I like cats. I also like RPGs. By that logic, a cat-based RPG should fall right within my wheelhouse, right? Prior to purchasing A Street Cat’s Tale – the latest within the realm of feline roleplaying adventures on Switch (MrowRPGs?- ed) – I played Cat Quest I and Cattails; both respectable endeavors in their own right. The age-old adage states that the THIRD time is the charm, but given that the prior cat-based outings were relatively successful, perhaps the opposite logic would be more appropriate? Jests aside, this passing thought may actually hold more weight than expected.
The Struggle Is Real
A Street Cat’s Tale isn’t actually an RPG. Though you roleplay as a stray kitten and have to manage some traditional statistics, like health and hunger, there exists no real form of meaningful character progression nor genuinely compelling story content. While you’ll ultimately want to see the down-on-its luck feline succeed, there are many things working against that goal, which will be revealed over the course of this review. With that in mind, A Street Cat’s Tale is better considered as a time management simulation of one of the saddest predicaments around – the stray cat.
The objective is to keep this kitten alive for 12 days in order to unlock one of 11 possible endings based on the decisions (and relationships) you forge along the way. Simply “existing” in this world decreases your hunger meter, which will begin to deplete your far smaller health bar should it drop below zero. Because of that, the kitten must scrounge the city for food, sifting through trash cans and cardboard boxes alike in order to obtain proper nourishment – an emphasis on proper, since the kitten can technically eat anything it discovers.
Eating bad foods – a surprise to no one – will actually hurt the little kitten, while things like fish and canned food will properly restore a portion of its health and hunger. Between the two extremes are a few items that can provide some emergency sustenance at the expense of some overall health; an inevitable and necessary play as you initially struggle to maintain your vitals. The challenge lies in providing a steady stream of meals for the growing feline – one that is unable to stockpile beneficial items for later use. I don’t care how hungry the cat is- don’t be a jerk and feed it glass.
Yes, the kitten can only carry one item at a time, meaning you’ll have to pick and choose when and what you eat, always being mindful of where your next meal will come from. There isn’t any way to really prolong this cyclical process, outside of upgrading the kitten’s humble abode, which is done by providing a set of gather-able materials to another cat – apparently, one that excels in construction – that will gladly transform your shoddy starting mat into a bona fide cardboard box, and so on. Your “house” can be upgraded multiple times, with each tier demanding more and more materials in order to create. These lodgings not only provide a place of rest at the end of the day- in addition to acting as the sole save point, it also boosts the health, hunger, and speed levels of the cat with each new tier; a godsend, considering you start out painfully slow and weak.
Therein lies the root of the problems in A Street Cat’s Tale. Materials are easy to come by, but since only a single item can be carried at a time, the kitten must constantly go to and from the construction cat in order to fulfill his requests. The result is nothing more than a string of fetch quests that are neither entertaining nor fun to experience, no matter how much you actually like cats. Once you understand how the food/hunger system works, there are no real dangers in the world beyond time itself, and those crazy drivers that- can and will- run you over many, many times. Even with the ever-present risk of vehicular catslaughter, the absolute worst thing you can do is sit there and do nothing, so keeping on the move is the best option for the fledgling feline.
Relationships are key in factoring which of the 11 endings you’ll unlock at the end of 12 days. You can befriend a wide array of individuals – feline and otherwise – simply by interacting with them on a daily basis. While the kitten can easily understand its fellow species, only through nurturing relationships with humans will it begin to understand their foreign tongue. Achieving new levels of relationships can unlock side quests for the kitten to tackle, though many of these fail to be anything beyond a simple fetch quest. Increase your relationship with any individual enough, and you’ll be treated with a new perspective on the cat’s tale through that particular ending.
Although the 12 day span takes only about an hour to complete, there are the additional endings to aim for thereafter, potentially upping the playtime total to over a dozen hours. The problem here is that the gameplay itself isn’t interesting enough to encourage multiple playthroughs, unless you are in the market for an ultra casual, bare-bones experience. Even after attaining the saddest ending of them all, I still didn’t feel compelled enough to see the little kitten succeed in another ending – there’s just no real fun to be had through either raw gameplay or story. However, those that do want to see the tale completely through will be able to see a history of unlocked endings, and can benefit from any house upgrades unlocked in previous runs.
Fortunately, A Street Cat’s Tale dons an appropriately cute aesthetic in lieu of the aforementioned mechanical shortcomings. I mean, it is hard to get cat content wrong, but the Earthbound-esque isometric perspective, complete with simple (but attractive) colors and shading, is a nice touch, pairing well with the minimalist approach in regards to the soundtrack. While the animation catalog is rather slim, it is entertaining enough just to jump into the shoes (paws?) of a kitten for a short while, trotting around the city all while avoiding as many vehicular accidents as possible. As dark as this tale can be for the kitten, it balances itself well with the playful art.
A Street Cat’s Tale is not a bad game, but it is one that fails to really impress beyond the interesting perspective – that being an orphaned kitten. There may be more here for those that are looking for something extremely casual, or are diehard fans of anything pertaining to cats, but I’d be very surprised if this ended up meaningfully engaging the average player. I want this little kitten to succeed – I really do – but there just isn’t enough quality meat on the bone to really care either way.