Cat Scratch Fever Dream
Don’t let the cuddly protagonist fool you: this kitty has claws. Like the gladiatorial events of old, PUSS! feels designed to delight those who watch from the stands as the poor souls who find themselves trapped in its bloodied arena are humiliated and destroyed for their amusement.
Developed by TeamCoil and published by Sumustai, PUSS! is best described as an “avoid-’em-up.” The game’s goal is simple: guide your intrepid kitty through a maze to find the exit. However, like Jaleco’s Irritating Stick (remember that one?), you’ll be in for a bad time if you touch the walls, which can reduce your feline friend to a pitiful pile of twitching pixels in an instant. This is easier said than done, though. You’ll need a lot more than nine lives if you want to guide your feline friend to victory.
The game’s controls are straightforward enough in PUSS!. The left stick is used to maneuver your cat. Additionally, tilting both sticks in the same direction simultaneously sends you zipping across the screen like greased lightning.
Of course, just because the controls are straightforward doesn’t mean they’re easy to wrap your hands around. In fact, they seem very slippery by design, and it’s very easy to send your cat veering into a wall if you’re not extremely careful. Even after dialing the sensitivity down, I still struggled to find a setting I was entirely comfortable with. But after a while, I did find myself adapting them, at least for the most part.
PUSS! also features touch screen support, if that’s your thing. But I honestly can’t recommend this method as it’s just so imprecise. Unless you’re hell-bent on giving yourself a fresh case of carpal tunnel syndrome, you’re much better off sticking to the Joy-Cons or your Pro Controller instead.
There’s More Than One Way To Skin A Cat
The mazes in PUSS! are diabolically designed. They’re filled with moving platforms, timed switches you’ll need to flip to activate to access new areas, and all sorts of other hazards designed to grant you a one-way ticket to Pet Sematary. Some stages may like deceptively simple at first glance. But don’t get too comfortable; that’s only to lull you into a false sense of security. The next thing you know, the game will throw a veritable tsunami of weird glitch effects at the screen that leaves you fumbling blindly into instant death after instant death.
Like watching someone suffer through a Kaizo run in custom-made Super Mario Bros. levels, these were funny at first. And without a doubt, they do make the game more visually exciting. But in practice, I found these moments to be pretty infuriating. In a game with unlimited lives, it might be easier to overlook PUSS!’s reliance on doling out cheap deaths to the player. However, once you burn through your stock of lives, the game unceremoniously boots you back to the hub world. Considering each area features nine mazes and a boss battle, losing a ton of progress because the game decided to blind you with a mountain of visual garbage can feel pretty cheap. It’s easy to imagine some players lodging their poor Joy-Cons in the drywall over PUSS!’s unsportsmanlike shenanigans.
As frustrating as these moments could be, I still found myself coming back for more. And as you progress through the game, you’ll unlock allies who can give you bonuses that do things like give your cat a protective shield or dole out extra damage to bosses, which does help make things a little more manageable.
Vaporwave Presented By Cave
You probably wouldn’t expect a maze game to have boss battles. Of course, if you haven’t figured it out by now, PUSS! isn’t exactly the kind of title you can confine to one neat little litter box. Every world is capped off with an over-the-top battle against the cult of Baphomet’s big baddies. These stages were hands-down my favorite part of the game, with their twisted designs and showers of pulsating projectiles that look lifted from a bullet hell shooter.
These fights can be grueling. And given how your cat is unarmed, you’ll need to pay attention if you want to figure out how to dispatch these foes. Still, bringing down the game’s bosses is a genuine rush, making them such a satisfying reward for overcoming each area’s many challenges.
Claws To The Wall
Puss! certainly has some things going for it. From its surreal aesthetics to its haunting sound design that evokes the feeling of tuning into a radio station in some strange, far-off land, the game’s presentation is top-tier stuff. And while occasionally a bit unfair with all of the chaos unfolding all at once, the boss battles are always memorable. Still, it’s hard to recommend the game to all but the most patient players at the end of the day. If you’ve got ice water pumping through your veins or are looking for a fun way to torture your friends during your next drunken gaming gathering, Puss! might be worth adding to your Switch library. However, if you don’t find yourself in either of those camps, then this probably isn’t going to be the game for you.
Final Verdict: 3/5
Available on: Nintendo Switch (Reviewed), PS4, Xbox One; Publisher: Sumustai ; Developer: TeamCoil ; Players: 1 ; Released: February 19, 2021 ; ESRB: T for Teen; MSRP: $11.99
Full disclosure: The publisher provided a review copy.