Review: Catquest

Catquest is an action/adventure game developed by The Gentlebros and originally released in August 2017. The game features a large, interesting world of cats that’s filled with puns, humor and great gameplay. For this review, I played on the Nintendo Switch.

Story

Catquest begins with the most serious in tone cut scene of the game, showing an evil being stealing away your sister and destroying the ship you’re on. You wash ashore, a Navi-like companion appears and off you go. If you’re a seasoned RPG player, you’ll notice it’s definitely light in terms of story, but that’s okay.

Part of the main appeal of Catquest for me, was just feeling like it’s a relaxing game to pick up for a little while here and there. I’m currently dreading continuing my Sekiro playthrough, and my other gaming time has been filled with dreary worlds such as Sanctuary from Diablo II.

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I appreciate anything that reminds me of Street Sharks saying JAWSOME!

The world is built on a foundation of lightheartedness from the first town, ‘Mewtown’ to the first side area ‘Catnip Cove’ and even the first spell you obtain ‘Flamepurr.’ NPC’s constantly make references a disliking the lupines, or dogs, and you’ll be met with dialogue such as “Mice aren’t to be trusted.” 

Combat

A game can’t entirely be built on cute cats and clever dialogue. The gameplay and combat is just as important in a game like this, and it surely delivers. Most of your time will be spent on this vast overworld which spawns enemies. You attack the enemies while swiftly avoiding their attacks and reap the rewards. In a way, it reminded me of the Adventures of Link overworld, except instead of entering combat once you encounter enemies, you just fight right there on the overworld screen.

The controls are very simple, Y to attack, B to roll and all four trigger buttons can be used to map magic spells of your choosing. If you use your mana on spells, you can physically attack enemies to regain mana for every attack. This mechanic forces you to jump into the fray from time to time, and doesn’t allow you to just snipe from a distance the entire game.

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Dodging attacks out on the world map.

What starts off as very simple combat, can get hectic pretty quickly. It may seem really easy to avoid an enemy that shoots off a spell to the east and west; just get below them or above them right? You’ll quickly face packs of enemies that have a variety of attacks that go off in different directions, and you can find yourself getting a game over within a few seconds if you’re hit with a cluster of attacks at once.

Catquest also does a decent job at times of placing enemies in locations with difficult terrain for that enemy type. At times, you’ll be forced to walk north on a skinny path for example, and have to fight enemies that fire off attacks north and south. This adds to the difficulty of the game, but it never felt unfair.

Quests

Overall, quests are your typical RPG-fare; fetch this item, save this cat, kill this enemy. You’re led to an interesting array of areas and meet some cool personalities such as Kit Cat and the Governor, but things do get a bit monotonous at times.

When you accept any type of quest, an arrow pops up on screen and leads you to your destination instead of leaving that up to the player. I feel half and half on it. For this type of game, it’s not serious and it’s a relaxing experience that doesn’t require tons of mental concentration. On the other side of that, you go into autopilot and just swing towards the next arrow, do what you need to do and repeat.

Besides main story quests, you are able to accept side quests from job boards found through the towns and villages. Many of these are multi-part quests that progress as you level. This system works, but there are some kinks. There are times when you need to go to the job board to grab a side-quest, which sends you to a NPC somewhere else to continue the quest. Once finished, you need to walk from the NPC, back to the job board, then back to the NPC to continue the quest line for that NPC. It happened enough to be noticeable and felt like a waste of time.

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An example of what a side quest job board looks like in Catquest.

Although not always revolving around quests, the world is filled with caves and ruins for you to explore. Unfortunately, you’ll find that a lot of these side areas and almost exactly the same; single floor areas with some combination of enemies. Each will usually contain a regular item chest as well as a golden chest for you to open. As mentioned above, there can be some interesting combinations of enemy-type + environment that you encounter, but overall these experiences were almost exactly the same every time you decide to venture in.

The one aspect I like about the side areas is that the level requirement is really optional. Early in the game, I went into level 10 areas while level 3 and it was fine. You’re rewarded for not being hit, and I don’t remember any encounters that require the player to get hit to progress or power through.

Equipment

Being a huge RPG fan, I love finding new equipment, upgrading and deciding on new combinations of items to deck my characters out in. Catquest satisfies this urge pretty well, but could have used some improvement.

There are specific armor sets that you can find in the game via quest rewards or chests that you open. The aspect of this system that I enjoy is that you can repeatedly find the same items, but instead of getting multiples of that item, they continually ‘level up’ as you find more copies. So you can find a level 1 chainmail sword early in the game, then find a second copy and it levels up to 13, increasing its stats at the same time. It was smart for inventory management and not getting bogged down by too much. The caveat to this, is that items are randomized, so you may like that one weapon you’re using, but not find upgrades for it until you’ve opened 100+ chests, forcing you to switch things up.

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Found a second version of the Chainmail helmet which made it go from level one to eight.

There are also eight spells in the game which require gold to level up. Early on when gold is more scarce, it may be tough to decide whether or not you should upgrade spells, or spend 50 gold per regular chest at Kit Cat’s to upgrade your current equipment, but this becomes less worrisome as you progress.

Now that I’ve gotten through the game, I do feel that extra modifiers such as attack speed, dodge and movement speed would have been welcome additions to weapons and armor. You’re basically just deciding between physical damage, magic damage, health and defense when deciding items. It seems like more of a no brainer at times instead of weighing the benefits/negatives of choosing certain items over others.

Few Other Points

World Map: Overall very fun to explore, designed well, distinguishable areas and I was always left looking forward to checking out the next section of the continent. There are also fun things for you to discover if you so choose.

Lag: Further into the game, you gain the option to travel more speedily and freely. Unfortunately, I experienced a lot of lag when using this ability which made it less fun to use. I also ran into lag spikes during some of the battles which can get annoying fast when you’re fighting multiple enemies with different attack patterns at once.

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The art style of the entire game is great and really shines when you check out the world map.

Hidden Paths: Peppered throughout the caves and ruins are invisible hidden paths. There’s no real way to indicate where one of these paths are besides running into every border area, which is tedious. A lot of times, these paths change direction multiple times which makes the experience even more tedious. 

Soundtrack: I really enjoyed the lighthearted nature of the soundtrack in Catquest. If I had to make a comparison, oddly, I would choose South Park: The Stick of Truth. The music fit really well and after the 5+ hours of my playthrough, I was still enjoying it.

Last Thoughts

For being a shorter game, Catquest is filled with extra things for you discover both in world, and post game if you choose to continue playing to get more rewards.

Combat is fluid and feels satisfying to play. It’s definitely a simple set up, so don’t expect some deep magic system here, but that’s also part of the appeal. It’s a relaxing romp through a world filled with cat’s and holds a few surprises along the way. 

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