Cats can be jerks. Most of them think it’s okay to plump me with their claws, and I’m getting tired of carrying their crap out of our garden with a spade. I don’t own one, but I’ve been bullied enough by them. And I’ve seen the cat videos: when they’re not pushing each other down the stairs, they’re pouncing on laptops.
It’s a wonder that this undeniable truth, that cats are gits, hasn’t been exploited by video games. It seems so obvious. We absolutely love destroying things in games, and cats love destroying things in real life, so why haven’t the two truly met?
Catlateral Damage: Remeowstered knows what it’s got. It’s a premise for the ages: you play a cat, left alone in a house, and you’re cranky. The owners haven’t left you enough food, or they woke you up too early – whatever. It’s all a fantastic excuse to start jumping onto shelves, cupboards and bookcases and let rip with your claws. Nudge books off, smash photo frames, and gently headbutt a monitor so it crashes to the floor. It’s Garfield Goes Wild.
As you would hope from that golden premise, Catlateral Damage: Remeowstered is litter-trays full of fun. It knows that terrorizing a living room is enough fun on its own, and it gets out of the way, putting few obstacles in your path. There’s no combat, no keys to unlock doors, puzzles to solve or any of that nonsense. It’s just you and a far-too-clean, far-too-ordered house.
In many ways, its closest cousin is the Katamari games. You have that same familiar-but-different perspective on household rooms. Around you are hundreds of items, lovingly stacked or tucked away. But instead of rolling over the items and accumulating them like in Katamari, you are swiping them and knocking them over. A timer ticks down (in this case, your energy), and you’re looking to build as high a score as possible. Sure, Katamari has you growing in size, which isn’t the case here, but Catlateral Damage has you levelling your cats to improve their speed, jumping and swiping.
If you loved Katamari, you will at least like Catlateral Damage: Remeowstered. And who doesn’t love Katamari? We’d suggest that this is just as approachable, just as family-friendly. It’s wish-fulfilment that will get all age groups purring.
What we’ve briefly outlined might seem thin and shallow. But Fire House Games and Manekoware have done an outstanding job of fluffing the pillow, giving this simple game some volume. You have three modes of play. Goals Mode is the closest Catlateral Damage: Remeowstered comes to a campaign, as it gives you a level with several goals to complete – scratch all the cat photos, ride a roomba, collect the cat toys – and a time limit. Some of these objectives are out of reach and need some levelling up to reach. Regardless, you will finish the level once your energy has exhausted, and you’re given a percentage completion for the room. Get over fifty percent and a key will appear in a cranny of the level, which – once found – unlocks another room for you to obliterate.
While things start domestic in Goals Mode, the latter levels get wacky. A supermarket is as oversupplied with items as you’d hope, and you’ll be dashing round as if the spirit of Dale Winton was goading you on. There’s a museum, which would get Indiana Jones shaking his head, as you smash ancient treasures. And there are Halloween and Christmas-themed rooms, with the latter invoking Home Alone. The dash of silliness is absolutely welcome, although – especially with the Katamari comparison at the forefront of our minds – we almost wished Catlateral Damage: Remeowstered went off the leash further. There was absolutely room for more silliness.
As your upgrades stack and you reach the highest shelves of each level, they become a breeze. You’re probably playing each level a max of three or four times. That’s not much, especially when you consider there are ten levels, each roughly five minutes long, and it leaves Catlateral Damage: Remeowstered open to accusations of brevity. But Manekoware are two steps ahead, and they introduce Procedural Mode and Sandbox Mode.
Procedural Mode takes the basic layout of each level and shuffles all the stuff within it. Then it does the same with the objectives: it rolls a dice and gives you new things to do every time. Knock over forks or do dollars of damage, perhaps. Sure, the procedural generation can only go so far – the levels still feel like the original level from Goals Mode, just with a slight rearrangement – but the new objectives, in particular, give you a reason to keep playing. We soon ran out of upgrades to unlock, so one motivation to play Catlateral Damage: Remeowstered got hoicked out, but we were still left chasing achievements and cat unlocks. It’s not perfect, but it will do.
Sandbox Mode removes the energy limit and just lets you play. It’s perfunctory, and might suit younger players who are pressured by an ever-decreasing bar, but we never really found a use for it. We’d have happily traded it for a Level Editor, perhaps, but that’s probably asking too much of this wee indie game.
Frankly, I had a whale of a time playing through Catlateral Damage: Remeowstered, so I thought I’d bring my family on board. Watching them play and getting their reactions, they had more negatives than I did, but you could still see the glimmer of joy in their eyes.
Catlateral Damage: Remeowstered is not a hugely attractive or detailed game. That was fine in my case, as it’s a candy-coloured sandbox where everything’s a blur. But it can damage the fantasy: it’s not fun chucking things off tables if you can’t tell what it is. After the thousandth oblong shape gets chucked off a shelf, you can sometimes collect yourself and wonder what it was. Was it a folded up shirt? A book? It can be that difficult to read, and in Procedural Mode, when you’re asked to knock over a specific oblong, it can be moderately painful. It frustrated my family a fair amount.
The controls can also be clumsy. With double-jump and super-height upgrades, you can course-correct and land on a fridge correctly if your initial leap is off target. But in the early game, when you’re lacking upgrades, you’re often jumping and missing, jumping and missing. My family had a harder time with this than I did, so it’s something to be aware of.
And I would agree that there is repetition here. In Goals Mode, you have to make your way through five house-based maps, and they can get repetitive, as you find yourself in the same bathroom over and over. Procedural Mode only accentuates it. When shelves are just a sequence of oblong dominoes, it can get trying.
But you know what? I mostly give Catlateral Damage: Remeowstered a hall pass. What Manekoware have coughed up here is so simple and immediately joyful. The moment you clamber onto a shelf with a row of vases in front of you, you feel that pang, that urge to rush at them, jamming RT to knock them down with your paws. And as they do synchronised dives to the ground, you feel a surge of happiness and want to do it all over again.
More than anything – and as a cat sceptic, I never thought I’d say this – I have a new empathy with cats. I now understand how tempting a pristine room can be, with stuff precariously balanced on shelves and mantlepieces.
You can get Catlateral Damage: Remeowstered from the Xbox Store for Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S