Cat Lady strolled into Early Access earlier this week this rouge-like tail of ghosts, schoolgirls, and grandma’s furniture got a once over as we dove into this tail.
Developed by indie studio Rose City Games and published by Viz media, we furr-nished ourselves with a copy of Cat lady to try out out luck against this top-down roguelike adventure this week. Available on PC, this game puts players in the role of Ally Marie. On her regular visit to Grandma’s house, she finds the mansion abandoned. Grandma is nowhere to be found and her cats seem suspicious. These feline companions have taken on sentience and now the furniture attack. A supernatural force seems to be behind the strange changes and it is up to Ally to clear house and find grandma.
A Clowder of Action
Thankfully for Ally, grandma’s cats are more than willing to help and they can do far more than fish around for a good place to nap. Theses feisty furballs are claw-some companions. They can shoot projectiles, explode themselves, fire lasers, dole out hugs of fury, and more. Each the houses cats augments Ally with their own mechanic and can help to rid the house of the otherworldly intruders. Players get to pick up to two cats at any one time and, after a suitably brief into the mechanics of firing furballs, descend into Grandma’s basement.
Like many top-down roguelikes, Cat Lady uses a twin-stick control system to move, target, and fire. This supports controllers but feels best when swapped out for a keyboard and mouse quite readily. The simple movement controls and concept mean that getts your claws into this adventure isn’t particularly difficult at first. As Ally delves down into the bowels of Grandma’s basement, self-aware wardrobes, cursed teddy bears, and ghosts assault the schoolgirl in an effort to keep players from finding Grandma. Not only are these enemies ingenious subversions of these seemingly innocent items of household tat, they are also sufficiently varied. Wardrobes that play host to a range of ghostly apparitions, stuffed animals that will try to take a bite out of you and the odd item that I still can’t distinguish throw a variety of ranged and melee attack, scuttle around the screen at a different pace, and generally cluster together in some very tight spaces to ensure that you can’t just point and shoot. The range of cats available to Ally provide this variety and are at their best in very different scenarios. Players get the opportunity to swap their primary and secondary cat at regular intervals during the game, and you really should. While laser eyes are cool they don’t work as well as an area of area of effect attack when taking on a cluster of advancing teddies.
Creeping further into the corridors and exploring the range of attack cats in Grandma’s house doesn’t make things any easier. If you manage to make it past the doors that mysteriously lock behind you and an amalgamation of haunted objects, then the boss encounters are waiting. The same off the wall ideas that spawn a haunted house full of talking cats create monstrous stuffed bears that vomit damage and chuck AOE attacks across the screen like they are giving hugs. Cat Lady might present as a cute distraction but it is actually a hard as nail dungeon adventure.
Dying in Cat Lady is common. Thankfully, it will not see you completely devoid of progress. As Ally busts some ghouls, the game drops two types of currency. Kibble provides players with a currency to upgrade their cats during a particular dungeon run and drops on dearth. The ghoulish essence of the dearly departed can also drop and offers up a meta currency that doesn’t vanish when Allys loses all her health and gets dragged back upstairs by Grandma’s cats. While kibble is used to purchase these temporary upgrades, the wider meta currency is used to unlock these upgrades in the first place. The range of upgrades feels relatively limited at this early stage but all the usual boxes are being filled with kitty litter. Upgraded attack range, increased speed, and auto-tracking ammunition are just some of the options and help players push pas thee next major obstacle that stands in their way however cute it actually looks.
Old School Mew
Cat Lady is, if nothing else, undeniably cute. The simple color scheme, line drawings, and high res retro aesthetic that this follows make Ally and her companions look like something pulled straight out of a ZX spectrum and given a 21st-century makeover. The two-tone rinse that washes over Grandma’s house harks back to those early days of gaming and just manages to make the whole experience seem more unassuming. It’s all charmingly innocent while knowing how ludicrous the whole scenario is. The characters are just as cute as they are well written and the range of cat puns is more than adequate. The soundtrack is, again, distinctly retro with simple upbeat synth tones piped through at a sample rate that 16-bit gaming wouldn’t manage. It comes curtsey of duo Jim Guthrie and J.J. Ipsen. These two have already penned Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP, Below, Planet Coaster, and Reigns so there is no doubt that this is an awesome score. Cat lady manages a throwback that is quirky and simply endearing.
Ultimately cat lady is a standard twin-stick style roguelike dungeon crawler. It might not be a purr-fect date but this didn’t stop it meow-ving me to write this hands on. If you strip back the cute retro aesthetic, the charming but silly story, and the characters that don’t have to make any sense then this is not a new concept. What Cat Lady does manage is to take that cycle of blast, die, buy, and repeat then cram it into a cat carrier that you can lose hours in. Games are supposed to be fun and as the saying goes, “if it fits I sits” and this adventure definitely fits the bill for a fun time. Cat Lady is out in Early Access on Steam and will cost you less than a week of premium Kibble, £7.19 or local equivalent.