Steel Thy Claws
The legacy that The Legend of Zelda on the NES left to the gaming industry can still be felt today, as many indie developers have played their hands at recreating that formula for a modern audience (for better or worse). That’s where The Gentlebros Games comes in. This team had a clear vision that all started with the foundation of the aforementioned Zelda game. What would make or break their success from that point would be how they innovated on that classic formula.
That’s where we come to the game, Cat Quest. Having been released on iOS, Android, and Steam, The Gentlebros’s hit title makes its way to the Nintendo Switch. With a console full of RPG games, is there anything that makes Cat Quest stand out from the crowd?
A Feral Tale
Cat Quest doesn’t waste any time giving you the low-down as to what troubles are plaguing Felingard. There was a Dragon War long ago that was only prevented by the intervention of the Dragonblood. After those days, the Dragonblood were all but extinct, except for a lone and silent warrior. The game begins with this character on a boat with his sister when, suddenly, a dark cat known as Drakoth kidnaps her and disappears. After a painful crash landing, you’re met by Spirry, a sidekick who is purposely reminiscent of other RPG guides. Once some quick dialogue passes through and a brief tutorial of the mechanics rolls on by, you’re thrust into the adventure itself.
This is where the personality of The Gentlebros really comes to shine. Cat Quest simultaneously revisits old RPG tropes, pokes fun at them, and has several expectation subversions that all blend together quite nicely. The dialogue is also very smartly written and got several laughs out of me at times. Furthermore, a lot of story information and lore about Felingard is hiding within the various sidequests you can complete. In that sense, you get out of this game what you put into it.
The Hero of Felingard
Being a game optimized for mobile devices, Cat Quest is very easy to play. You press Y to melee attack, B to do a dodge roll, and L, R, ZL, and ZR are held off for different spells you acquire throughout your adventure. It’s a simplistic setup, but the game manages it in such a way that the combat always feels dynamic and keeps you moving.
For example, you can’t just mash the attack button to battle a foe. When they prepare to attack, you have to dodge roll to avoid damage. From there, you can dive back in for a few quick hits or use a long-range spell to bridge the gap. Yet, you can’t spam the spells either, because they run on limited mana that only regenerates if you deal some melee damage. It all works together really well and made each battle in Cat Quest enjoyable. The boss battles themselves were highlights of the combat system.
As you travel through the realm of Felingard, that’s where you’ll start to appreciate the game. Taking the Breath of the Wild approach, almost nothing is held back to you from the start. You can basically go to nearly every corner of the map if you so desire, but the further you branch out, the more likely you are to be crushed by an enemy much stronger than you. This is a brilliant way of guiding the player while not restricting them. In the beginning, it’s fairly easy to know where to go to get quests done, but after a certain point, numerous options open up to you.
Speaking of options, there are over 60 sidequests and 50 dungeons in the game. They can be completed in any order at any point during your adventure. It’s recommended that you perform some of them throughout the main quest because Cat Quest is structured around a level system. You’ll only be adequately prepared for each challenge if you’re consistently leveling up. Each quest and dungeon will have a number attached to it that indicates the recommended level you should be before you attempt to beat it. Again, where Cat Quest excels is that it guides you so that you’re adequately equipped, but never sections you off.
One thing I will say is that I wish there were some way to see where remaining quests and dungeons were (possibly in the pause menu). As I got further in the game, it became difficult to find the places I had missed.
Mark Your Territory
The story is decent and the gameplay is excellent, but what will immediately catch your eye in Cat Quest is how the game looks and sounds. The entire world is designed after an old map, with towns and locations being labeled on the ground and everything having a somewhat isometric perspective like somebody drew them on an actual map. It’s a brilliant way to not only give the game its own unique style but still make it feel like a competent open-world game. I never once felt that there wasn’t enough to do because the overworld was teeming with all kinds of towns, wildlife, and monsters to defeat. These visuals alone made Cat Quest a joy to explore, and I was determined to make sure that I left no stone unturned.
Going along with the visuals is an amazing soundtrack. As your travel the locales of Felingard, an epic soundtrack blasts through every step you take. It’s epic, heroic, and way better than it has any right to be. For such a small project, it’s amazing to see such effort put into the small details.
Practically Purrfect in Every Way
Cat Quest is not a perfect game. It suffers from some awkward storytelling and no effective way to manage sidequests and dungeons. That said, the game comes pretty darn close to being a legend. As I experienced everything it had to offer, I began to realize that it’s one of the best indie games on the Nintendo Switch, and for something that only costs $12.99, you’re not going to find a better bang for your buck.
System reviewed on: Nintendo Switch.
Disclaimer: A review code for Cat Quest was provided by The Gentlebros for this Cat Quest review.