While free games may seem like every gamer's dream, the review copy is very much a double-edged sword. So many games look promising only to see you plowing through hours of mediocre gameplay in order to write a review. The lure of playing as a cat who journeys around and encounters famous internet felines was too much to resist picking up The Purring Quest. Minutes in, I feared I’d once again fallen for the pull of cute concept (Tembo), but luckily, the game proved me wrong.
I'll admit that I wasn't initially blown away by my first impressions of The Purring Quest. The art style wasn’t for me, the sob story narrative felt a little forced and the first meager enemy I encountered required three swipes of my claw to finally take down. However, all my hesitation melted away when I met the first and my favorite of all internet cats. I believed if everything else was terrible it would have been worth it for being in the presence of his greatness, but it only got better.
In The Purring Quest you play as Kimchi, a lost kitty in search of his owner. Kimchi has to traverse through five different and very distinct kind of terrains in order to be reunited with his loved one. Along the way he collects fish bones, caged kitties and meets various internet celebrities. Gameplay is varied in a number of ways. As well as standard platforming, there are also stealth sections where you keep out of canine patrol paths, climbing sections where you avoid enemies vertically and canopies where you bounce around with little control. There is risk and reward. The upper path will be free of dogs, but will come with the risk of falling. Level design like this is where The Purring Quest excels.
I had some teething issues mostly due to the fact that I had to play with keyboard over controller. Accounting for this, I would say the difficulty is probably set appropriately for me. That being said there were several aspects of gameplay which had me questioning the developer’s sanity at points.
Most problematic of these issues was Kimchi’s health system. The cat has seven hit points, which seems like an odd number to start with. Some events, such as being captured by a dog or falling from a height, bypass the health system initially and send you straight back to the previous checkpoint. This would be fine except that doesn’t replenish Kimchi’s health but instead docks you one health point. Meaning that you'll start some sections with just one or two points and be forced to kill yourself to heal up instead of pointlessly proceeding. There are other minor gameplay niggles. Kimchi takes too long to “reload” between actions, some jumps seem irritatingly precise when combined with a momentum mechanic, and the hiding in a box stealth trick seems a bit hit and miss. In fact, stealthily getting past dogs is a main mechanic of The Purring Quest and yet their patrol routes can feel monotonously long.
Overall though the positives far outweigh the negatives. Levels have a multi-layered Sonic-style appeal to them, where various routes can lead to the boss. This is not where the comparison to the rapid rodent ends. Players often have the option of speeding through the level or exploring for more collectibles, and the varied mechanics and patterns of each boss battle certainly have a touch of the blue hedgehog about them as well. On top of this, The Purring Quest does collectibles right. Every cat and item you collect gets added to your room in the main menu, leading to a glorious feline paradise and an even better sense of satisfaction. Cats caged and hidden in every level practically beg you to explore and save them despite logically knowing that e-cats cannot feel trapped or alone.
While I never thought I’d be able to say this, the time has come where I praise a game for having hyperrealistic cat animation. The artist must have done some hardcore cat study, as everything from the way Kimchi pulls back before a leap, keels over in collapse, and licks himself in wait for the player is pure purring perfection. This may not seem important but these animations play into that old chestnut “immersion” as you really feel for your feline friend. The music is really relaxing as well.
Most importantly of all of course is the quality of internet cats on display with which I was not disappointed. As I assume Valhalla Cats had to pay royalties for the use of their likenesses, I wasn’t expecting anyone as popular as Keyboard Cat or her highness Grumpy Cat, but the cats used are all certainly recognizable to anyone who is a fan of the Internet's second most popular output.
In all, it’s all the little touches that make The Purring Quest so special. The levels are littered with Easter eggs for the eagle-eyed player. Valhalla Cats offer free downloadable wallpapers and buildable paper cat toys for all in-game cats. And a portion of the profits are going to various animal based charities. As much as it is cliché at this point, The Purring Quest was made by cat lovers for cat lovers and will fill you with feline delight. If you're not a cat fan however, or you're fussy about all aspects of gameplay, you might want to give it a miss.
The Purring Quest was played on PC and a copy was given courtesy of the developer. You can purchase yours through Steam. It is 30% off in the first week.
What do you think of a cat based platformer or even a cat based development company? Please tell us below.