If you spend any time on social media then you know that the Internet absolutely adores cats. From kitties that aren’t particularly happy to talented felines that can play a piano, they are all beloved online. That’s why it’s no surprise that Chris Chung’s Catlateral Damage was a big success on KickStarter. After all, the first-person simulator is the closest most people will ever get to the experience of being a cat.
The game does a good job of replicating a cat’s abilities, as players will be able to leap a surprisingly high distance, meow whenever they want, and use the controller’s triggers to swat with the feline’s left and right paws. It’s a solid control scheme, and one that makes a ton of sense after a brief tutorial level. You’re even able to use your claws to pick up smaller items.
There’s a reason why you have these abilities, though, as there is an actual game here. The core experience, which is called Objective Mode, has the kitten wreaking havoc in houses. To win, players will have to knock a certain amount of objects off of drawers, tables, and other pieces of furniture before a timer runs out.
Catlateral Damage may have a simple premise, but it’s one that is extremely satisfying at first. Jumping from a bed to a bookshelf only to swat 20 books on the ground is just plain fun. It’s not like in real life where you’ll have to clean up the mess, so you always feel compelled to go as wild as possible. In fact, every time I enter a room now I look at all the objects I could have a blast throwing on the floor only to remember that I’m not in a video game.
Several times during each level a special objective will appear that players can optionally engage with. These range from catching a mouse that has gotten into the house to combating a cat’s true natural enemy: laser pointers. While not particularly difficult, the challenges do add some variety to a game that really needs it. Plus, you’ll get a power-up for successfully completing each of these goals.
These power-ups will enhance your cat’s abilities for a certain amount of time. For example, catnip will make your kitten feel like Superman all while being more drugged out than Cheech Marin. Others won’t have quite that effect and will just enhance your abilities (such as jumping or paw power) instead. You’ll also be able to find power-ups in levels by playing with cat toys spread throughout the environments.
The sad thing about Catlateral Damage is that it runs out of steam pretty early on. What’s initially fun quickly becomes boring. Only two of the game’s levels, which coincidentally were KickStarter stretch goals, manage to change up the gameplay substantially. In the grocery store level you’ll have to throw specific items on the ground. This is a lot more fun than just randomly throwing objects as it adds some sort of added strategy into the mix. Likewise, the museum level challenges players to destroy expensive items (including a gigantic dinosaur skeleton).
While it may be lacking variety, the game certainly isn’t lacking heart and charisma. Each level is filled cat pictures (submitted by backers) that you can collect and view in-game. There are also some fantastic small touches to the levels like an interactive piano and an awsome Soda Drinker Pro reference in the grocery store.
If you just want to explore the game’s levels and mess around, which is how I spent most of my time after the disappointing Objective Mode, you can check out the Litterbox Mode. Gone are the time limits and goals, so you just get to be a cat and go wild. It’s a nice, relaxing mode, and it allows the player to search for all the clever references that are in the levels instead of just being destructive.
Catlateral Damage is one of the most adorable games ever made. It’s tremendous fun running around as a four-footed feline and wreaking havoc in wacky environments. At least for the first hour or so. Sadly, there just isn’t enough depth to the gameplay to make it enjoyable for much longer. It’s hard to recommend due to that, but if you really love cats, there’s enough charm here to make it worthwhile.
This review is based on the PlayStation 4 version, which we were provided with.