Genre: Action, Puzzle, Arcade
System: Nintendo Switch (also on Steam, PS4 and Xbox)
Developer|Publisher: teamcoil | Samustai
Age Rating: EU 12+ | US Teen
Price: US $11.99 | UK £10.79 | EU €11,99
Release Date: February 19th, 2021
Review code provided with many thanks to GTP Media
Prepare to Cat
PUSS! opens with a live-action cutscene where a cat is watching TV and suddenly HELP flashes up on the screen. Rather than acting like a cat and continuing its slumber, it decides to take action and jump into the TV. What follows is probably one of the oldest and most confusing games I’ve played so far in 2021. But I get the impression that’s exactly what the developers are going for here.
Steady as you go
The gameplay is simply to move your cat-faced counter through tricky mazes to reach the goal. It’s the video game equivalent of the ‘Steady Hand Game.’ For those unfamiliar with this, it’s often showcased at school fairs where you lead a metal hoop through a wire maze doing your best not to touch the sides. In the game, if you touch the sides too much or get hit by a hazard you lose a life and will be sent back to the start of the level. You have 9 lives in total (saw what you did there).
The levels are single-screen maze levels and are presented randomly, which was a design I kinda liked. It makes each playthrough feel new while possibly presenting you with something more manageable when you continue after losing all your lives. Despite this, many of the levels felt absurdly hard requiring you to move within very small margins of error with death coming far too quickly. You need to have steady reflexes and excellent patience to conquer this game. For me, this was easily more of a frustrating experience than an enjoyable one.
At the end of several levels, you encounter a boss fight which turns the games weird factor up a notch. Usually, these are bullet hell dodging sections which again just feel unfair and hard to follow with all the mess presented to you on screen. Of course, if you die on the boss you have to get all the way through the levels again. Be careful not to break your Switch.
The controls are horribly floaty and tricky to use. You have the choice of using the analogue stick to move your cat but if you play in handheld mode you can use touch controls. For me this was completely unplayable as the only way to use it properly appeared to be if you place your finger on the cat counter, but, by doing this it blocks your view of the maze and the level. With the analogue controls I was constantly going into the options to move the sensitivity bar but the game still feels very floaty. It often felt like your cat just couldn’t move fast enough to avoid hazards.
Throwing you a Bone
The game sometimes throws you a bone with cat characters jumping in to offer you help if you’re stuck on a level. But this help is just skipping the level and comes at the cost of lives. Lives that you will only accumulate if you’re performing well. Needless to say, if you’re looking for a chill-out game to play after a bad day at work PUSS! is probably not the game for you.
Throwing Stuff at the Screen
The art style of this game is wild and weird. Lots of flashing images and just general randomness. Loads of bright colours, plenty of cat pictures, flying fruit, it’s got a bit of everything. The weirdness feels intentional but without settling on a particular style it just comes across as messy. While it may look interesting on screenshots it often acts as more of a distraction when you’re trying to concentrate on the game itself.
The sound effects were just horrific. When you touch the walls you get a TV static noise that just rang right through my ears. I ended up turning the volume down as it felt headache-inducing.
Up for Interpretation
There’s a place in London called the TATE Modern which is a modern art museum. I’ve visited this place a few times in my youth and on one occasion I saw an exhibit where an artist painted junk from a garage and arranged it on the floor in an attempt to look arty.
What I’m trying to get at here is some folk are going to look at this exhibit and appreciate it and others are not. I fall into the latter when it comes to PUSS! But that’s not to say it won’t find an audience. If you’re looking for a hard game with bizarre art design have at it. You have been warned.
Final Verdict: I’m Not Sure