I like quirky games, but I don’t necessarily go out of my way to play them in most cases. I’d be lying if I said that I initially chose to play the recently released (3/22/16) Catlateral Damage of my own volition. In all honesty, the only reason I picked this game up is because my girlfriend demanded it. She’s an avid cat lover and the idea of her actually wanting to play a video game was enough of a motivation to get me to take this one seriously. Full disclosure: I have no regrets. Fire Hose Games has created something hilarious, personal, and fun that most people who don’t require killing in games to have a good time will be able to enjoy on some level. Right of the bat I’ll say that Catlateral Damage is a solid indie title.
The game was clearly inspired by the Katamari franchise. On a visual level it’s very simple but not disappointing. The cel-shaded graphics create a fun atmosphere that’s central to the way people have been taught to feel about house cats. The game takes place in a number of large, colorful environments full of clutter and fun. The world of Catlateral Damage is in many ways a lonely one. You are a lone cat left to your own devices which ultimately means knocking over all the various items that your owners have taken the time to accumulate and place on shelves, tables, and several other types of furniture. Other than in the menus and at the start of each session, you don’t see your full self. All the player can see during play are the front paws of the cat and a small cat face which acts as a crosshair for aiming. It’s a very interesting perspective for players to take on that in many ways gives you insight about the world of cats. The in-game objects consist of several (at least 5,000) different types of items that can be interacted with plus furniture. Most of these objects are pretty realistic as far as shape and size other than socks which for gameplay reasons are more like sock shaped plates than actual clothing.
The HUD is almost directly taken from Katamari. In the top left corner, you have a timer, object counter, and target items list. In the top right, items you’ve knocked over appear and then disappear fairly quickly, noting which items are new to your collection of toppled objects. In the bottom center in simple, white, block text, notes appear telling you when you’ve unlocked special items like a gallery photo. The menus are done in the same style as the timer HUD. The backgrounds look like cardboard boxes and easy to read block text is used.
There are 22 different playable cats, all of which have their own name and appearance. Differences are all cosmetic and in no way affect gameplay. Cats can come in different colors and head shapes with basically every common variation of real life house cat there is. There are a large number of stages with randomly occurring items. Each time you play, the placement of things is similar, but the specific numbers of things and where they are located changes. Settings can include houses, cabins, grocery stores, museums, and other places a cat would cause many problems without seeming unrealistic for it to be there. Ultimately I was very happy with the graphics. I experienced no lag or loading issues. The game is responsive and fast paced. The style is appropriate and entertaining. For what it is, the game looks great even though it’s quite simple looking.
The gameplay is stupidly simple, but it’s quite entertaining. You are a cat. For your own reasons, which are given at the beginning of each session, you have decided that you are going to wreak havoc on your owners’ by knocking over as many items as possible. The game has a tutorial, which was also pulled straight from Katamari, but a screenshot of the controls would have been plenty considering how simple Catlateral Damage really is. You move with left stick, look around with right stick, jump with ex, and swipe with L2/R2 depending on which way you want to swipe. You can also use L1/R1 to push things forward, but it’s not nearly as effective as swiping and for some reason it’s not listed in the tutorial. You can also just push things around with your head/body by walking into them. You jump very high in this game, but not high enough to reach everything directly. The options menu allows for a few gameplay changes such as inverting the X and Y axes.
There are two modes of play. Objective Mode is a timed scenario where you have to knock over a certain random number of items (100+) within a random time limit ranging from three to more than 10 minutes based on what I witnessed in the game. Each item must be knocked completely to the floor to count. Often you will knock something off one shelf onto something else like a table. You will still have to push it off the table all the way to the floor for it to count. Special target items, which are noted in the HUD, count as more than one item when knocked over, but all others count as one regardless of size. This mode spans four rounds and your total score is the combined total of all the items you knocked over plus completion bonus points. While the game is simple to play, strategy is necessary to succeed. The timed gameplay is challenging and does require some planning as you progress through each stage. Making your way up to certain objects on top of high shelves for instance often requires some roundabout thinking. You also have to choose which items are worth pursuing and which should be skipped. At any time you can save a level you really enjoyed and then play it again in Litterbox Mode. Litterbox Mode is an endless mode where all the same things happen but there is no timer.
