Tuesday, May 3, 2022

Cat, Mole, Monkey.

Following on from Sunday's post, I'm pleased to confirm that there are indeed some new, free titles on Amazon Prime this month after all. It took a while to be sure. Yesterday was the second of May, which is a day late by my reckoning but when I checked the website and the app in the morning there was still nothing I hadn't seen before. 

I'd checked a couple more times during the day without seeing any changes but eventually, in the early evening here in the U.K., last month's line-up was replaced by a new, low-key offer. Better late than never and better something than nothing. 

I suppose the nearest thing to a big ticket item would probably be Dead Space 2, a "survival horror" game that shifted four million boxes a decade ago and yet was still considered a commercial failure, according to its very extensive wikipedia page.

There's also yet another Monkey Island game, "The Curse of...", third in the series. It's a quarter of a century old and seems to enjoy much the same reputation as the rest of " LucasArts' hallowed pantheon of comic classics" (Computer Gaming World). I was interested to read (On Wikipedia) that estimated total global sales after just over a decade reached only around three-quarters of a million. By comparison, the supposedly "disappointing" Dead Space 2 sold two million copies in its first month. As the recent Square Enix sell-out to Embracer Group emphasizes, success is relative.

Those are the two big names, if you want to call them that. I passed on Dead Space 2, although there's an outside chance I might go back and claim it before the offer expires. It looks decent. The Monkey Island game I did claim, even though I have yet to play any of the others. One day I'll run out of point and click adventures I actually want to play and then I'll be glad I stashed all those Monkeys for just such an emergency.

As well as those two, there are four supporting titles, all of which were new to me.

Shattered: Tale of the Forgotten King is a much newer game, currently celebrating it's first anniversary on Steam, where it enjoys a "mostly positive" rating from about four hundred reviews. Amazon Games genre-tags it "Platform, RPG, Adventure" but the general consensus of the Steam reviewers seems to be that S:TotFG is "... an ARPG with Souls-like combat."

Mail Mole + 'Xpress Deliveries is the unwieldy and syntactically bizarre title of what AG calls "a charming 3D platformer." Steam has it at "very positive", with typical comments calling it "incredibly delightful", "charming" and "fun". Also, as one reviewer points out, "mole can wear loads of different hats", always a selling point.

I chose not to Claim either of those. Not because I don't think they would be good games. I imagine they are, for those who like that sort of thing. I'm not one of them, even if I am tempted by the thought of all those hats.

That leaves two more, both of which I claimed immediately. What's more, I've installed and played both of them as well. I know! Crazy!

Cat Quest was a must-have just from the name alone, even before I read the description:

"Cat Quest is a 2D open world RPG. Set in the fantastic and wonderful world of cats, play as a catventurer as you explore a massive continent crafted in the unique  style of tapestry! Relive the good old days of exploring an overworld map as you raid dungeons for epic loot, complete quests and meet the many furry denizens of this world."

Makes it sound like the Best! Game! Ever! right? Yeah, it's not that good. Nothing could be. It is a lot of brightly-colored, fast-paced, two-dimensional hack&slash fun, though.

I logged in last thing yesterday evening just to see what it was like and ended up playing for half an hour or so. Then I logged in again this afternoon to get a few screenshots for the blog and played for another forty minutes. I'm level ten now!

There are lots of quests, as you'd expect from the name, although I think you can only have one at a time, since each one you take suspends the one you're on. At least that seemed to be what was happening every time I accepted another offer to go help someone do something they were too lazy to do for themselves.

The writing is as stripped-down as the graphics but it's smart and self-referential in a genuinely amusing way. There are a lot of cat puns, too, because of course there are. How could there not be?

If toddling around thwacking baddies with a sword and setting them on fire with magic, all while dressed as a cat, is your kind of thing you're going to love Cat Quest. It's nothing fancy but it's super-slick. All the parts fit together like finely-greased clockwork. If it was a pasta dish it would have excellent mouth feel.

Out of Line is the final game in the May offer. Its tags are "Platform, Puzzle, Adventure" and the description adds "A unique adventure game filled with beautiful puzzles all hand drawn in an original 2D style."

I was in two minds whether to Claim this one. I do not like platformers as a rule and I'm lukewarm on puzzles. I do like adventures, though, and the screenshots looked painterly and evocative so I thought I'd take a punt.

I'm glad I did, even though chances are I'll never get much further than I did in the forty minutes or so I played this afternoon, right before starting this post. 

It's one of those games that explains absolutely nothing about itself, barely even how to play. I get the feeling with all games that present this way that it's more a marketing move than an aesthetic choice. It has to be far easier to sell a game with this much visual appeal worldwide if you don't also clutter it up with a lot of language issues. 

Whether or not that approach pays off depends heavily on the avatar and their animations. For full investment you need a good dose of either cuteness, pathos or better still, both. In that respect I wonder if it wasn't a mistake to have every character, protagonist and NPCs alike, all looking identical. It does create a discomfitting frisson of existential alienation, which fits very well with the milieu, but it also risks distancing the player from the central character. There were moments when I couldn't tell which of the figures on screen was the one I was meant to be playing.

I think that had something to do with my reluctance to keep going once the game began to get even slightly challenging. It was fine while all I had to do was solve puzzles using a series of satisfyingly tactile interactions but once stealth, dodging and timing entered the frame I found I didn't care enough about the character I was shepherding to take the trouble.

It was fun while it lasted, all the same. I may give it another run later.

All in all, not bad. Nothing that's likely to take up as much of my evenings as SteamWorld Quest or Secret Files but Cat Quest was definitely worth the download, I'd say. 

I wonder what the level cap is?


  1. Cat Quest is pretty slick for what it is, a simple arcade-y quest & keep leveling up game filled with lots of pet puns. It nails the fight responsiveness in a good way - being able to dodge out of bad AoE areas makes it quite familiar in feel to us GW2 players.

    And it has that clever system of handling duplicate loot by just leveling it up, so nothing feels wasted - you're either getting more options with new loot or vertically progressing the gear you already have.

    When you finally get tired of incrementing numbers... they have a sequel Cat Quest 2 - with dogs as well as cats. :)

    1. The combat is very intuitive and enjoyable. With games like this, if it doesn't flow really well I quickly find myself wondering what else I could doing with my time but when it's as smooth as this I just go with the flow. Very relaxing.

      I noticed there was a sequel. If I ever get to the end of this one I'll give it a look.


Wider Two Column Modification courtesy of The Blogger Guide