I’m still not sure how I feel after finishing A Street Cat’s Tale. When it comes to storytelling, I’m as on board as the next person to take a different approach to giving information or weaving a grand tale to the player who’s looking for more than face value. However, I’m also a big believer in giving substance to the style: if something is just pretty to look at or talks about some grand idea without actually having a good way to position it, the whole endeavor becomes wasted. I feel like feemodev wanted to give players a chance to align with an animal, or at least the concept of an animal, like we were addressing the problem of homeless and/or orphaned children. The result, though, made me deeply unhappy, as we’ll find out in one moment.
A Street Cat’s Tale puts you in the position of a kitten who lives on the street in a nice little chunk of cityscape with its mother. One day, mom is hit by a car, but the developers decided killing the mom was too much too early, so mom is rushed away to the vet by some well meaning citizens who fail to notice the kitten. Now the countdown begins: you have a limited amount of time before the kitten becomes an adult cat, and there are a lot of factors at work here. You basically want to survive, and survival means finding food, avoiding danger, and, in some cases, making connections. You need to find stuff to eat from trash cans and possibly from generous people, but you might also need to resort to more nefarious actions in order to survive. It’s hard out here for a cat, as the game quickly lets you know.
Controlling a pixel-art kitten in an art style that reminded me a bit of Kairosoft meets Earthbound, A Street Cat’s Tale is a longer game of patience and simulation. You start each day walking around as your hunger meter slowly depletes. There are different things you can eat, but you have to be aware of what’s good and bad for you. Fish, naturally, is some of the best stuff you can get, but you won’t always be that lucky. You might find food waste, a banana peel or even just an old bone that you need to eat, which will affect your health. Running empty on hunger means game over, so you gotta be aware of that. There’s no option to run, so your cat has to meander everywhere it goes, constantly aware of the environment around it, which includes speeding cars at all hours of the day and night. Once the sun goes down, you make your way back to your home to sleep and wait for the next day to begin.
As you hunt for items, you also have the opportunity to build relationships with some of the NPCs of the game, which include other cats, some humans, and a dog, to name a few. You build these relationships by taking the time to interact with them, acting affectionate and trying to figure out what gifts to give them. Humans are easy: if you can bring them flowers from the nearby park and hedges, they’ll go gaga over you, and gradually become more understandable (you can’t decipher their speaking at first). Other animals, though, are touch and go, case-by-case., with the exception of the cat helping you build a house (who specifically lists what he wants and lets your house carry over from previous endings). The other cats usually enjoy gifts of rats and fish, but that isn’t always the case. The dog might want a bone, but you can’t lead with that present: he doesn’t know you well enough to break his master’s rules and take random food. You want to build these relationships as quickly as possible, because the time limit of the game goes by in the blink of an eye, and you want to have a safe shelter when the game over screen comes and you find one of the game’s many endings.
The endings are what will make or break this very short, very repetitive game for most people. A Street Cat’s Tale has taken care to bake eleven endings into the game, and the good ones are very, very good. Building relationships with humans leads to some great story connections and shows of genuine affection, and, with a little luck, being adopted into a family or business where you’ll feel safe and loved, and you can end the game knowing that you helped the cat reach a great forever home. If you’re like me, however, you won’t know immediately what you’re doing when you start the game, which is understandable. The streets and alleys become apparent to you the more you play, and you’ll learn how to cut to locations where food and items are faster over time. But, at first, you just sort of wander about, and I got hit by three cars and died. As in died. As in I went to heaven over a rainbow bridge and wrote a letter to my mother how I wasn’t hungry or sad anymore. That was really, really messed up and immediately turned me off the game. I suppose, had I thought about it, it would make sense to incorporate all angles of tragedy in this game: you’re a damn orphan on the street, after all. Players should definitely know, though, that feemodev wanted you to cry and really be sad over this cat if things go poorly, and that might be too emotionally taxing for a lot of people. Especially if you’ve lost a pet.
The game has very little replay value in the long sense of the idea. Once you unlock all the endings in A Street Cat’s Tale (which can be done in less than two hours if you’re determined and can figure out what everyone wants for presents), that’s the show. And I sincerely don’t want to revisit that level of emotional baggage again at any point in the near future. The result is that this is an artistic, interesting little nugget with no real soundscape to remember, cute enough graphics and some heavy price to pay if you’re no good at the game. Grab it if you both love cats and deeply want to ruin your afternoon/evening, but pass if you want a cute simulation game that doesn’t wreck you.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Nintendo Switch code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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A Street Cat’s Tale Review
Gameplay - 6/10
Graphics - 6/10
Sound - 6/10
Replay Value - 6/10
The pixel art version of playing those old commercials where “In the Arms of An Angel” plays over sad animals in shelters.