We can pinpoint the moment we realised CATTCH was a bit of a gem. We’d strolled through a few of the early levels, waiting for the difficulty to kick in. But on the seventh level, we finally came a cropper and died. There, on the spot where our corpse would be, CATTCH placed a sticker: a cat-skull and crossbones. We died a few more times and the stickers layered on top of each other, taunting us. Then, on the ninth death, an achievement popped for dying nine times in the same spot because, you know, you play as a cat. We finally stopped tripping over our own thumbs and made it past the piles of stickers that we’d accumulated, and we chuckled at CATTCH’s low-level trolling at our expense.
CATTCH is a heartily endearing platformer, and a lot better than it has any right to be. It squeaked out without fanfare at the end of 2020, and our assumption was that it was completely avoidable shovelware. But, while it has some faults, we had a thoroughly enjoyable time playing it.
CATTCH is a 2D platformer that casts you, as all platformers must, as an anthropomorphic animal. You’re a cat, and you’re on a mission to save some friendly, floaty critters that have been caged by evil, less-floaty creatures. That’s as far as the story goes, and it’s delivered in throwaway motion comics between worlds.
You can jump and punch, but you soon gain the ability to double-jump, wall-climb, throw spiky berries and more. These are your tools for achieving the three objectives on each level: to get to an exit portal in a designated time, to gather all the stars littered about, and to break out three caged friends that are hidden in the level. Complete all of the objectives and you’re gifted a sticker that shows the level has been mastered. Complete enough objectives and you can unlock future levels.
The levels themselves are incredibly simple. They’re all made up of similarly-sized building blocks, and they never take more than a few minutes to complete. Luckily there’s a fair few of them – just less than forty – and they are stretched across three different worlds and themes. As you’d expect with most modern platformers, the levels start off benign and then get pad-hurlingly difficult, with those stickers stacking up on the same sections as you desperately reach for the next checkpoint.
The level design is high quality, making great use of an extremely simple set of building blocks. The maps are never less than fair, and they offer opportunities for a simpler way round the problem if you think creatively. The caged creatures are hidden in some far-off nooks, so exploring the environment is worth doing too.
Over the forty levels, with such a simple and repeated library of obstacles, it was inevitably going to get a bit repetitious. By the middle of the second world, you’ll grow tired of blocks that phase in and out, forcing you to time your jumps, and some of the new additions just don’t work as well. A couple of enemies get added towards the latter end of the game, and they’re a nuisance, stunning you when you just want to make some headway. CATTCH is a game that’s best played in small chunks to reduce the fatigue.
There’s not exactly a surplus of originality here either. If you squint, CATTCH is effectively Rayman Origins or Legends. It plays like a ‘time trial’ or ‘VR missions’ mode of those games, with the same move-set and similar character designs and animations for the little caged critters. If the levels weren’t so well-designed, we’d be calling it a cynical cash-in.
But if we focused on the negatives, we’d be ignoring how colourful, cheery and fun the whole experience is – at least, when CATTCH is at its best. This is a vibrant world with slick animations and a bouncy soundtrack, plus your character is – what looks like – an endearing jumble of wine gums. It reminded this old-school platforming-fan a little of Zool – a game that made your exploration feel like you were wandering round a sweet store.
CATTCH on Xbox is the platforming equivalent of a pack of Haribo. It’s colourful and characterful, and you can’t put it down at the start. But chew down on too much at once and you’ll get sick of it. It needed a bit more substance – some originality and variety – to make it a more rounded meal. But, as it stands, CATTCH is still a well-designed, surprising little Rayman-a-like.