We're not sure we want to pick a side in the endless war between cat and dog people - we like them both equally; love is perhaps the better word. We don't discriminate when there's a fluffy beast around that needs stroking, whether it's a dopey Labrador or an aloof ginger tom, we'll harass any that happen to cross our path. And, as our wardrobe can attest to, we'll buy anything with a cutesy animal print on too - we're currently rocking the snow day-appropriate polar bears, but we have at least four with cats on, plus whales, unicorns, hedgehogs and more. Much like our clothing choices, we're quite partial to whimsical, light-hearted games that don't take themselves too seriously, too. So, when Cat Quest came along, combining our love of animals with our major role-playing game addiction, we knew it was Christmas come early.
In a world filled with anthropomorphic cats, you play as a nameless yellow tom, whose sister has been catnapped by a major sourpuss of a villain by the name of Drakoth. Seemingly just for the lols, he agrees to release your sister, but only if you can defeat his dragon army first. As the last remaining Dragonblood - a clan of cats with the power to defeat dragons - it just so happens that you're also the only cat that can save her, and so you embark on a globe-trotting quest across Felingard to be the hero of this furry tale.
Littered with cat puns and references to other games and popular culture - from the archaeologist Cara Loft, to a blacksmith with a fondness for The Pouncing Dead TV show to name but a few - Cat Quest certainly has a sense of humour. Which is fortunate really, seeing as the main story itself isn't really much to write home about, and just an excuse to move you from dragon to dragon, and dungeon to dungeon.
Much like its story, Cat Quest is very much a 'lite' take on the role-playing genre - there's nothing especially deep or complicated here, just simple, fluffy fun. The entire game takes place on a large open map, dotted with towns, dungeons and miscellaneous enemies, with some areas locked off behind abilities you'll learn as you play (walking on water, flight etc). Exploring is not just encouraged, but pretty much essential in that you'll need to move from town to town accepting side quests in order to progress through the game - calling them side quests is a bit of a misnomer really, as many of them are the key to taking down Drakoth's dragons and saving your sister. Side quests are the only way to learn how to walk on water, for example, which you'll need to know in order to take out the second dragon, as well as being the main source of the experience points you'll need to get the strength to defeat them too.
Battles are simple button-mashing affairs, mixing simple sword slashes with a handful of magical spells and well-timed dodges. Everything takes place in real-time, and enemy attacks are fairly easily avoided thanks to the big red circles that appear around the enemy's feet as they gear up to whack you. And avoid them you will want to, as some enemies can do a decent wodge of damage - especially when you consider you don't unlock a healing spell for a while, and even when you do, you'll need to invest a fair amount of gold to upgrade it to get any meaningful restorative effects from it. Some enemies are weak to physical sword attacks, whilst others will take more damage from magical spells, so combat in Cat Quest becomes a bit of a balancing act of trying to land enough hits of the right kind, whilst avoiding getting hit yourself.
Given the fairly open nature of Cat Quest's map, those who like to explore may find themselves face to face with some enemies that are substantially stronger than you - particularly if you venture through the Furbidden Fields in the centre (and indeed, some quests require you to, despite the perils). We don't exactly have the best reactions in the business, and did find there was a bit of a learning curve with Cat Quest's battles, dying over and over in the opening hours as we were always a split second too late with our dodges. Fortunately the game is pretty forgiving, in that your cat respawns at the last town you rested at, all accumulated experience intact, ready to fight another day. But where you notice the enemy difficulty the most is when it comes to battling Drakoth's dragons, which pretty much require you to put in at least twenty levels-worth of grinding side quests etc between each one if you ever hope to stand a chance. With the first dragon, the game actively warned us not to get too close until we were around level 18; we didn't manage to conquer the second dragon until we were level 41 - another reason why investing in Cat Quest's side quests is a big deal.
It's fortunate then, that Cat Quest's side quests are one of its strong suits - outside of its cat puns, at least. There's a pair of cursed towns with identical quests to complete, a bush that can't remember how to fly, and a village of monster meat-obsessed felines; a blacksmith whose shipments always meet an unfortunate end, a dragon worshippers' cult meeting gone wrong and a cheeky ne'er do well trying to steal an award winning fish catterole recipe - to name but a few. Each town has four or five different missions to complete, and, while most do follow the same 'follow this guy, head here, clear out this dungeon' formula, there's enough variety in the dialogue to keep things from getting stale.
Every side quest, and every dungeon found on the map, has its own suggested level for tackling it at, to prevent you biting off more than you can chew. However, your cat's level is only a part of the equation, as you'll also want to give at least some thought to the equipment you're rocking for maximum bad-guy-bashing potential. In a nice touch, this also gives you the chance to make sure you're the most stylish moggie in town, as anything you equip will appear on your in-game feline, whether it be a wizard's hat, chainmail armour or a nice crown. Cat Quest has quite a wardrobe to collect too, some found in chests in dungeons, some earned from quest rewards and others bought through the blacksmith's rather unorthodox sales methods. Rather than strolling into her store and picking out the blingingest suit of armour going, she prefers to blind bag - or we suppose, blind box - her creations, and charge you a fee for a random item instead. It's actually a fairly fun way of doing things, as any duplicates you get add together to create a more powerful version of that item, levelling up your 'Furry Tank Helmet' from level 4 to level 10, for example. In a funny touch, the 'crappy helmet' and 'crappy sword' items actually get even crappier as you level them up, rather than getting better...
It may not have the deep and meaningful, dark and gritty storyline that seems to be so fashionable in games these days, but there's still a lot to like about Cat Quest - possibly even more so, because it doesn't take itself seriously at all. Chock full of cat puns, side quests and collectibles, and with some stellar writing and humour thrown in for good measure, it's the perfect cute and fluffy antidote to more serious games. It's a simple story about a cat going on an adventure to save his sister, and although it's not the longest tale in existence, weighing in at about ten hours long, it's a dang fun one while it lasts.
Format Reviewed: Playstation 4