While some games offer a retreat to a farmhouse or a deserted island, Cat Cafe Manager has you escape the life of a city slicker to become a (you guessed it) cat cafe manager. Believe it or not, this isn’t the first time a cat cafe opened in the town of Caterwaul. That achievement goes to your Grandma Nain, as you reclaim what’s left of her abandoned business.
After naming your cat cafe (I named mine Cateau, a pun that I’m pretty proud of), you’ll discover that at the beginning it’s rather barebones. With only a few chairs and a table, and room to shelter one cat, serving water is about the extent of your skills as a barista, but it’s a good thing that’s all some folks will order at times. You’re then blasted with a number of wordy tutorials on how to navigate through the game. It’s off-putting, especially when it’s your first day of business and, honestly, could be better conveyed considering the fact that there’s not that many controls involved.
Your customers will be of 6 different types: witches, artists, businesspeople, fisherfolk, punks, and vagabonds. Each of them pay in their own type of currency which allows you to buy a certain type of item. For example, fisherfolk pay up with a portion of fish. This fish can be exchanged for cat food and cat supplies. You can control the kind of customers you’re getting by advertising to specific groups of people only, so you can choose where you want to maximize your profits.
It’s important to keep in mind that each type of customer will have certain wants and needs apart from just sipping teas and cuddling kitties. Businesspeople need their comfort and space, artists need their books and entertainment, so on and so forth. It’s here that you need to make sure your cafe is decked out well enough. You’ll find that there are a number of different sets of furniture in the game, each one adding up different points in total to your cafe.
The part where you have to decorate and place every item in your cafe, however, is a bit of a pain. For starters, when you want to expand the cafe, you have to meticulously place down each tile on the grid, but some of the grid space will be covered up by the walls, making it so that you have to click on the wall instead of a square on the grid to fill out that space.
When moving around chairs and tables, you can’t simply place a chair on its own; it has to be facing a table no matter what. So, if you want to move your table a little bit to the right, that means placing your chairs back in your inventory and then putting them back out. Some of the furniture doesn’t even align to the grid properly and will clip through your walls instead or somehow be completely misaligned with the rest of the furniture. It really kills the excitement of getting a new antique cupboard only to find that half of it is sticking outside of the cafe.
That being said, one of the good parts about running your cafe are the regulars that will visit. These regulars are citizens of Cauterwal, each with their own quirks. You get to know more about them and their dilemmas through inviting them to your cafe and leveling up your friendship with them. There wasn’t a single character’s storyline that I couldn’t help but sympathize with. Even Mateo, the smartphone snob working for the evil corporation threatening the town, was conflicted about his choices and worried that they were making him grow apart from his best friend.
Why yes, there’s an evil corporation in this game. And it’s trying to tear down the town’s cat shrine that you’ve been working so hard to restore. The cat shrine is what helps unlock new recipes, extra cat slots, and even additional staff for you to hire at your cafe. These are unlocked by collecting enough ‘Delight,’ basically a measure of how much you’re pleasing your customers overall.
So, let’s talk about the customers. Honestly, they’re a demanding bunch, and here’s where the pacing of Cat Cafe Manager is pretty off. Even when you think that you’re running your cafe pretty well, cleaning up all the cat pee, making sure you’re stocking up on all your ingredients, and making polite talk with your customers, they’re a picky bunch. So picky that they’ll just order items that aren’t on your menu. I don’t understand why it’s possible when you’re allowed to set which items are and aren’t on your menu.
Even so, it’s hard to have enough saved up for all their demands. It took me three days worth of advertising to only witches to eventually have enough saved up to unlock a recipe for a chocolate milkshake and its ingredients, since that’s all everyone seemed to be asking for despite it not being on the menu. I certainly wasn’t slacking off since I was putting in all my resources towards having enough chairs in my cafe, and only the finest of toilets for my customers.
I will say, though, my staff were definitely not pulling their weight. Not to be "that boss," but there were plenty of times where they’d be right to the kitchen when an order was waiting to be prepared, and they were just standing there doing nothing! This was certainly not what they were not getting paid for. Yes, strangely enough you don’t have to pay them, and they never go home. Ever. They just stay in your cafe forever, and you can’t even fire them.
The cats are just as strange, as sometimes they’ll just end up being hungry for days when there’s clearly plenty of food around for them all, and one day they’ll just stop being hungry. Although, perhaps that’s more on the realistic side of things.
It’s pretty apparent that Cat Cafe Manager is riddled with bugs, but it also just feels entirely like a simulation at times rather than a cozy cafe. All your cats will just randomly all pee together at once, customers will always get up and file out together once your shop closes, and every single shop is open 24/7.
Cat Cafe Manager Review | Final Thoughts
As addicting as Cat Cafe Manager is, it has some pretty gaping flaws. While it has charming characters and restoring Cauterwal to its former glory is a fun storyline, the game has its uncanny moments and has some major bugs that need fixing. Cat Cafe Manager definitely has a ways to go, and needs some purr-fecting.
TechRaptor reviewed Cat Cafe Manager on PC with a copy provided by the publisher. The game is also available on the Nintendo Switch.
- Addicting gameplay loop
- Lovable cast of characters with compelling dilemmas
- You can pet the cats
- Decorating mode is a pain to deal with
- Often feels much more like a simulation than a cozy cafe
- Bugs that get in the way of gameplay