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Priceless Play - 22nd September 2018

The cats, humanity's absolute best mate

I got two cats last month and I am obsessed with them. While I’m currently fostering them (and let me take this moment to suggest that you, too, foster some cats because it is life-saving) they are driving me insane. Because they’re, you know, cats. They run around at all hours of the night, they knock over my plants, and they always want to know when dinner is because based off of their plaintive meows they’re DYING. I keep thinking about Will Herring (of Pet the Pup at the Party fame) and his game, My Garbage Cat Wakes Me Up At 3AM Every Day.

Here are a collection of games which are an ode to the cat; the fickle, aloof, trash monsters they are.

by tak

When I spent a holiday in Malta, I was struck by the number of stray cats who wandered the streets, lazing about in the sun, warming their tails. The tourists kept them fat and happy, much to the frustration of hotel managers and locals. ᗢ reminds me of this -- the waves are gentle, the sand is soft, and the cats are here to wander. You play as one of those small cats, stranded on a deserted island, who must (as we all must) venture forth.

ᗢ is less about cats so much as it features a cat prominently, encountering a clever series of island-based puzzles and exploration. Tak’s collection of games on itch are all impossibly clever -- keep their page open for as long as you are able, before the games all shrink away into nothingness. ᗢ is special for a thread of similar discovery throughout. Just head out. Although, if you’d prefer, you can leave the game running idle and take a well-animated cat nap on the banks of the water.

Thirteen and a Half Cats by Nekomatata

Thirteen and a Half Cats, from French development studio Nekomatata, is a short story about a young witch looking to undo a curse about her past. To complete her journey, she must find the lost cats in her village. It’s a quick play, but manages to pack a punch -- equal parts joyful and melancholy in fifteen minutes, it’s a beautiful little game. I can’t say too much without giving it away, and so must simply encourage you to download it ASAP.

Nekomatata is a two-person studio, duo Camille Mohr-Daurat and LaTorri Lindsay, who are also behind the Weekly Game Jam on Discord. Their attention to jam-style development is what makes Thirteen and a Half Cats feel so fresh -- the game knows what it’s about, and it sticks to it. As a huge bonus, the game is soundtracked to perfection by Chris Zabriskie and Scott Holmes and the purrs of several cats. How soothing.

Broken Cat’s Lost Flowers by Cephalopodunk

When I was born, I couldn’t see. My eyes never quite worked right, and to be honest, they still don’t see very well despite all the best efforts of various doctors. This isn’t a sappy life lesson, it’s just the truth: I had to have multiple surgeries before the age of two to correct my vision. And so, there is an easy connection for me to make in this Bitsy story about a constellation-cat whose eyes do not quite work, and the latest in an anthology of stories from cats by its developer. Broken Cat’s Lost Flowers is a small story -- a nugget of a myth. And for that, I can easily place it into my arsenal of Bitsy poems which make me feel all sorts of feelings.

22-Cat by shoutscion

22-Cat (or Cat-22) is a weird one. There seem to be two genre of games which feature cats: incidental cats and intentional cats. The intentional cats are there to speak to the majesty of the feline animal: their wiles, their mystery. The incidental cat feels almost placeholder: there could have been anything here, but there was a good deal on cats in the asset store. Then there are the cats in games like Cat-22, which leave me thinking, “What am I doing? Why is this happening? Oh god, oh god, the cats, they’re everywhere.”

22-Cat was uploaded by Itch user shoutscion, a team effort for the My First Game Jam: Summer Edition in 2016. The game is perhaps best described as a (maybe) cat-containment game, using many various ill-advised tools to punish, or otherwise contain, an inadvisable number of cats. And honestly, it’s a really fun game. I shouted, I grimaced, and I laughed, which is the appropriate life cycle of emotions for all video games. As a PSA, though, don’t use any of the items in this game on your real cats in this fashion. Please.

Cat Around the World

“The leader in educational games for kids!” The ad copy says. But let it be known: I hate This Cat. I hate This Cat’s smug face, I hate that This Cat eats so many hamburgers and croissants and pepperoni, I hate that This Cat has more stamps in their passport than I do. What GIVES, This Cat? What is WITH this royalty-free jazz? An more importantly, why can I not stop playing this browser game? Maybe it’s seeping data tracking cookie after data tracking cookie onto my browser, but I need more of these mindless physics puzzle Rube Goldberg games in my life.

If it’s not clear by now, I really love single-mechanic browser games with thinly-veiled themes which are effectively Angry Birds clones. There’s something so pure and so comical in the way that these games ramp up the difficulty of their puzzles, and I believe that they are truly a masterclass in mechanic design. That’s right, Cat Around The World and all of its various sequels, in the Alpines and otherwise, are a masterclass in mechanics design. Fight me.

Looking for more free games? Check out our round up of the best free PC games that you can download and play right now.

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About the Author
Kat Brewster avatar

Kat Brewster


Kat Brewster is a sometimes writer, sometimes game designer, and most-of-the-time academic based out of the University of California, Irvine. Kat's research focuses on play, the future of digital work, and queer archives. You can reach out on Twitter @katbamkapow.

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