I’m not afraid to say that Cat Quest’s puns almost killed me. From a pause screen that is literally called ‘Paws’, to numerous feline takes on popular TV shows such as ‘The Pouncing Dead’ and much, much more besides, Cat Quest’s brutally unrelenting endeavour to absolutely blast the player into submission with cat puns is as much a running commentary on how much the developers love the mercenary furry critters as it is a reflection on their love for light-hearted comedy.
However, beyond its penchant for often entertaining, though ultimately grating cat puns, the gentile and freewheeling approach towards child-friendly, cartoon comedy that the Singapore based developer employs is one that bleeds throughout the design of Cat Quest, too. A highly streamlined action RPG that feels like the bastard kitten of Diablo III and Final Fantasy’s overworld map, Cat Quest might struggle to enchant those looking for more challenging and sophisticated fare, but for everyone else it represents an easy to get into genre effort that equally acts as an effective gateway for younger folk looking to experience their first RPG fix.
A simplistic though entertaining RPG wrapped up in an adorable aesthetic
Nowhere does Cat Quest embrace this simplicity more doggedly (gotta balance out the cat puns, right?) than in its narrative. Cast as a stoic and silent feline whose sister has been catnapped by an evil dark lord cat called Drakoth, players must cut across the land, raiding dungeons, completing side quests, taking catnaps all the while getting their paws on some sweet loot along the way.
Far from a mute entity however, our furry hero has a mouthpiece in the form of his trusty sidekick who essentially looks like a feline version of Nintendo’s Kirby character if it swallowed a Smurf or two. All the same, the bouncing blue moggy has a wicked sense of humour that makes it frequently enjoyable and often outright hilarious (his fourth-wall breaking rants are often highly amusing), even if it does lean a little too heavily on patience eroding cat punnage.
With a clean, colourful and crisp UI that looks like it was designed by Fisher Price, the developers have made navigating the various menus and game world of Cat Quest an effortless delight and it’s a quality that will endear it deeply to audiences who are either unfamiliar with the RPG genre, or, simply just those who crave a break from the sometimes exhausting walls of text, skill trees and other visual elements that are intrinsic with Cat Quest’s more ambitious peers.
Adhering to this inviting and streamlined design template are the combat and navigation systems that serve as the dual cornerstones of the Cat Quest experience. Predominantly taking place on a whimsical patchwork overworld map, players move their ‘cat-venturer’ around the environment from an elevated third-person perspective, picking up quests, speaking to the locals and saving their progress with catnaps at inns that literally have a cushioned cat-basket set out on their front doorstep.
Cat Quest gameplay captured on PS4
When you’re not wandering around the game world, you’ll be kicking the tails of the various monsters and other unsavoury denizens that lurk about the place and to this end, the combat in Cat Quest occurs in real-time, and like other aspects of its well-crafted offering, it’s easy to get grips with, satisfying but also not terribly deep. Boasting just a melee attack command, a roll evasion command and the ability to conjure magic to either help your character or damage your enemies, the combat in Cat Quest can be enjoyed by anybody regardless of their skill level and offers a wide range of spells, weapons and armour for players to get their paws on.
The problem with the combat in Cat Quest however, is that you simply level up and become powerful much too quickly. This serves not only to make a fair few of the side quests that you can pick up obsolete (you’ll level up past them before you know it), but it also makes the endgame far breezier than it otherwise should be.
Likewise, another issue with Cat Quest’s simplicity is the side-quests. Though always entertainingly written, they rarely seek to evolve beyond find and fetch, or, find and kill yarns and so it isn’t long before a feeling of repetition sets in. Luckily though, Cat Quest’s endearing and spontaneous nature means that it can be easily digested in bite-sized form in order to prevent burnout, and in that sense it fills a niche that very few other RPGs manage to do.
As welcoming and effortlessly easy to get into Cat Quest is, I still couldn’t help but wish that the game asked more of me. Though the developers of Cat Quest like to say that their game draws inspiration from genre luminaries such as The Legend of Zelda and Skyrim, the game arguably feels much more akin to something like Diablo, where the emphasis is on rapid-fire action rather than expansive player opportunities and the ability to fashion emergent narratives.
Don’t get me wrong; though simplistic, this is still a noble goal, and Cat Quest rarely fails in its quest to entertain and elicit a special kind of giddiness on the part of the player. It’s just that because it does set the barrier to entry so low, players who have been in the PS4 RPG trenches for the last few years might find Cat Quest a little too lightweight for their more ambitious tastes.
As both a palette cleanser and an introduction to the action RPG genre as a whole, Cat Quest’s allure is substantial. Easy to get into and with the sort of bright and bouncy presentation that makes it impossible to dislike, Cat Quest mimics the real-life felines that serve as its inspiration as it can sneak into your affections and steal your attention when you least expect it.
Of course, those very same streamlined combat and quest systems that endear Cat Quest so completely to a more casual audience also serve to dilute its appeal for folks who are familiar with the genre. As such, if you’re expecting something approaching the depths of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, you will be disappointed; Cat Quest is not that game, and nor does it try to be.
Cat Quest then, is digital catnip for fans of both its titular feline folk and also those who don’t usually gravitate towards the RPG genre. All the same, the lean framework, relentless charm and breezy challenge also lend it a certain appeal to exhausted RPG veterans looking for something a little less taxing to rekindle their passion for the genre.