag. But hey guess what: howlongtobeat.com is wrong sometimes. I've played Cat Quest well over 10 hours and haven't even seen the whole thing yet. And it's awesome.

The developers of Cat Quest, The Gentlebros, describe the game as a streamlined and concise open world experience. There is an overworld reminiscent of retro JRPGs - but that's it. You don't actually go into buildings or talk to randomly walking NPCs. You can zip across the vast open world in a few minutes, picking up dozens of sidequests and dropping into explorable dungeons to your heart's content.

Cat Quest is an overly simplified game in a lot of ways. The action is simple hack & slash style with the ability to dodge roll and avoid enemy attacks. Magic spells can be unlocked to do different area damage and debuffs.

Items acquired from the blacksmith or treasure chests are generated randomly. If you open a chest and get an item you already have, the item just levels up so you don't have to sort inventory and constantly sell loot to upgrade. All dungeons - no matter the what the quest's story is - are cleared by simply defeating the enemies inside.

Like I said, it's simple. Almost too simple. In fact, after an hour or two I started to notice that a lot of the quests are just "go here, then here, kill those monsters, then go back" with flavor text you could otherwise ignore. It was fun, but it was simple. A lot of Cat Quests' features almost felt like a mobile game.

To my surprise, Cat Quest actually was originally developed as a mobile game. I never ever play mobile games, but I unknowingly made an exception for Cat Quest. To be fair, I mostly hate the pay-to-win economy that comes with mobile games more than the games themselves. Although most mobile games are designed around microtransactions, resulting in most of them being terrible experiences overall.

But Cat Quest was the kind of mobile game you had to pay a flat fee for and then there are - I believe, as this was a console version - no in-app purchases or ads every time you finish a dungeon or whatever. It can sorta feel like a mobile game in how simple it is, but this just makes it the perfect game for the Switch. If the developers set out to bring a chill gaming experience for fans of Skyrim or Zelda - I consider this a success.

Cat Quest is a great game filled with a lot of the heart of many indie games, hand-crafted with care to be the best possible experience for hardcore and casual gamers alike. The storybook art style is charming, the dialogue is hilariously witty, and the gameplay is enjoyably straight-forward. The world is almost perfectly created - you'll want a larger version of this game, but Cat Quest knows how to make a small adventure feel grand.

Cat Quest is available on PC, mobile, Nintendo Switch, and PS4. You can also get it bundled with the sequel on the Nintendo Switch and PS4.  I guarantee you'll have a fur-load of fun!