Ever wondered what it’d be like to live the life of a stray cat out in the forest? Just me? Oh. Well, in Cattails you get to do just that, with it putting you in the shoe- I mean… paws, of a cat who joins a colony out in a mystical forest. With plenty of other cats around you and a mystery to unravel involving the Forest Guardian, there’s plenty to see and do in your new life.
It looks a little like an old-school RPG or something that’s come from RPG Maker, but Cattails is actually more of a life-sim. Think Stardew Valley but with cats and you’ll be on the right track. It actually makes for an enjoyable experience too, though it’s one that might be short-lived depending on how much joy you get from the routine-like cycle that the gameplay embraces.
You begin your life in Cattails as a cat of your own creation and there are some decent design tools in place to make your cat look exactly how you please. No matter your appearance though, your situation remains the same: you’ve been abandoned by your owners and end up alone in a strange forest. Fortunately, it’s not long before you meet another cat named Coco, who not only shows you the ropes as far as surviving as a stray is concerned but also leads you to one of three colonies that you can be a part of. Thus, begins your adventure as a cat…
As mentioned, Cattails is more of a sim than anything else, so you’ve got a lot of freedom in how you approach the game. There is a questline to follow that involves bringing sacrifices to the Forest Guardian (don’t worry – it’s not as grim as it sounds), but most of your fun will come from exploring the world and uncovering all of its little secrets. There are so many activities to take part in, cats to talk to, and resources to uncover, so you’ll never run out of things to do when out in the wild – it’s just a case of finding it all yourself with very minimal effort made by the game to direct the player.
Whilst you’re free to go out exploring though, you’ve got to look after your cat’s wellbeing if you want to survive. Your health and hunger will continually dwindle as you play the game, so you’ll have to keep on top of replenishing them. With your health, this involves collecting plants out in the environment, but your hunger is a bit more complicated. I mean, you can’t just live off plants after all, but actually have to hunt smaller animals like rabbits and mice.
Fortunately, hunting isn’t difficult in the game and just involves stalking your prey silently and picking the right moment to strike. Once caught, you can either consume them yourself or use them as a sacrifice to the Forest Guardian in order to progress the story. It’s all basic stuff and since you encounter creatures whilst out exploring anyway, it’s not too difficult to keep on top of your hunger.
Whilst you’re able to hunt smaller animals, there are also other cats out there who want nothing more than to get into a scrap – cats are known to be territorial creatures after all, so it’s no surprise to find that some will want you off their turf. Luckily, you’re a dab-paw at fighting in the game, and much like the hunting there are basic mechanics in place to protect yourself from any fighting felines.
Admittedly, the combat is probably Cattail’s weakest aspect. It all boils down to button mashing and just moving to avoid attacks, with very little required in the form of tactics. It almost felt like it was a little bit tacked on in a way and truth be told, you can pretty much avoid all combat instances if you prefer. You do earn experience points from it though, so it’s worth getting into a few catfights on your journey – even if they might be the least enjoyable part of the game.
Speaking about experience points, there’s a levelling up system in the game which allows you to upgrade your cat’s stats and earn new abilities. Most of the abilities are fairly simple in design (though fast-travel is ESSENTIAL), but the stat improvements give you a chance to shape your cat in a way that suits what you want to get from the game. Want to be the toughest cat around? Invest in your combat capabilities. Want to be fast? Go for speed. Or do you want to be good at catching fish? Swimming is the way to go. There are a surprising amount of stats to play around with and you’ll genuinely see the improvements, so it’s certainly worth taking the time to improve your cat’s skills.
Everything in Cattails comes together to make for a fairly basic experience, but there’s a lot more depth to the game if you go looking for it. Besides simply exploring the vast world and finding everything it has to offer, you can also romance other cats and make some kittens, earn the trust of colonies around you in order to visit their land, and even make your own colony eventually. Whilst the gameplay loop of looking after your cat and appeasing the Forest Guardian doesn’t do anything too exciting, that doesn’t mean there’s not a heck of a lot of stuff to do out in the open world. There’s even a day and night cycle in place as well as seasons that each host different creatures and tasks, whilst there are always events to take part in that offer small mini-games. You just never know what you might do next in the game, but you can always guarantee it makes for a jolly time.
That being said, the formulaic and repetitive approach that the game takes won’t be for everyone. Cattails doesn’t have the same depth as titles like Stardew Valley or Harvest Moon and it really won’t take long to see everything that it has to offer. Still, those who’re invested in their cat and colony will be able to have relaxing fun with the every-day tasks that the game offers, but those who expect more from their life-sims might find themselves done with the game after a few hours of play.
Developer: Falcon Development
Publisher: Falcon Development
Platform(s): Nintendo Switch (Reviewed), PC, Mac, Linux