Cattails (Switch eShop) Review
When I initially saw Cattails I was unsure of what to make of it. A slice of life game that at a glance draws inspiration from Harvest Moon/Stardew Valley, where you also happen to be a cat. It definitely looked interesting, having two cats myself (Miles and Phoenix). I am very well aware what jerks cats can be but also how damn adorable they are when they’re too lazy to be jerks. Cattails taps into the cuteness and even a bit of being a jerk. Regardless of that, it’s a charming game that also turns out to be very much its own game despite initial appearances.
After a surprisingly heartbreaking intro of how you wound up on the side of the road, with Coco appearing as your feline saviour, you’re introduced to the ins and outs of being a wild cat living in nature. Coco hangs around long enough to make sure you know how to heal yourself, hunt, feed and hold your own against other cats. At this point, Coco gives you a choice – which colony of wild cats would you like to join out of the forest cats, the mountain cats and the swampland cats. Before you know it you have your own humble abode with a community of cats to befriend and maybe even woo.
You’re tasked with bringing balance to the colonies and finding the forest spirits. This is similar to gathering items for the town hall in Stardew Valley. Each monument requires you to hunt and forage to be given the location of the jewel that will bring them back. The first one was fairly easy assuming you go around killing every small animal you come across. There was one animal that showed up a lot less and it became a real game of chance when they’d show up. At this point, things became less fun as I had to work within a framework of limited hours to go slowly sneaking around for a certain kind of rabbit to show up.
I did get to a point where I had to accept I was trying to play this game in a way it’s not designed for, and tried to be easier going with rushing towards the few goals this game has. As a result, I ultimately had a more relaxing time exploring the world, mining gems for some moles, foraging and stockpiling everything I could so I had gifts for the other cats. The time of year matters in the game, it changes the environment and certain plants and animals only show up in particular seasons. There’s even a gathering of the colonies at the end of each season.
In Cattails, I never felt the pressure I would feel back when I would spend so many hours living the life of a farmer in Harvest Moon. You do get better at being prepared to make the most of the seasons, but each season is only 10 days so you’re not stuck waiting too long.
You also have to take care of your health and hunger meters. There is a Doctor who’ll help treat you, along with healing plants and resting. To keep from starving you’ll have to be out there catching mice, squirrels, rabbits, doves and other small animals found in the environment. You too can be the feral cat that people think of when they hear how destructive cats can be on native wildlife. It’s not hard to build up a steady supply of edible animals, with plants and berries that can help keep the meter topped up even if by the smallest amount. Both meters are important to keep an eye on, but it’s rare either one will become a meter to worry about while your cat is busy being too full from eating Doves.
If you’re having trouble hunting and foraging, you can purchase food and plants from the colony merchant. Mews act as currency to buy things from the merchant and to pay for healing. This currency comes from helping with territory fights between other colonies and selling items you’ve found. Along with collecting Mews, you’re also earning XP for hunting, foraging and fighting as well as getting a good night’s sleep. Yes, there is even an RPG-lite system for upgrading your passive skills such as hunting, foraging, and swimming. Upgrading these don’t cost too many points, purchasing active skills will set you back more but can really help out. Several active skills are for helping to fight, the most useful one I found was the return to home skill so I’d never be stuck out too late far away from home.
Living the cat life can be tough. You have to hunt, fight, forage to survive as you make a life for yourself amongst one of the three cat colonies. You can even fall in love and have kittens to raise in your own image. I picked the forest colony, which acts as the recommended starter community. As you roam throughout the world there are sections of the map marked with exclamation marks. This indicates where there are cats fighting for control of that area. These happen often and there’s no way to do all of them, let alone winning them, so you have the option of joining the fight or staying clear. I found myself joining only if my colony had the numbers to win because a gang of cats can really whittle that health down. You can also interact with the other colonies without more fighting, but you do have to raise your friendship with their leader enough to make progress there.
For the most part, Cattails is a delight to play, but when you are hunting the rarer animals for the monument requirements it draws attention to how the hunting can be less than fun. To hunt animals you have to sneak up on them, some won’t even appear unless you’re sneaking. As you get closer a little circle above the animal will fill and once it is full, you hit the attack button. Ideally, this is when you pounce and kill the small critter. Half the time they either run because you’re not close enough to make the pouncing distance, or you end up with the wrong attack – you do a scratch attack nowhere near and scare off the prey.
This game has charm for days. The visuals aren’t super detailed by any means, but they don’t have to be. All of the cats from the top down look like the same cat model with different colours, eyes, markings, and accessories. When you talk to the main cats around the colonies, they all have their own portraits appear and this is when I was sold on the visual aesthetic. I never got tired of seeing those and would take the opportunity to talk to them every day to see their happy cat faces, even the snobby ones. The music also really helps at setting the mood overall too, the smooth jazzy moments playing through Summer encouraging me to take it easy.
Initially, when playing Cattails, I was constantly bringing up the less useful skill upgrade window instead of accessing my items or map, from a weird RPG habit of hitting X. While it’s something not everyone or maybe anyone else will encounter, it was slowly bugging me. After one time too many, I found that I could change the controls, swapping the skill upgrade button with the items button. There’s also touch screen controls so you can even access the map a bit quicker than by buttons.
If you love animals and especially cats then I recommend Cattails. If you enjoy games like Harvest Moon or Stardew Valley but want a more relaxed pace then you should also get Cattails. It’s not going to be for everyone, but this is one endearing and adorable game about being a Cat making a life for itself in the great outdoors.
- Cute as a kitten
- Short seasons keep things moving
- Low-stress Cat Simulator
- Can feel aimless
- Hunting can be needlessly fiddly
- Monument requirements can take awhile to find