App Reviewed on: iPad Pro
User Interface Rating:
Replay Value Rating:
Calling this game Cat Museum is almost a misnomer. Although this breezily paced adventure game features cute cats and a museum of sorts, its landscape also contains a ton of surreal and messed up creatures and locations that are constantly at odds with the game's pleasant color palette and storybook aesthetic. This clash is one of many intriguing aspects of Cat Museum, though the game doesn't quite stick around long enough to feel like it follows through on all of the ideas it plays with.
In Cat Museum, you play as a mysterious boy who just so happens to find themselves in the most bizarre "museum" you can think of. It has artwork on display, but all of them are grotesque interpretations or reimaginings famous works. Some of them are simply hanging on the walls, but others are turned into peek-through photo spots, have eyes that follow you, or are just paintings that have literally come to life and can speak with you.
On top of the strange art there are giant killer monsters with hands for feet, a room built out of giant red blood cells, beds made out of body parts, etc. There's nothing about this place that isn't unsettling, save for some cats. It's not entirely clear why you are in this museum, but making your way through it with the help of a magical, glowing cat seems to be the key to discovering something about the main character and his past.
To make your way through Cat Museum, all you have to do is tap on which side of the screen you want the boy to move in and interact with the objects you come across. Many objects simply add some more flavor and commentary on the game world, but others initiate puzzles that unlock new ways forward. None of these puzzles are particularly challenging from a design perspective, but almost all of them feature you interacting with some horrific tools or creatures.
On that note, I wouldn't say Cat Museum is a particularly scary game. It is clearly designed to make players uncomfortable, but--even with a few designed monster chase sequences--no part of the game feels especially tense or stressful. In fact, the puzzles and challenges seem deliberately low-stakes and straightforward, even though they can involve popping zits on a face embedded in a creatures back or scooping worm-laced popcorn out of a claw machine with human hands for claws.
Cat Museum seems very intentionally designed to keep you from ever getting hung up on its simple challenges. With the exception of one puzzle I had to look up the answer to (as the game has no hint system whatsoever), it is very easy to blaze through the game in one sitting. From an exploration perspective, this is wonderful. It keeps any its visuals from losing their shock value and provides momentum to carry you through the whole thing quite easily.
That said, the one barrier I ran into while playing was a doozy and disrupted my flow through the experience considerably. I'll also say that Cat Museum could have done a little more work at the end to connect the dots and spell out its ending a bit more. I'm all for stories that want to leave things up for interpretation, but not when the conclusion being suggested is so vague that you don't have much to interpret.
The bottom line
All told, I'm very taken with Cat Museum's dedication to bizarre art design and swift pacing in the adventure game format. I would have loved to see a little more refinement on the puzzle design or perhaps some convenience features to prevent any downtime and perhaps a but more substance to the narrative payoff, but the tone and presentation of Cat Museum's bizarre adventure is still plenty satisfying as it is.