Most indie games fall into two categories to me: An entire game is based around one, usually solid, idea. Or, the game doesn’t do anything anything revolutionary to the genre, but offers a unique charm to present itself. Generally speaking my other indie outing Moonlighter is more based in that first category. It wasn’t exactly like a rougelike, but it also wasn’t a fully new game idea. This is what makes indie games intriguing: You can get something new while still feeling familiar.
Cat Quest on the Nintendo Switch is absolutely no exception. At it’s core, Cat Quest is a traditional action RPG with gameplay similar to Castle Crashers or Diablo III. The whole experience, however, is wrapped in a cartoony feline aesthetic. Sure, you’re still battling epic dragons and thwarting the plans of an evil mastermind, but you’re a cat. And the world is full of cats. And the dialogue features a plethora of cat puns. Did I mention there are cats?
Hacking and slashing through enemies isn’t the best route to success here. Sure, when you’re powerful you can dispatch lower level enemies in no time at all, but before then you’ll have to be precise and careful in execution. This was one of the aspects of Cat Quest I really enjoyed.
Enemies routinely telegraphed their upcoming attacks, and if you were quick with your reflexes, you could easily dodge them and avoid any damage. This tactic remains true for seemingly every enemy in the game. I liked this because it rewards the player for having skills rather than simply relying on the in-game prowess of the player character to advance the game.
This concept was exemplified toward the end game as well, when you would discover dungeons with enemy levels approaching 200 (while you’re character floated around 70). You could grind a few dozen levels to be more formidable yourself, but you could also strategically attack the enemies to defeat them at a much lower level. This is likely what the developers intended, seeing as an end-game replay option includes a restriction where you actually remain at first level the entire game. Seems daunting at first, but a true Cat Quest expert could easily overcome these odds.
As you complete rudimentary and cliche RPG side quests, you’ll level up your character and gain more equipment. Some armor and weapon pieces increase your attack power, spell damage, evasiveness, and defense, while others inhibit them. Finding your balance for your gameplay style will be easy once you discover a few spells are way more powerful that others. Seeing as currency in this world is used exclusively to level up spells and purchase a random loot box for armor, you’ll have some truly powerful armor and spells before long.
This would be my only real complaint with the game. I never felt like anything was truly balanced. Many enemies have similar attack patterns to other enemies, making the depth of battles fall short. The compensate, it seems the developers just raised the level of later enemies in place of incorporating new attack styles. If you go back to the first point I made, this means so long as you know when to attack and when to dodge, there isn’t much challenge in Cat Quest.
This might be the point though. The game has a very lighthearted nature, which would lend itself well to the casual RPG crowd. After a surprisingly emotional ending, Cat Quest lets you play a new game with some restriction modifiers to offer more challenge: The aforementioned no-leveling restriction, another option to make enemies even more powerful, and even one where you only have 9 lives before its truly game over. These options represent the most difficult challenges the game has to offer, and unless you’re looking for a replay of an otherwise average game, they can be bypassed.
Overall Cat Quest is a fun game that never overstayed its welcome. There are some great moments where you feel powerful. Then there are some others that feel repetitive. All of them, however, are wrapped up in a cat theme that you’ll only appreciate if you like cats. And honestly if you don’t like cats why are you even playing this game?