I mean this in the best way possible, but PUSS! is one of most hair-pulling, teeth-gritting, difficult games that I have played in a while. The levels are devious and require massive amounts of focus. Chances are that you will fail a lot, a lot more than you think you will, and a lot more than you want to. But it’s just that which makes PUSS! great because this experience is fair. The controls and level design are so tight and perfected that, trust me, it’ll be your fault when you perish. This experience will hurt, but the pain is oh so good.
PUSS! throws you right into the action, with dead simple controls which are highly effective, as you are tasked with moving through various mazes without touching the walls. It’s a game of control, and you have to keep constant attention on where your character is. If you stray from the designated safe area for more than a couple of seconds, you die. At first this can feel incredibly punishing and unfair, however you quickly adjust to the new expectations. Plus, it only gets harder from there on out, so you better get used to it.
After completing the first world (and beating the first boss) you are placed in a level select screen similar to something like Mega Man. You have free reign over what world you want to take in, with them being able to be completed in any order. It did not feel that any are harder than others; they are all pretty brutal.
Each world comes with ten levels and then a final boss. You have a certain amount of lives to get through it, and if you beat levels fast and without dying, you’re rewarded with more lives. This essentially means that beating a world and its boss requires going through it several times, as you begin to perfect each individual level so you have more lives for the boss at the end.
The levels that make up each world are the highlight. I have been constantly surprised by the new and inventive ways that PUSS! builds on its main gameplay concept. What starts as something simple blossoms into so many difficult and mind-bending variations. I found myself laughing and staring at the screen in disbelief a few times.
Some of the levels test your dexterity, while others test your intelligence. There are some with lots of fast moving parts while others have intricate patterns that you need to memorize. All of them however are excellent, and I have been consistently pleased with everything played. Shockingly, there isn’t really a single level that ever feels off.
The bosses take those creative ideas and meld them into challenging encounters that will test your patience. These fights are very hard but they are doable. They have a great way of feeling impossible in the beginning but quickly start to make sense after you’ve run through them a few times.
In fact much of this game is funny, and whilst there is not a huge amount of dialogue included, what is there serves to build this surreal and wacky world. Basically you are a cat who’s been thrown into a strange television vaporwave reality – your goal being to stop a great evil. It is a simple premise but they go all out with it, supplemented by gorgeous surrealist art design and some clever characters.
If I could level a single complaint against PUSS! it’s that it does not feel like it’s meant to be played on a console. The development team have done as good a job as they could have in translating it from PC, but it’s clear that using an analog stick is an inferior way to experience this challenge. Every once in a while I couldn’t help but feel like I could have worked through some of the levels better with a mouse.
Overall though, PUSS! on Xbox is absolutely worth picking up and trying. If you have the patience to get through its often brutal levels, you will find a surreal, rewarding experience that is simply unlike anything else. This is a game that will make you scream in both anger and delight, but it’s also a game that comes with some of the most satisfying gameplay I’ve experienced in a long while. Just keep your eye on the kitty and everything will be fine.