Version Reviewed: 1.0
Device Reviewed On: iPad Air
Graphics / Sound Rating:
Replay Value Rating:
There’s so much to like in Katatak. From its retro art style that still packs in detail and character, to its storyline about a global invasion of cats, to its over-the-top attitude in general. I wish I could recommend it with no qualifications whatsoever, but all those good points just make the shallow gameplay all the more disappointing.
Katatak describes itself as a “side-scrolling tower defense/shoot 'em up mix,” which sounds intriguing and complicated. But in reality the opposite is true. That hybrid genre name is just a fancy way of saying players shoot enemies as they scroll by the screen to stop them from getting past. Players don’t even move their character so there’s no skill required for careful evasion. They just constantly walk forward, and players tap the screen to blast cats and reload while hearing grating cat screeching sound effects again and again.
To be fair, prioritizing enemies is a vital skill players learn over time. Flying cats and possessed humans with vulnerable cats on their heads are much bigger nuisances than regular old cats. During tough boss fights it’s also important to shoot down enemy projectiles to avoid major damage. Plus, players can customize their offense quite a bit. They can buy pistols, machines guns, and shotguns as well as hire teammates to provide steady light support fire and heavy support fire that takes time to recharge. But unlocking many of these bonuses requires grinding through thousands of kills in the survival mode that, more so than the brief campaign, drives home just how basic and repetitive it all is.
It’s a shame because all those caveats overshadow what’s great about Katatak. The pixel art style is phenomenal and full of personality. Whether it’s shooting a giant cat throwing money from the back of a speeding armored car, scrolling through exquisite character portraits, or catching a glimpse of a Bioshock Big Daddy in the background, the game reminds players that even limited old-school art can still feature tons of tiny touches. The cutscenes are particularly great, with an uncanny combination of simple objects and smooth animation that recalls Ghost Trick. Meanwhile, there’s a bunch of professional voice acting from Telltale Games talent, and activating wacky power-ups like screen-clearing trains and dubstep sunglasses never stops being entertaining.
Loving Katatak's style is easy, but to really get the most out of it players must also make peace with its lack of substance. That’s certainly possible, but it takes more work than it should. And if you love cats as much as the Internet does, maybe a game about murdering them by the litter boxful isn’t for you anyway.