Thursday, November 29

Review: Cattails [Nintendo Switch eShop]

While it was inspired by classics like the Harvest Moon series, Stardew Valley made a huge splash with a pretty broad spectrum of people so when you hear about a game being labelled as “Stardew Valley with cats” it tends to get your attention. After a quick, and pretty sad, introduction where you’re essentially abandoned out in the wilderness by your now-former owners, you’ll meet Coco, who gets you started and shows you the ropes. Once you decide on a tribe to align with (cats are a territorial bunch) you’ll have your new home and will be able to set out on your journey.

While there ends up being a central shrine that provides some structured challenges and objectives similar to the Community Center in Stardew (which will allow you to establish your own colony) for the most part the fun in Cattails is exploring and immersing yourself in the experience of being a feral cat. You’ll need to establish a bit of a daily routine with exploration of the pretty substantial map playing a central role in things. While care will need to be taken when you’re moving into the territory of the other factions there are secrets and things to discover peppered about that you won’t be guided to, you’ll just need to explore and discover them.

The primary upgrade systems in the game revolve around hunting, fighting, swimming, and foraging and in general you’re able to choose your own path in how you play… though you’ll need to at least be a decent hunter. By getting into a crouch you’ll move a bit more slowly but once you spot some prey you can then close in, wait for your focus meter to be full, and then try to pounce to make your kill. It can take some getting used to in terms of the range you want to be at and overall technique but once you’ve got a handle on it (perhaps throwing some EXP into improving your skills) you should be good. You’ll need this prey for food, trading at the shop for mews (the in-game currency), and for wooing other cats you fancy. Plying another cat with gifts will slowly help build a relationship and can eventually result in kittens, which is a nice touch.

While in general you’ll want to have some base combat skills for the most part you can go a passive route, if nothing else you can tone down the challenge pretty easily, and choose to simply experience the game the way you want to. The loop of exploring, finding new areas and items, acquiring new skills, and doing things like upgrading your den should seem very familiar and for the most part it’s wonderfully laid back. Seasonal events and a changing landscape help provide some extra charm and variation but in the end this game is all about making the most of being a cat and finding the experience you’re looking for, whether through domination, making friends, or just being the scourge of the bird and rodent communities. While Cattails won’t be for everyone, it offers a light and relaxing experience that’s full of charm and just plain feels a bit different.

Score: 7.5

  • A generally serene experience you can take at your own pace and enjoy playing the way you want to
  • Plenty of places to explore and secrets to find
  • The core mechanics of things like hunting take some getting used to but are generally well-implemented

  • If the hook of living the life of a cat doesn’t sound interesting you may be better off looking elsewhere
  • The general lack of structure may not appeal to everyone
  • Not as big or diverse an experience as its contemporaries