The cats are back! It hasn’t been long since the first feline adventure hit the Switch, yet they’re already back with a second outing. It’s raining cats and dogs in this one, with plenty of feline and canine companions to greet you. Is it the epic feline adventure we’ve been waiting for, or a dog’s dinner? Let’s take a look.
Despite being the sequel to the original Cat Quest, the story in this one is largely separate. The cats and dogs are at war – nothing new there, except they’ve got big weapons and are capturing territory. That’s where our heroes come in. You play as the legendary cat and dog kings of old, your quest being to prevent war between the cat kingdom of Felingard and the advancing dog armies of the Lupus Empire. Cats and dogs living together might have been unthinkable for the Ghostbusters, but that is very much the endgame here. We won’t spoil the plot, but this requires players to search the world gathering up pieces of a certain something whilst also having time to explore and raid lots of dungeons along the way.
As you might expect after reading the above, Cat Quest II is not a game that takes itself too seriously. This is to its credit, as it is the game’s sense of humour which carries the whole thing along. Right from the get-go, Cat Quest II wastes absolutely no opportunity to insert cat-related puns. Literally everything that can possibly be made into a pun is going to fall victim at some point during your adventure. Character conversations are littered with constant wordplays; the developers have had fun when naming each character and even the overworld is littered with places that sound distinctly cat-like.
If you're the type to tire of such things rather quickly, you’re going to have a bad time here. And yet, it never feels forced or as if the developers are going too far; the whole thing is a perfect match for the vibe and feeling that they're going for. It certainly spices things up and makes what would otherwise be a relatively cookie-cutter fantasy plotline much more charming. The humour isn’t limited to puns, as the game makes various subtle nods to modern pop culture. One side plot has you tracking down an invisibility cloak from a certain mage called Furindelmeow, which sounds suspiciously like an antagonist from the newer outings from the magical mind of J.K. Rowling. This game makes every effort to ensure that encounters are entertaining and characters are as compelling as possible – and that goes a long way.
In terms of gameplay, things are much more straightforward. Cat Quest II is essentially a straight-up action RPG with no real surprises to offer. You get a button for attack as well as a dodge roll, with your magic spells assigned to the shoulder buttons. There's the usual wide range of elemental and recovery spells, but it doesn’t get much more complicated than that. This seems to be entirely deliberate, with the game focusing on helping players just get on with things rather than learning complicated systems. That isn’t to say that there isn’t an element of skill involved when tackling foes however, as most will have attacks which damage up to a certain distance, requiring skilful use of the dodge roll and clever timing, as well as certain other enemies being resistant to physical attacks or specific elemental spells which requires a bit of thought put into how you manage your two protagonists. On the whole though, you’re not likely to get stuck thinking about strategy to beat certain enemies as the game doesn't deliberately try to stump players.
Indeed, Cat Quest II focuses on being fun and enjoyable above all else, with ‘frustrating’ feeling like a forbidden word. For example, while the game does present you with a massive, sprawling world with countless dungeons to explore, it will also quite clearly signpost where you are supposed to go next in your quest rather than forcing you to go looking. Not everybody will like this hand-holding, but those who aren’t a fan of the non-linear approach of many open-world games might appreciate knowing what to do next.
The dungeons themselves are clearly labelled with the level of enemies found inside so players will know if they will be out of their depth, and quests themselves are given a slightly more vague difficulty rating so you know what lies ahead. The dungeons are also extremely bitesize: never much more than 5 minutes in length and intended to be tacked along the way to your destination rather than feeling like busywork on the map. The game does require players to earn experience points and level-up just like any other RPG, but it's also obscenely generous with the amount of experience points and money it hands out. This obviously slows down as your character’s level increases, but it never feels like you’re going to have to do some serious grinding to progress, and the dungeons with higher-level requirements are clearly intended to be tackled later. Proponents of the ‘git gud’ philosophy will be disappointed to find a game which can be hugely enjoyable without requiring mammoth levels of dedication.
It has been mentioned that you actually play as two protagonists, the cat and dog kings of old. This has utility in both single and cooperative modes of play. In coop mode, you enlist the help of a friend on your quest. You can both spec out your characters however you want and become a force to be reckoned with. Things are a little more nuanced in single-player mode, however. You can freely switch between either character at the press of a button, with the computer taking control of the other character. In theory, you can equally spread out your gear upgrades as well as spells across both characters. In practice, your main character is likely to get the bulk of the in-game money spent on it, with the other character becoming a makeshift mage of sorts with hand-me-down gear.
Remember we said that enemies can defend against certain types of physical and elemental attacks? Players will likely find it much quicker to simply assign lesser-used spells or weapons to the other character rather than messing around too much with their primary, and as such, the second character just becomes a backup for emergency situations. That said, this works quite well as there isn’t a simple way to swap out weapons aside from going to the menu, and the second character does mean you get a reprieve if your main character does die in the heat of battle. It’s simple and makes the single-player feel more like the focus rather than an afterthought compared with the coop mode, despite the presence of the second character.
A special mention needs to be made about the visual style – the game is gorgeous. The whole world is a wonder to behold; bright and colourful while still conveying a convincing fantasy setting. There is a dense level of detail which nevertheless doesn’t distract from the technicolour vibe; characters look unique with real personality, and the whole stylised approach is a perfect complement to the upbeat tone of the game. One small gripe might be that the dungeons do tend to look pretty similar, with one specific style being used for dungeons in each location within the game. At the same time, however, players rarely spend long enough in any one dungeon for this to become a real problem, and the dungeons themselves still possess the same level of creative care as the overworld.
Quite frankly, it is supremely difficult to think of any real issues worth noting. At launch, there were framerate issues when moving around the overworld which caused the game to occasionally feel like it was missing its 60fps target, but these have been removed by the recent 1.0.2 update. Outside of that, the simplicity of the gameplay and general lack of serious challenge could mean that some battle-hardened RPG folk may not be satisfied with what is on offer here and might find something more traditional to be more up their street. This is accessible above all else. Ultimately, what we have here is a hugely enjoyable and charming game which is a joy for anybody to play thanks to its simple mechanics, all held together by some whimsical presentation which will have even the most grumpy scrooges chuckling along.
Cat Quest II is a charming little action RPG. Its simple mechanics result in a game which is hugely enjoyable for literally anybody to pick up and play, all backed up by some fantastic design work and infectious humour which never fails to bring a smile to your face. Diehard RPG fanatics might find it's a little on the easy side, but that doesn't take away from the fact that it's genuinely good fun to play.