Sometimes it's good to get back to the basics, and nothing but the basics. As the years go on, each new game wants to add more and more features. There's a belief out that that more is more, that value is what players want more than anything. More bang for your buck and quality over quantity. It's in this mindset that the fundamentals get forgotten, thrown out with what is deemed too "old school" and unnecessary. Eventually when you add in that new stereo system, you realize you took out the engine and none of it works.
Cat Quest is nothing but the basics, for better or worse. You play an adventuring cat who travels across a world detailed to look like an adventure map. Your approach to the world and its approach to you isn't layered in details or complexity, it simply is what it is, and that's not a bad thing (so long as that's what you want). Cat Quest is a game that your baby brother could figure out; what's more, it's a game your parents could figure out. It's simple and it's fun. Cat Quest was developed by The Gentlebros (Slashy Hero) and published by PQube Limited (Gal*Gun: Double Peace, Hunger Dungeon).
Cat Quest is available on Steam for $12.99.
Much like the rest of the game, the writing in Cat Quest doesn't bog itself down in unnecessary details. You're a cat, like everyone else, who has his sister taken away by a nefarious villain with seemingly no reason to be evil other than the love of being evil. While your adventurer isn't much for words, you'll have a cat's head's spirit following you around like Navi. He'll direct you where to go next and do the negotiating with the locals.
While the story did surprise me toward the end with revelations and twists, overall there's not much to say about it. The vast majority of the main quest is taking care of four dragons that block your way to the main baddie, and you get that quest within the first 15 minutes on dry land. The world has lore for you to discover, through forgotten relics and quests. Surprisingly, the game isn't heavy handed with its lore, to an extent. Not everything is fully explained, and that's the way a good story should be told. Let the world build itself, don't just spell everything out for the player.
The dialogue does its best at being humorous, with references to popular media mixed with cat puns. It's a bit out of place, but for whatever reason that kind of humor is par for the course with indie games. It'd be better if it wasn't there, but the game isn't soured because of some groaners. Hell, you might even get a chuckle or two out of some of the nods. More than likely, though, you'll mash your way through whatever someone is saying because you already know the jist of it. You'll either end up killing some things outside or killing things in a cave, and there's no reason to listen to where the location is because you'll have a handy arrow telling you were to go, no matter where you are.
Swing your weapon, cast a spell, dodge attacks. There, I just summarized the entire combat system for you. I mean that not as an insult to the game, but to make it clear what kind of system you'll be walking into. For what it is, it works well. Keeping things simple works to its benefit, in fact. Rather than having to wonder what skill tree is best and what combination of attacks will take you the victory you just have to focus on dodging the enemy and hitting them between rolls.
If nothing else, the combat acts as a primer to young gamers interested in isometric RPGs. Similar to Diablo, the camera is above, looking down at an angle on the intrepid hero. The cat warrior simply has to whack away at the enemy a bunch and roll out of the way when the flashing red warning sigils pop up, indicating an incoming spell or attack.
The warning signs are very clear, and often generous, so to compensate they will hit very hard. Early on, dying in a few hits is not unheard of, especially since healing in combat is difficult. All you have to work with is a healing spell that costs a lot of MP, and MP is better saved for doing damage spells. Mistakes in the moment are treated harshly, but after the fight you can retreat to any nearby town for a full recharge. The variety of enemy behavior is nothing to scoff at, either. Each monster you encounter has its own spells and attack patterns, which need to be learned and predicted when going into a situation that looks dire.
Of course there is loot, though not in the quantities you would see from Diablo or Torchlight. Instead each piece has a predetermined distribution of stats, covering health, defense, magic, and/or damage. Every time you find a piece of armor or weapon you already have, that existing piece gets upgraded. All told there are over 50 pieces of gear, and they all look great. Finding a nice looking outfit a couple hours in is easy to do.
The game has something of a balancing problem, unfortunately. Most of the world map is available to you from the start, with islands and the frozen north blocked by progression. Quests are scattered all around in such a way to encourage you to move in a non-linear path around the game world. Stage one of a quest might start at level 10, but stage two is set for level 15. These levels are not requirements, just recommendations, and as you grow in level and gear you'll find they mean almost nothing. At the start it's best to stick to quests around your level, but sooner rather than later you'll find yourself free to explore wherever, so long as you're good enough at dodging.
Quests quickly become tedious, as you'll soon see they all follow the same patterns. Either you'll have to kill some things above ground or below it. There are stories told across several quests within an arc, like solving the mystery of two twin ghost towns, or helping an up and coming church get new members and then solve the problem of summoning things they shouldn't be. Yet these stories are bogged down by uninspired quest design. Since questing is the best way to gain levels, it's not like you can ignore them, either.
The art is done in a very charming cartoon style, where everything is adorable, even the things that are meant to be evil. All the armor and weapons are wonderfully designed, even if more than a few pieces are clearly based on sets from classic games. The cute style blends well with the simplistic gameplay, making for a very accessible looking game. The world, as said before, is laid out like a map, giving the game an almost storybook-like feel.
Like the art, the music is a charming concoction that makes one feel nostalgic for the RPGs of days past. With an orchestral style, it stirs up comparisons to Legend of Zelda. Though not in the same pedigree as the Zelda games, it still manages to elevate the experience above just a mindless hack 'n' slash. There's sadly not much diversity in which tracks you'll hear, but this seems in line with the tone of the game: quality over quantity. So long as you can appreciate the tracks that are given, it's unlikely you'll miss the ones that aren't there.
What you'll get with Cat Quest is a bare bones but very enjoyable experience. It's getting back to the basics, the core of what makes the action RPG genre fun: killing enemies, getting loot, and being fashionable. There are hints within the game at either future DLC content or a sequel, it's hard to tell, though either would be welcomed. Despite being a budget title with no frills, I had more fun with this game than I have with some AAA titles. It's a game that remembers where it all came from and doesn't try to think it's better than those that came before.
The title is coming to portable devices as well, and honestly you might have a better time picking it up on those devices. This isn't a game you need to sit down and do a focused run of, as it can end in as little as 3 hours if you don't care about doing any more side content than you have to. It may serve you better as something you play in short bursts, doing a dungeon and quest or two and then leaving the bathroom. I can't speak to its performance on those devices, as I played this title on the PC, but I can at least say that on PC the game runs perfectly fine.
Cat Quest is a charming and welcoming experience, appealing to players young and old. Whether you're new to games and want a nice entry level game or you're a long time vet who sometimes just wants something easy and accessible, this game has got you covered.
|+ Charming art, music, and overall style.||– Repetitive and dull fetch quests make up the bulk.|
|+ Great selection of gear for fashion and function.||– Humor falls flat more often than not.|
|+ Good amount of content for the sale price.|