“Play a game as a cat and…”
Say no more, I’m there. When I watched the trailer for The Purring Quest, I instantly wanted to play it; cats, humour, cats, pleasant-looking side-scrolling game, cats… Let’s just say I like cats. It looked like a light-hearted, fun game too. But from the very beginning it hits you right in the feels…
Think of the beginning scenes of the film Up. It’s pretty much the same but with a feline companion. Your owner leaves you at his wife’s grave and disappears in search of her. The plot follows Kimchi; the purring protagonist, as he seeks his poor, confused human.
From the beginning you must choose between having high jump or double jump. Being most cat-like, I went with high jump. This was my first mistake. Selecting high jump makes the controls really awkward. You use WASD keys, but in order to high jump you must hold S and press the space bar whilst moving left or right. You also can’t quite reach as far as with double jump (simply pressing the space bar twice). As you can imagine in a cat side-scroller, jumping is quite an important part.
As far as cats go, I was not disappointed. Kimchi moves with grace; he patters around like a cat, washes his bits when you’re inactive and swipes at enemies with his claw. You spend your time doing typical cat things; killing mice and birds, jumping, climbing, collecting fishbones, playing concerto on piano…
A big part of the game is keeping out of reach of the patrolling dogs. This made sense when you were avoiding a bulldog… but you also get chased by chihuahuas. I mean, seriously. Even in-game Kimchi is bigger than the silly yapping creature! The amount of times I was caught by the tiny dog and ended up yelling, “effing chihuahua!” not at the frustration of being caught, but because of embarrassment at the type of dog that caught me.
There are some lovely additional cat-themed nuances, like the cute paw print loading bar and the scratching post checkpoints. Half way through the game you can summon a cardboard box (which everyone knows is a cat’s favourite plaything), with the word “Schrödinger” written on the side, for you to hide from dogs at will. As if the dog will see the box and think, “hmm. There could be a cat under there… or there could not be.”
Along the way you meet several other kitties such as Oskar the blind cat and Henri le chat noir, who come out with helpful realistic cat quips such as, “why are you chasing your owner? Are you a cat or a dog? We cats let the humans come to us!” There is also an in-game version of Nora the Piano Cat (a real cat, go look her up) who helps you on your quest.
But this isn’t just a game. The Purring Quest is a way of helping animals. Some of the money you spend on this game is donated to various animal welfare associations and there are messages incorporated into the scenery supporting good causes, such as “DO NOT DECLAW!” Some of these messages are just there for humour. “If you don’t talk to your cat about catnip, who will?”
There are only a couple of minor issues with this game; the first being the aforementioned high jump and silly chihuahuas. The boss fights can be quite annoying – I know most should be, especially as The Purring Quest hasn’t got a very high difficulty level, but when you face off against a giant crow, there seems to be no system as to whether you can hit it or not, and you just can’t get away from it. The lives system is also rather odd. If you lose a life, you go back to the last checkpoint. If you lose all of your lives you still go back to the last checkpoint, which makes it seem rather pointless to me. You’re given seven lives each time, but why… WHY WASN’T IT NINE?!
There are only five levels, some of which are quite similar. It’s a shame that the game is so short because what is there is very enjoyable; I do rather enjoy playing as a cat. I feel that there could have been more puzzles involved to make the gameplay a little more taxing and to give it a bit more longevity. For the completionists amongst us, there is some more advanced stuff you can do, but otherwise it’s just nudging boxes with your nose and playing bizarre kitty Guitar Hero…
Overall, The Purring Quest is an enjoyable 2D side-scroller made for a good cause. There are tones of dark humour (Hipster cat photographers seeing the beauty in a grieving man’s soul and the like), but there are good, important messages amongst the jokes. For once a game with an underlying message hasn’t compromised on actual gameplay, although I do wish it was a little longer.