This week, I got a chance to pounce on Cat Quest, an isometric, open world action-RPG by The Gentlebros—an indie team from Singapore that released the free-to-play Slashy Hero on iOS and Android in late 2015. Imagine a classic Legend of Zelda game about exploring an itty-bitty Skyrim (and also Link is an itty-bitty kitty).
There’s no need to wax analytical about the look and feel of Cat Quest—it’s precisely what it thinks it is. A hateful villain absconds with the sister of our average everycat, and now he must team up with his helpful guardian spirit to hack-and-cast his way across the overworld, through dungeons, and to the ends of Felingard to get her back. Violent dragons return from an ancient absence rooted in their war with the mysterious Old Masters, and only our hero—descended from mythical warriors known as the Dragonblood—has any hope of saving his sibling and the world in the process.
While the Steam (August 8th) and PS4 / Switch (Late Q4) versions are widely mentioned, The Gentlebros’ website quietly points to the existence of iOS and Android, versions, as well. Typically, casting such a wide net is a red flag for me; so often does a game shine on one platform and fall flat on another. Yet while I didn’t expect any issues operating via gamepad on PC, the compact and concise interface seems like it would be at home even on a tablet. Provided that movement in combat remains fluid, I don’t foresee any major issues playing Cat Quest on any platform. Its ambitions as a game fortunately do not undermine its ambitions to be versatile.
The overworld is a single, contiguous continent represented on a map-like scale. Towns, sidequest boards, and dungeons are peppered throughout, and although every activity can be distilled to “run here, kill that,” a clear, deliberate path and brisk pace prevent the simplicity from giving way to tedium as you solve each town’s looming catastrophes.
Dungeons are bite-sized, requiring no more than a few minutes each. However, there are over fifty of them scattered about, thus ensuring that there is always a relevant place to find experience. Loot chests only appear once, but this (in combination with rewards from the main scenario and sidequests) should be sufficient to stay ahead of the curve without gambling on the random chests at Kit Cat’s blacksmith shop.
The music—by zminusone—is polished and catchy; more than I expected from a low-powered indie game. If anything, the downside is that there’s not all that much of it. Thankfully, you’ll likely complete the game long before you grow weary of these delightful few tracks.
Our everycat can equip a headpiece, a suit of attire, and a weapon. Inventory can be sorted by any of these three categories, so browsing and selecting options is as easy as prioritizing at a glance at your defense (a primary layer of HP that regenerates out of combat), health (HP that requires recuperation in a town), physical power, and magical power. The statistical differences don’t carry considerable weight—especially once you acquire the pieces that are obviously central to your victory—so their primary value is as aesthetic collectibles.
In addition to the standard sword slash, there are seven magical abilities with unique behaviors and areas-of-effect. These abilities must be used in tandem, as slashing alone will usually be insufficient for overcoming an of-level adversary, yet MP is itself replenished by melee attacks. Magics can be upgraded up to level 10, but you have to pay off the arcane temple for your training, so save up!
Enemies utilize the same abilities as our hero, with a circular AOE slam in place of the slash. Each enemy type possesses different ability combinations, cast timers, and attack patterns. The result is simple and easily learned, but isn’t mind-numbing; a stumble can still force you to abandon an encounter and flee back to town for a recovery catnap. Observe, dodge, wait for your opening, then strike.
Cat Quest‘s adorable visuals and prepawsterous accumewlation of terrible puns keep this medley of classic RPG elements from going stale before you sink your claws all the way into it, and the deliberate pacing keeps it from drawing itself out overlong. Clocking in at roughly fifteen hours (perhaps half that if you’re efficient and/or not a completionist), it’s a dalliance to the average gamer, but I enjoyed my time with it. More importantly, I could easily imagine replaying it some rainy weekend a while down the way.
It may be a relatively shallow pastiche and parody of familiar franchises, but when it comes from a small indie team whose candor and care make those few facets shine, it’s hard to fault them for that. It’s a silly, honest, fun, and self-aware little game. That said, it’s not a flawless gem. I did run into a few glitches along the way; a case of hanging death without Game Over here, a case of vanishing items there. However, my review copy has since been patched, and the issues have not yet reappeared.
Without straying into spoiler territory, I also felt that the ending lacked a quarter-measure of closure on my first pass. An unexpectedly sentimental conclusion sacrifices a plot thread to get there, and the final moments felt like they were leading somewhere more. Perhaps, as talk of mice pirates and dog empires suggests, there’s more to come, one day.
Still, it’s an above-average trek down a narrow and familiar path; a dalliance not to be furgotten. If you enjoy classic Zelda games, cute cats, and bad puns, give it a chance. (Especially if there are kids around.)
~ Final Score: 7/10 ~
Review copy provided by PQube for Playstation 4. Screenshots taken by reviewer.