Both modes have specific trophies as well as count towards progress for general ones unless specifically noted in the trophy list. Many trophies are required to unlock certain playable cats. Gallery items and objects can be found in both modes as well. Everything you’ve ever knocked over can be viewed in the object collection page from the main menu. While playing, you can also find pictures of real cats that when knocked over are added to your photo gallery. During play of either mode, a number of special occurrences can take place. You can find special items that add to your cat’s movement speed, jump, or swipe speed. There are special items like catnip that max all three stats for a limited amount of time. A few funny items are also available to find such as a force field that just pushes everything in your vicinity without you having to swipe them. At any time, random events can happen, which range from having to chase a laser pointer light to gravity being extremely low causing everything to float when pushed and you to jump much higher.
There are special items in the game that can be interacted with. These usually have little gold stars on them to notify you that they are toys. Some of these are scratching posts that you just keep swiping and others are less interactive such as tubes to walk through and balls to swat. You can also play with the toilet paper in the bathroom by unrolling it. Playing with toys results in upgrade drops. All in all, the gameplay is very simple but it is quite fun if not a bit repetitive. Because of the nature of the game, you can play for a short 20 minute session or hours at a time. I enjoyed the gameplay in much the same way that I enjoyed Katamari but with much less stress. One might call it Catamari. That was bad and I’m sorry, but I just couldn’t resist.
The sound is quite good in this game. But its goodness comes from its subtlety. The music is a very nice set of happy upbeat sounds with no vocals. They are atmospheric and in my opinion necessary, but can be turned off. My girlfriend prefers the game without the music. The sound effects are present but not domineering. Your swipes have sounds but they are very soft. It’s not overpowering as a means to fill the silence. They are small and almost unnoticeable. Items make sounds when falling, but they aren’t that loud. Only when you knock over something breakable like a vase do you get a powerful sound like glass breaking. There are also stronger effects for sounds like running water when you turn on a sink or running over piano keys, but for the most part it’s a very quiet game without the music. In a lot of ways I think this was a very realistic and well-informed choice on the part of Fire Hose Games.
The writing is very limited, but quite funny as well as punny. The only dialog in the game is at the start of each level. Your cat will always say why it feels the need to go on a rampage. The single text/thought box will say something like “My dinner is five minutes late. The humans will pay.” That’s literally all the writing you get in a round, but each one is funny every time. The trophies, of which there are 29, all have hilarious cat themed names such as “Cataclysm” and “Night at the Mewseum.” The game can be played in English or Japanese. At the end of the day the writing is not substantial but it’s pretty much all well done.
The replay value in Catlateral Damage is unlimited with its random levels and thousands of objects. But again the gameplay is repetitive. There are 29 trophies, including a platinum, but most of them are more about time spent playing than skill. Some are point focused and some are completion focused, but all of them require you to do things a lot as opposed to doing something once really well. It really depends on how much you like the game since there is no official campaign or preset win conditions other than trophies to complete it. It think $10 is a bit high for this game considering there’s no actual semblance of a plot or a campaign, but for $5 I’d say it was totally worth buying. It is a great buy to get your girlfriend to actually play a video game though. If you are a cat lover, which I am not, I think you won’t be unhappy with your $10 purchase, otherwise I’d say wait for a Flash or Steam sale and pick it up for $5. You won’t be unhappy with it at that price.
Catlateral Damage is fun but it’s not a serious game. You don’t pick this up to be your next serious title. It’s a liminal game that you play for fun when you need a break from serious time sinks like The Division or Final Fantasy. I enjoyed it. My girlfriend loved it. I may play it again, but ultimately won’t pursue the “Pawlatinum!”
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