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Disclosure: The author was provided with a copy of the game by the developer for the purpose of this review
Developer: Valhalla Cats
The Purring Quest is a game by cat lovers, for cat lovers. Valhalla Cats, the Spanish studio behind the game, proudly state on their website that each member of the team has at least one cat. However, the game’s tag-line “have you ever wanted to be a cat?” is not entirely apt. The Purring Quest is not a sim game, nor does it offer the multitude of interactions found in the PS2 adventure game Dog’s Life, with its similar tag line: “It’s great being a dog.” Rather, It’s a somewhat old-school platformer, with increasingly difficult stages ending in a boss fight or similar encounter.
You take control of Kimchi the cat, jumping on window ledges, climbing trees and chasing birds and mice, and each stage has a number of collectible items like fish bones (warning: don’t feed your cat fish bones). Kimchi has two kinds of jumps used to reach these precious fish bones and ultimately move on to the next level. A regular short jump and a high jump, done by holding a left shoulder button then X. This choice of button press seems unintuitive at first, but it soon becomes second nature.
The game’s enemies are the aforementioned mice and birds. Kimchi’s only attack is a single swipe of her claws, but that’s more than enough to send these foes bursting in to a puff of smoke…yeah, the enemies literally burst into smoke. This was confusing at first, but it may have something to do with the family friendly nature of the game. There are also dogs which must be avoided at all costs. Early in the game you get a cardboard box (perhaps a nod to Metal Gear Solid?) which can be used to hide from these dogs which are prowling the streets.
The boss fights have some interesting ideas built in to them; like knocking rocks on to moles heads as they pop in and out of the ground. In practice, the control scheme just isn’t quite as responsive or fluid as you would like it to be and it makes the fights quite frustrating as a result. In that fight, there are cactus plants between the moles, forcing you to jump around them. The jumping is just not accurate enough to be able to avoid these cacti completely. Then there’s the final encounter which is basically a race to escape the boss. The difficulty spike here is gargantuan; the jumps come thick and fast and must be executed with pinpoint accuracy. Expect to retry the final boss many times.
While controlling Kimchi might not feel perfect, The Purring Quest certainly looks the part. The game features hand drawn graphics which are superbly animated. I particularly like the little details like how Kimchi’s ears go back as she claws things. My cats do the exact same thing. The way the levels look is also really nice, a very European feel which is refreshing. I just wanted more of it. I was expecting to see a different dog breed on every level but unfortunately, models were re-used in later levels.
The plot is kicked in to gear with a short montage similar to that of the opening of the Disney/Pixar film Up. We see a couple meet on a park bench, move in together and bring our cat hero Kimchi home…beyond that, I wouldn’t want to spoil it but Kimchi ends up lost and must make her way home. It’s quite a touching story…what there is of it anyway. The Purring Quest is an incredibly short game and would have benefited from a few more cutscenes beyond the opening and ending. The obvious way of doing this would be to include some cats in a short exchange at the beginning of each level.
The various cats Kimchi meets on her journey, some of which must be rescued from cages hidden within the levels, are based on several ‘celebrity’ cats you might know from the internet. Nora the piano cat for example, who was a hit on youtube in 2007 with her video “Practice Makes Purr-fect.”
It’s understandable that the meme cats might be a turn-off for some but the reasoning behind their inclusion makes sense. A percentage of the money made from The Purring Quest is donated to various animal welfare charities, so Vallhala Cats reached out to the owners of the celebrity cats for this collaboration to bring a bit more exposure to the project. All the cats’ likenesses have been used with the permission & support of the owners which is probably more than I can say for most of what some people might call “meme games.”
The music in The Purring Quest is great for the most part. It’s a pretty standard orchestral affair with some thematic music in the graveyard level which gave me genuine nostalgia for the Casper PS1 game for some reason. There is a track with a medieval feel to it which seemed a bit out of place to me but I still enjoy it as a piece of music in its own right. A minor niggle with the music is that it starts from the beginning when you die (which is sometimes a lot). There is a rhythm mini-game in the place of a boss fight in one level where you are asked to press buttons along with the main theme of the game. With a controller, this was impossibly difficult as you are given no visual link between what’s on screen and the buttons on the controller. With a keyboard, it was a piece of cake. This sequence was jarring on all accounts. It was introduced without context within the story and served to highlight how simple and cheesy the main theme is.
All in all, it’s hard to fault Valhalla Cats too much for The Purring Quest, their first ever game. They excel in a couple of areas but there is definite room for improvement here. The great thing is, I believe the team is definitely capable of growing and improving and I certainly look forward to seeing more from them. As to whether The Purring Quest is worth your purchase, I would consider its very short length (around 3 hours) but also its proportionately low price. You may also be swayed by its charitable cause. The Purring Quest is a game many people will enjoy playing through once and be thoroughly entertained by, but probably wouldn’t return for anything other than the beautiful hand drawn visuals….or if they’re just obsessed with cats.