I really enjoyed Purrfect Date. I knew I would — although it turned out to be for completely different reasons than I’d anticipated.
Dubbed as a cat dating simulator, Purrfect Date is a graphic novel that tells the tale of a young research assistant arriving on “Cat Island” – a tropical island so named because of its large cat population. You’re there to help the enigmatic Professor Pawpur work on cataloguing the island’s feline population, undertake various veterinary duties and generally oversee the wellbeing of the cats. Or so you think.
You see, nothing is as it seems on Cat Island. The evening you arrive, a strange experience drags you out of bed, and the next thing you remember, you’re laid on the beach the next morning with five cats leaning over you. Five cats who you can speak to. Here’s where the mysteries of the island start to unravel themselves. It turns out there’s a virus rampant on these lands, one that’ll turn you into a cat. And you’ve just happened to get infected. Shit. So now, along with helping the professor with his “research”, you need to spend your time coming up with a cure. If you don’t, you’re going to turn feline. There are much worse fates though. Trust me.
The game is spread over six chapters, and during each chapter, you get five opportunities to ‘date’ a cat, three opportunities to research the antidote, and three for ‘recon’ – basically trying to find out what else is going on on the island. Aside from choosing in which order to complete your dates, research and recon, the only other form of interaction you’ll have is a sparse amount of conversational choices to make. Mostly, it’s a case of sitting back and letting yourself get absorbed in the story.
While dating cats seems to be at the forefront of the game — it’s certainly marketed that way — it really isn’t the main draw of the story. If you’re expecting crude bestiality jokes, there aren’t any here. Sure, you’re technically ‘dating’ an animal, but everything is pretty tame. The romance sections are mostly conversations with the cats, getting to know them better, and sometimes getting a little extra information about the island.
And it’s that information about the island that really sells the game. Without giving away too many spoilers, it’s hinted to you early on that Professor Pawpur’s research isn’t quite what you think it is. Some other characters on the island seem pretty shady, too. It seems like everyone is privy to some information that you just don’t know… at least, not yet. Purrfect Date is very good at building up suspense, keeping you clicking through dialogue in the hope of finding another smidgen of information or two before you can build up a clear picture of what the heck is going on.
The plot goes to some dark places, for sure. But it’ll keep you hooked. Without much interaction, Purrfect Date relies solely on gripping storytelling and excellent pacing to keep you interested — and it certainly works. The writing is brilliant, from the personalities of each of the cats, to the descriptions of the underhand goings-on on Cat Island. It takes around three or four hours for one playthrough, and you’ll find it hard to put down once the island has you in its grips. Honestly, I’ve not been this intrigued by a mysterious land mass since watching Lost.
It may take a couple of playthroughs until you fully find out everything that the story has to offer though, depending on the choices you make during the game. Sometimes, your current chapter can be cut short if you make certain decisions — and in one case, it can end before you’ve even done anything. After one playthrough, I’d seen only 44 percent of the total game, and only seven of the 18 possible endings (which you encounter after completing each chapter). It’s a great incentive to jump straight back in and play again. A little repetition is worth it to try and get to the bottom of the captivating plot.
While visual novels aren’t for everyone, Purrfect Date‘s gorgeous presentation and captivating yet simply delivered plot makes it a great primer for anyone not all that used to the format. If you’re a cat lover you’ll obviously feel more in tune with the story, but even if you’re not all that fussed about the furry felines you’ll find it difficult to resist the gripping mystery narrative that runs through the game. Those cat dates are fun, sure, but they’re not what will captivate you. Honestly, once you’ve played through the first chapter, you’ll find it hard to put down.