One of the wonderfully obtuse things about this website is that it is never quite clear what its purpose actually is. When someone asks, “what are you even hoping to do?”, the response, typically, is something along the lines of, “make lots of money and solve global warming.”
You know. Your average pop culture website targets.
At the very least, the occasional cat branding proves to be something of significance, so when a convention comes into town, you know we’re going to come at it from a decidedly felidae angle.
Your EZIYODA team (of one) was onsite for the weekend to investigate PAX Aus 2022, with one purr-ticular goal in mind: to try out all of the indie games that starred kitties!
It may sound like a niche project, but there’s actually more merit to this than meets the eye. The cat-related games consistently attracted large crowds, to the point where it was tricky even getting a chance to take them for a test drive. There’s a demand for this kind of content, it would seem!
We got there eventually, scratching and clawing our way to the front. We’re nothing if not committed, and now we can share with you our selections for the best in show. Much like Meow Mix all those years ago, these are five indie games that truly deliver.
Nekograms (Hungry Sky)
I first got the opportunity to try out Nekograms at PAX Aus all the way back in 2019, and it was like a wonderful reunion to get to see it back in action again.
The premise of this title is to ensure every kitty on the grid has a cushion to nap upon, with the condition being that they can move horizontally, while their resting places will only go vertically. Throw in a few extra wrinkles such as obstacles or extra looooooong cats and you have an addictive little game that is perfectly suited to quick play sessions at your leisure.
Since its release a few years ago, Hungry Sky have been touring Nekograms at events around the world, and adding extra content such as Kisa the tiger in honour of Chinese New Year. Her murder mittens are quite impressive.
Word on the street is that Hungry Sky are hard at work towards their next release. Unlike the kitties and their comfy, comfy cushions, it seems as though this team never has a moment to rest!
Picky Meowy (Cheese Berries)
As any cat owner is no doubt aware, the feline is the ruler of the house. To appease them is to satisfy god. To fail? Inexcusable, with severe and horrifying consequences beyond your worst nightmares.
The overlord of Picky Meowy is a demanding house cat who kindly requests you fetch them balls of a certain colour from four rows. You can either place the balls into the centre of the paw print carpet as an offering, or stash them on the toes outside for safekeeping. Only balls of the same colour can be delivered at one time, and the more irrelevant ones you select, the more impatient the cat will grow.
As you try to separate the good from the bad, you might end up going into something of a panic mode, accentuated by the cat’s delightfully visible agitation. You can really sense its seething hatred for your mathematical incompetence, and I suffered the dreaded game journalist brain as I progressed, losing any apparent ability to problem solve in realtime.
I was fortunate not to meet the dreaded paw monster, but I sure came close on more than one occasion.
Schrödinger’s Cat Burglar (Abandoned Sheep)
Alright, first things first: the title of this game is equal parts clever and compelling, and I doubt I will find anything more amusing this year. Square Enix really need to take a page out of Abandoned Sheep’s book, as far as naming conventions go.
This colourful puzzler stars Mittens, a plucky thief who runs afoul of a quantum-bending machine while infiltrating a research facility. Exposure to this device has allowed her to wilfully split into two beings, albeit with certain limitations based on her environment.
Using this newfound power, she must solve various brainteasers while she scours the laboratory in search of the truth behind their experiments. She’ll also look completely adorable throughout the whole endeavour.
Much of the game takes place from a top-down perspective, allowing you to view both Mittens and her intangible doppelgänger at one time, but it’s when you get a closer look that this game’s visuals truly pop. The characters are so lively and charming, and the writing appears top-notch, as well.
Definitely one to keep an eye on, though Mittens herself would probably prefer you look away.
Tinker & Spell (Golden Age Studios)
In a land where technology has been outlawed, a cybernetically enhanced mountain lion finds himself lost amongst the ruins of an ancient civilisation. Bionic kitty in an anti-machine society? It’s a bit like when you dress for the chill, only for the skies to clear and render you a sweaty, puffy mess in the rising temperature.
Obtuse analogy, sure, I just wanted an excuse to bitch about Melbourne’s weather patterns throwing my PAX wardrobe completely asunder.
Tinker & Spell takes inspiration from different titles to create a melting pot that is intriguing and accessible. On his journey, Tinker encounters spirits that he must weaken in order to capture, adding their powers to his arsenal.
You ever have a moment in Pokemon where a smartass wild Mankey refuses to stay inside the Poke Ball? Fear not; in Tinker & Spell, you take matters in your own hands, beating the everloving piss out of the spirits directly.
The simple, intuitive combat system and crisp character movement make navigating the lush environments a breeze, and of course, anything with collectible monsters is going to catch my eye. Targeted at a younger audience, Tinker & Spell should have broad appeal across a range of demographics when it releases sometime in 2024.
Cuisineer (BattleBrew Productions)
My track record of prognostication is far too spotty to be reliable, but I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that this game could really make some waves when it drops next year. As it stands, it has already begun collecting awards prior to its release.
Described as a mash-up between Hades and Dinner Dash, Cuisineer takes place in the town of Paell. A cat-girl adventure named Pom has returned home after some time away, only to learn that she has inherited the family restaurant and its sizeable debt. We told y’all, millennials have it harder than you think.
From here, she must set out to locate suitable ingredients in roguelike dungeon crawler sections, before returning back to Paell to fry up her bounty. To me, it hearkens back to the lessons learnt from 2017’s Battle Chef Brigade: cooking sims pair up nicely with other genres. A delectable accoutrement, if you will.
The dishes of Cuisineer also pay homage to the studio’s Singaporean roots, making for a satisfying blend of local cuisines. This game’s vibrant aesthetic and loveable protagonist have the makings of a true winner. I would absolutely lose my shit in the very best way if someone were to cosplay as Pom at some point.
Phew! We made it just by a whisker. If someone thought we were kitten around about writing a PAX article entirely focused on cat games, now you know that we were strictly talking hiss-ness!
If you want to support the above devs, please check out their websites linked in the headings and consider adding their titles to your wishlist! Honestly, I’m in awe of how much talent there is in this industry, both locally and abroad, and I encourage anyone who wants to learn more to explore the PAX Rising section of the site.