Home Reviews 2.5/5 Review Doctor Cat Review

Doctor Cat Review

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Some games feel like they’ve been pulled from a hat. In today’s game you will play a – drum roll – therapist! They happen to be a – picks from hat – cat! And the therapy will take the form of – closes eyes – jigsaw puzzle! 

Squint and you can see the faintest outline of a connection. As a therapist, your patients are somewhat broken – jumbled, you could say. It’s your job to pick them up and put them back together again, making them better than new. Which is where the jigsaw puzzle comes in. Why cats, though? Our assumption is that people just love cats.

It’s just mad enough to intrigue. We’ve played enough jigsaw puzzle games on the Xbox to stifle a yawn, but the therapy half of Doctor Cat had us curious. So, we came in with some hope that Doctor Cat would try something new. 

Doctor Cat review 1
Doctor Cat – working a hybrid of genres

Unfortunately, if there’s anything that Doctor Cat fumbles, it’s the surrounding therapy. Before each jigsaw, you get to listen to the woes of a patient. Rather than opt for something wacky or cat-related, it leans into real-world dilemmas. One cat struggles to get motivated at work, while another feels like a relationship is in its last dying breaths. Their stories are treated deadly seriously and with a hint of sadness, which isn’t inherently a bad thing, but sidesteps the expectations of a cutesy puzzle game. 

What disappointed us most is that the cases are treated so glibly. Doctor Cat has some pithy comments about ‘you need to open up if you want me to help’, he chucks out some wisdom that would make a fortune cookie sound like the Dalai Lama, and then shuffles the patient out. We hoped the ‘Doctor’ bit of Doctor Cat would add some colour, but mostly it’s just waffle. If we were Doctor Cat’s patient, we’d have asked for a refund. 

The jigsaw puzzling is better, at least. As mentioned, the cat’s woes are translated into a jigsaw puzzle format. The size of the jigsaw puzzle is up to you: Easy and Normal are available from the off, and a Hard mode acts as a kind of New Game+. The difficulties determine the size of the jigsaw, as you’d expect.

We’ve called them jigsaw puzzles, but there are no nobbles on the pieces that make them traditionally jigsaw-looking. Instead, these are grids of squares. The squares are always upright – there is no rotating in Doctor Cat – and your job is to swap pieces so that they end up in the right orientation. They don’t lock into place when they’re positioned correctly, so it’s down to you to place them well and keep them there.

Doctor Cat review 2
A Doctor Cat puzzle

It works reasonably well. We like how each edge piece has a helpful frame scribbled on, giving us somewhere to start. Unless you’re a puzzle savant, you will be forming the frame first and then using that to prompt the following pieces. Tapping one piece and then tapping another to swap is also a simple but effective method of moving them around. Other jigsaw puzzle video games have trouble working out a viable control scheme, so we don’t take it for granted. 

But it still has its issues. Let’s rattle a few off. For one, it’s hard to know which piece you’ve selected. The glow on the chosen piece is too subtle, and when the background has a hint of yellow in it – being yellow, gold or green for example – then it can effectively be camouflaged. Swap a piece, too, and the selector snaps back to where the original piece was. In almost every instance, we wanted to be where the piece ended up, rather than trying to remember where it started from. 

The biggest gear-grinding, though, came from when we played a Hard puzzle. Hard means more pieces, which means that the pictures need to help. You don’t have nobbly bits as additional hints: you can’t snap them together and go ‘ah, they connect!’. Instead, you’re left hoping. You have to hope that six completely black squares, in a 2×3, are in the orientation that Doctor Cat wants them to be. And you will only know if you’re right at the end. 

Which isn’t great, obviously. When you consider that the pictures are also fine – not overly detailed, not wholly attractive – and that there are only twelve of them, then you might have the same reaction we did: it’s all a bit underwhelming. 

Doctor Cat review 3
Try not to doze off…

Doctor Cat starts with a smidgeon of interest thanks to the psychiatry backdrop, but that soon molts away. Then you get to grips with the jigsaw puzzling, and while it’s functional, it’s got some core navigation issues and only lasts for an hour or two anyway. A lack of content is an odd complaint for a jigsaw game: surely it doesn’t take much effort to make a few more pictures?

We lay down on Doctor Cat’s couch and found ourselves dozing off. We didn’t plan to: we were rubbing our paws together at the prospect of a cat/therapy/jigsaw puzzle hybrid. But this is possibly the least interesting version of that combo that anyone could possibly imagine. We’re not disappointed, we’re just bored.

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doctor-cat-review<b>Pros:</b> <ul> <li>Controls work well</li> <li>We’re always down for some cats</li> <li>Sometimes jigsaw puzzling is what you need</li> </ul> <b>Cons:</b> <ul> <li>Knowing where the cursor is is a problem</li> <li>The therapy and cat stuff soon gets abandoned</li> <li>Most hard puzzles are virtually impossible</li> </ul> <b>Info:</b> <ul> <li>Massive thanks for the free copy of the game, Afil Games</li> <li>Formats - Xbox Series X|S (review), Xbox One <li>Release date and price - 12 April 2024 | £4.19</li> </ul>
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