Cats are bastards.
Anybody who has ever owned a cat – or has ever watched a cat video on YouTube – knows just how much of a bastard they can be. But that’s what makes them so awesome; their innate desire to do nothing but devilry and mischief for no other reason than pure merriment. One of their favourite things to do is knock stuff from high ledges onto the floor. True story: my own cat once knocked a tin of wood varnish from the kitchen worktop onto my solid wood kitchen floor. It opened. Varnish went everywhere. Cat smirked (well, if cats could smirk, she probably did). For years now, humans have been unable to see the joy and satisfaction this level of destruction brings to your cat. Until now. Enter Catlateral Damage.
In Catlateral Damage, you are a cat. Already that’s fulfilling one of your biggest and most impossible goals in life, right? What’s better than being a small fuzzy demon who has no cares other than how to amuse yourself at the expense of others? Taking a first-person (or first-feline) perspective, you’re presented with a series of rooms. A series of rooms full of stuff. Your job? To approach that stuff and knock it off onto the floor, creating as much mess and chaos as possible before you run out of time. The best part? There’s no human around who’s going to make you sleep outside for being such a little shit.
I’ll be honest: before I booted up Catlateral Damage, I thought it was going to be a bit naff. Sure, the concept is funny, and anything involving cats is worth a look just for its novelty value, but I didn’t expect it’d actually be an enjoyable experience. Oh how wrong I was. Whilst it shouldn’t be that much fun to play, there’s something about Catlateral Damage that makes it nothing but pure entertainment. There’s no clunky controls, no complicated menus or overarching story to get in the way; there’s just you, your cat, and a house to wreck. I can’t quite put my finger on why, but it’s one of the most cathartic (cat-hartic, get it?) games I’ve ever played, and once I started I found it very hard to turn off.
There are two modes to the game: the Objective Mode and the Litter Box. Litter Box is essentially sandbox mode where you can take your pick of the environments, and explore/destroy at your leisure. Objective Mode takes you through each environment one by one, giving you a set time and a target number of items to unlock. Each time you load up Objective Mode, your objectives will differ – you may have to knock off 200 items in 5 minutes one time, and the next may be 600 items in 13 minutes. It’s not a vast variation to the gameplay, but it at least keeps the mode feeling fresh; as there’s only six levels to work through you’ll complete it fairly quickly but as the goals change every time, there’s nothing to stop you repeating it again and again.
It’s not just knocking stuff off, either. Oh no. Your kitty counterpart will find plenty of upgrades as she rampages through the house. Every level contains various objects all cat owners will be familiar with – litter trays, play tunnels and cat toys – that sparkle to grab your attention. Interact with these and you’ll be rewarded with an upgrade either to your speed, jump height or swatting ability. There are also temporary power-ups that’ll randomly appear throughout the house. It’s all rather arbitrary, but you’ll still find yourself purring with joy every time you get a new upgrade. In addition, there are also random events that occur (kitty disco, anyone? Or how about a quick cat-and-mouse chase?) as well as a wealth of collectible objects in the form of photographs of real-life furry friends.
It’s probably safe to say that Catlateral Damage is a bit like Marmite: you’re either going to love it or hate it. If you’re a cat person, you’ll surely find several hours worth of novelty entertainment here, but otherwise you might just miss the point of the game. It’s not to be taken seriously, and that’s obvious right from booting the game up; from its blocky and over-simplistic graphic style to the plethora of cat-themed puns that you’re ambushed with right from the get-go (the “Paws” menu, for instance). If you have a sense of humour and a bit of time to kill, Catlateral Damage has plenty to offer; it’s just a delight to play. If cats aren’t your thing though, you’ll probably wonder why on Earth you’re spending your precious time just knocking things to the floor.