Cat Cafe Manager Review: Full of Pawsitivity and Pawsibilities
Have you ever wanted to live that crazy cat-person life? Have you wanted that life without the social stigma associated with it? Or do you just really, really like cats? If the answer to any of those questions is “yes,” then I’ve got some great news for you! Roost Games’ Cat Cafe Manager gives you the perfect opportunity to enjoy all the cats, all the time. A unique simulation game in content (if not mechanics), Cat Cafe Manager is also casually queer in the best of ways.
A Purrfectly Cozy Game
There’s a cute, charming, feel-good story in Cat Cafe Manager, which was a pleasant surprise. Most simulation games that I’ve played have had rather minimal stories – and what stories they have had were stretched quite thin over many, many hours. That’s not to say that Cat Cafe Manager’s story is as deep and riveting as something you’d find in a massive JRPG or visual novel, but what’s there is cozy and delightful. The game begins with you inheriting a cat cafe from your grandmother in the small village of Caterwaul – sensing a theme yet? It’s your job to get the cafe up and running, providing a place to live for the multitude of stray cats hanging out around the village.
After naming your cafe (I christened mine “Meow or Never”), and obtaining your first cat (who I named “Purrcival”), you’ll be greeted by the Grimalkin, a mysterious black cat who has a seemingly simple request of you: spruce up the strange, ancient shrine on the outskirts of the town. As you set out to begin building the cat cafe of your dreams and rebuilding the feline shrine, you’ll meet a cast of intriguing characters along the way. There’s the punk Arwel (who runs the local furniture store), the musician Finley who is struggling to find her own voice in the world, and Bonner, the aged ferryman who’s husband claims he has “himbo energy” – to name a few. You’ll foster relationships with them as you grow your cafe, which really does help to build a sense of community within the game.
A Game That Will Leave You Feline Fine
Gameplay in Cat Cafe Manager is repetitive in a way I found extremely soothing. You begin with setting up the first part of your glorious cat cafe. At first, you’ll only have access to a few basic designs for your walls, floors, and windows. But as you upgrade your friendship with certain locals, you’ll be able to restore the shrine a bit more. And in restoring the shrine, you’ll upgrade the local shops. Before you know it, you’ll have a delightful array of floors, furniture, cookware, cat toys, and more to really spruce up and grow your cat cafe. The area the game gives you to build your cafe is quite large, too, so you can absolutely have multiple rooms and varying themes if you so choose.
But wait, how can you build your purrfect oasis without your cats? Well, you’ll have to get the local strays to slowly but surely trust you before you can coax them into your cafe. Every day, you can set out fresh cat food for the local strays in a bowl in front of your cafe. Eventually, you’ll attract a handful of fluffy friends-to-be and you’ll have the option to lavish some love upon one of them. Once that same cat visits enough times, and once you’ve given it the necessary amount of affection (represented by a meter that slowly fills), you’ll be given the option to adopt another fuzzy feline into your ever-growing clowder.
Live Long and Pawsper
In order to buy new furniture, cat toys, cookware, and more, you’ll need to accrue different resources. Resources can be earned by advertising to the six different types of customers who will grace your establishment with their quirky presence: Vagabonds, businesspeople, fisherfolk, artists, witches, and punks. Each type of customer has a preferred food they like to eat, and you’ll need to ensure you have the ingredients on hand to prepare them. Like everything else, ingredients are bought at a shop in town. If you find yourself in need of a particular resource, you can choose which customers you’d specifically like to advertise to, and you can manually change the offerings on your menu to match.
As the name implies, there’s a lot of management in Cat Cafe Manager. You have a finite amount of time each day, and you’ll need to balance resource management with preparing food, attracting new cats, building the cafe, restoring the shrine, and fostering relationships with your new friends. You’ll also need to care for your cats – you’ll need to ensure there are enough litter boxes for all of them, and, of course, clean said litter boxes. You’ll also need to ensure they have an adequate amount of food, toys to play with, and more. To add another layer to the daily grind, you’ll also be able to level your character up (as well as the staff you’ll eventually be able to hire) to unlock new skills, and to improve existing ones, such as cleaning, cooking, and more. You’ll also be able to level your cats up, so that they also learn useful skills that do everything from reduce costs of furniture to increase resources gained from customers.
A Clawsome Art Style
The art style of Cat Cafe Manager is just as charming as the game itself. It reminds me of a children’s story book, but that’s not to say the artwork is childish; it’s whimsical and heartwarming. The music is well-suited to the game and even catchy at times. The only downside to the soundtrack is that there isn’t a whole lot of variety, though I still found myself humming along more than a few times.
Not a Total Cat-astrophe
Cat Cafe Manager is one of those games you don’t know you need until you start playing it. It’s cozy, heartfelt, charming, and silly in the best of ways. And so soothing that you’ll find yourself still playing even after you’ve completed all the in-game objectives. Which is why it pains me to give this game the score that I did. Because, as thoroughly enjoyable as everything I’ve described above is, the game has some serious issues that need addressing. Scrolling to read additional information frequently didn’t work; if you accrue enough skills, they escape their assigned boxes, spreading out across the screen and getting in the way when you try to view them; even with litter boxes, at the same time every day all of my cats would spontaneously void their bladders wherever they were in my cafe; finally, there were days I would set my advertising for a specific customer type and wouldn’t get customers for days. Perhaps worst of all, there were a couple times when the game wouldn’t let me do anything at all – time would continue to pass, and customers would appear, but I couldn’t prepare food, interact with anything, or even access the menu.
Still, if you don’t encounter these bugs, or, better yet, they get fixed, I think there’s something really special in Cat Cafe Manager. It’s relaxing, lighthearted, sweet, and just overall comforting. Whether you’re a cat lover or not, there’s a lot to enjoy here.
Final Verdict: 3/5
Available on: Nintendo Switch (reviewed), PC; Publisher: Freedom Games; Developer: Roost Games; Players: 1; Released: April 14th, 2022; ESRB: T for Teen; MSRP: $19.99
Editor’s note: The publisher provided a review copy to Hey Poor Player.