The internet love cats. Anyone with access to a computer knows this to be true. YouTube is littered with beyond a million uploads featuring cats of all breeds doing the craziest things, so it’s no surprise that Chris Chung’s KickStarter campaign had no trouble with raising the funds. What was born from their investment is a first person destructive simulator, developed by Fire Hose Games, in which the player plays through the eyes of a rather disgruntled household cat. Having been left alone or not getting the attention that it thinks it deserves, this household cat has but one goal and one goal only: knock as many of its owner’s belongings onto the floor as humanly possible.
Yet despite having a rather entertaining concept, Catlateral Damage is at best, a simple affair that lacks depth. There is only so long you can spend jumping around swiping left and right before it starts to grow tiresome. While there are a lot of bonuses to be earned from knocking things over and undertaking some classic feline mischief (my particular favourite being the unrolling of the toilet roll), the actual act of doing so after time becomes rather limited in its appeal. Though the different locations that switch between levels do offer a new playground of destruction to wreak havoc in, there is no strategic variation to keep you engaged. It’s only in the grocery and museum levels where things get a little bit different (prompting you to knock down more expensive items, such as a rather impressive dinosaur skeleton) but not enough to protect it from criticism.
There was one occasion that threw something new into the mix that sadly was not employed further and would really have gone to great lengths in adding that little touch of variety. While in the middle of wanton acts of destruction, a new objective flashed up on-screen declaring that “There is a mouse on the loose. Catch it!” Now even though the actual act of catching the mouse only rewarded you with a bonus, the new objective immediately changed the dynamic. The mouse did not show up on the map, neither was it easy to find, which added more of a challenge when up against a short time limit. It may have been a small feature, but opened up a whole other branch of possibilities that could have taken the concept further.
What if one of the game modes had been that there was an item hidden somewhere around the map which must be located before the time ran out? Not only would this offer more of an incentive to knock everything this way and that, rather than just being told to, it would also allow for a spot of competition between other players. Another could have been a human entering the world, seeing all the mess that has been made and the player must then hide and avoid being caught. Of course, we have to consider the limitations that were put on the developers and at the end of the day there is only so much that could be done. But as a game, it did need variations such as these to hold the player’s attention rather than just becoming a short-lived, loveable gimmick that quite quickly becomes repetitive.
Yet, despite all that, it is abundantly clear that a great deal of care and passion has been put into this project and that is where it should be truly admired. It may not be as suited for a console release, but it is the little things that make this an adorable little game, that is perhaps the greatest compliment I can pay. Ranging from the seemingly unlimited amount of delightful cat puns (such as the ‘Pawse Menu’ and the title alone), to the choice of different cat breeds and characters unlockable through the main campaign, to the central cursor taking the shape of a cat’s nose and whiskers which reacts to certain actions being performed.
It’s not going to wow anybody with its presentation, but then it would be unfair to expect that of an indie based game. The models of both the cats and the objects are pretty simple, but it is roaring with colour that works towards a lovely, cute aesthetic and all the little details that are often overlooked are really something to appreciate.
Overall, there may be a surprising amount of content to unlock, but the gameplay just isn’t diverse enough to really hold a player’s attention for long. It’s a game that would perhaps be enjoyed more thoroughly by younger players, but for the rest of the gaming community, Catlateral Damage is one that’s probably better off played in short bursts.
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