I’ve been a cat person all my life. I like dogs well enough, but my heart will always belong to those furry felines with the oh-so-soft bellies that they maddeningly don’t want me to pet. If you’ve felt my pain, then you may be interested in Cat Quest, an RPG filled with cats and cat puns that you can claw your way through in just a few hours. The story is nothing to write home about and the gameplay loop is fairly repetitive, but there’s still fun to be had in the land of Felingard.
You play as a nameless kitty whose sister has been catnapped by a real sourpuss of a villain named Drakoth. As you begin your quest to save her, you discover that you are the mythical Dovahkiin and that you alone have the ability to kill dragons. Okay, you’re actually called the Dragonblood, but the parallel to Skyrim is clearly intentional. Indeed, Cat Quest occasionally makes references to other games and popular TV shows, from an artifact-seeking cat named Cara Loft to a blacksmith who’s fond of a show called The Pouncing Dead. These references may earn a chuckle or two, but chuckling is about the only emotional response you’re likely to have to the story in this game. It’s incredibly basic and only really serves to get you to the next dungeon or boss.
Side quests fare a little better. Every town has a string of these short and sweet little diversions, and the storyline for each quest chain develops as you move from one task to the next. Oftentimes the quest givers are not who they seem, which can help to alleviate the otherwise straightforward nature of the main story. Unfortunately, like the main story, side quests ultimately only exist to funnel you to a location (usually a dungeon) where you are tasked with killing a bunch of monsters. There’s very little deviation from this formula, even when the quest itself isn’t about slaying your enemies, and that can get tiresome.
The combat itself is simple but fun. You attack enemies in real time with either an equipped weapon or a variety of magic spells, which have different areas of effect and can even inflict status ailments on your opponents. Of course, enemies don’t just sit around waiting for you to wail on them; they have their own melee and magical attacks, but you can easily dodge these thanks to the way each move is telegraphed. Enemies can also be strong or weak to melee and magical attacks, necessitating a bit of strategy in terms of how you tackle different foes. The action is fast and fluid, and it’s a testament to the developer that despite the repetitiveness of the gameplay loop, I never really got tired of going toe to toe with monsters. I do wish, however, that key bindings were customizable; I found dodging to be awkward on keyboard and mouse, and ended up playing most of the game with a gamepad as a result.
The land of Felingard is purrfectly sized for a short 8-10 hour adventure: it feels vast at first, but with the traversal skills you unlock, you can cross the map with ease. Caves and ruins dot the landscape, each with a recommended level that reflects the strength of the enemies inside. As you defeat monsters, you collect experience orbs (to level up your catventurer) and coins (to level up your spells and buy equipment). You also open chests, which gift you weapons and armor. Equipment changes your appearance — something I greatly enjoyed — and should you be the type to hoard every attractive piece of armor for potential fashion changes down the road (I am in no way talking about myself, I swear), you’ll be glad to hear that inventory space is seemingly unlimited. Not only that, but if you find a weapon or piece of armor you already own, it isn’t added to your inventory, but rather levels up the stats of the existing equipment, which is quite handy.
Visually, the game is attractive in a simple and cute kind of way. Characters and environments have a hand drawn look to them, and colors are bright and bold. Unfortunately, the world map doesn’t have much variety to it, and the dungeons are even worse. There are basically two types — caves and ruins — and while the layouts are different, the assets used are identical. Similarly, there are only a handful of NPC sprites that get shuffled around and reused for every character other than the few unique cats you meet during the main story. The music, while competent, is also incredibly repetitive; the same handful of tunes plays during almost every quest, whether you’re exploring a dungeon or taking on a major boss. It got to the point where I actually turned off the music in-game and simply listened to my own collection to get some much needed aural diversity. Considering that Cat Quest was also developed for mobile devices, some asset reuse was probably inevitable, but it’s still more than a little disappointing.
Finally, a word about the cat puns. There are a lot of them in Cat Quest; indeed, one might say there are a catzillion puns in this game, and he or she would not be lion. Some of the puns, like the names of areas and towns on the world map, are cute. There’s the Pawcific Ocean, the Catpital, and the Bermewda Triangle, for example. However, most of the puns are in dialogue, and as such, you’ll see them used over and over and…well, you get the picture. This game has taught me that it is possible to have too much of a good thing, so please consider your tolerance for pawsome (and not so pawsome) puns before picking it up.
Despite my issues with the game, I did ultimately enjoy Cat Quest. Its brevity actually works in its favor, making the issues outlined above feel less egregious than they would if the game were longer. I still wish the story wasn’t quite so bland and the gameplay wasn’t as repetitive, but I also find myself wanting to jump back in to finish the handful of side quests I have left, so the game definitely does something right. If you just want to kill monsters as an adorable cat and experience as many cat puns as possible, Cat Quest may be the game for you! It’s available now on Steam and iOS, and comes to Android devices, PS4, and Switch later this year.