Sometimes, it is easy to stumble upon a game that hits multiple nostalgic notes. Even though it is an entirely new and original experience, there is something about the way the entire game comes together that reminds you of things you liked in other titles. Cat Quest is one such game. This action-RPG hits all these notes that evoke various emotions as you play in the best pawsible way.
Cat Quest’s adventure kicks off in a rather typical way. Our hero and his sister are accosted by a sorcerer. The sister is taken, the ship the two were on ravaged, and our hero washed ashore on the coast of a new land. It is there that the mark on the back of his head is revealed as a sign that he can defeat dragons. What follows is a tail of salvation, as our cat traverses a rather large world aiding citizens, defeating monsters, slaying dragons, and taking out the madman who took his sister. Right away, we’re calling back to hundreds of games where someone important to the hero is abducted, kicking off a quest with greater implications. Though here, I appreciate that the relationship is familial.
The actual gameplay has elements that are unique, but can feel comforting. There is a very large overworld map, populated with towns, dungeons, monsters, and environmental objects. For the most part, players run around this 2D space, attacking enemies and interacting with objects. You can head into dungeons, which tend to have labels on them with a suggested level, and that takes you into another 2D space filled with enemies and treasure. Towns are pop up spaces with billboards offering sidequests and maybe an occasional house to enter, but are still situated in the field. It plays with the concept of an open-world. Beclaws clearly, this is an open space with various points of interest around. And there are plenty of supplemental quests that can be taken and push back the main storyline. But there isn’t the intimidating that a more modern open-world game presents, as we can see our limits. Things are spaced out and parceled in such a way that it feels more like this openness is akin to a Dragon Quest or Final Fantasy world map, where such extra explorations are for level grinding.
Even the combat harkens back to a simpler age. There are three things you need to worry about in Cat Quest, and they are attacking, casting spells, and dodging. Each enemy will have a red circle or pattern appear under them seconds before they attack, giving you a chance to dodge. From there, you need to recognize their movements and patterns, then use your standard attacks or magic spells you have collected to strike back. It can all feel rather methodical. The comparisons to a game like The Legend of Zelda make sense, but it is deeper than that. The timing that goes into working out the exact patterns can be more intricate, turning into each fight into a purrformance where players must know the right steps to the dance.
Then, there is the actual script. There is a charm here. Clearly, it takes inspurration from those 90’s era PlayStation JRPGs. The dialogue is quirky and there is plenty of kitten around. Puns abound, with the major spells having names like Flamepurr and Lightnyan. The developers clearly know quite a bit about video game hisstory, what with references to cursed kings, rampaging dragons, damsels in distress, and all sorts of iconic equipment like hats and armor that often resemble familiar hoods or suits. Even when there were quests that were original, I would find myself needing to take a meowment to think about what might have influenced the search for a wayward monk or other errand.
Cat Quest is a game that is wholly unique unto itself. This 2D action-RPG does some fun stuff. But, it does so while constantly paying homage to games that have come before it. While it may not constantly or directly reference games like Dragon Quest or The Legend of Zelda, the spirit is absolutely there. Especially when it comes to the whole reason for our heroic cat’s excursions. It is a fun little game that builds off of the past to create something compelling right meow.
Cat Quest is available for the Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, PC, and both Android and Apple iOS devices.