Kitty Tactics Review
When I received my copy of Kitty Tactics, I confess that I did some serious book-cover-judging. A simple little tune blared out at me, and some sprites that looked suspiciously like Temmies from Undertale began moving like chess pieces on an all-black board. To my shame, I just sort of… stared at it.
Anyway, fast-forward a few weeks, and here I am, hopelessly riddled with an obsession for which there is no cure. I am consumed by Kitty Tactics.
Initially, you are faced with your own little sprite, able to name him and give him a little coloured scarf. Your kitty starts as a ‘vagrant’, a Level 1 with no job and one skill. You know how to scratch. The aim of the game, to put it plainly – is to paint the board in your colour. Something I arrogantly assumed would be easy and/or dull.
Kitty Tactics is a game that is at once surprisingly complex, and decidedly simple. Although the premise is such that you could write it on the back of a stamp and still have room to draw a cat, the actual gameplay is layered and varied to a degree not made plain by these simple graphics. Moving only in straight lines, your kitty must colour each square of the board in their colour, a quick WASD and Space Bar job. Many other squares on the board are occupied by other kitties of other colours, who are equally rampant in their quest for chromatic coherence.
Of course, these other cats have a real aversion to you trespassing on their land, and equally, you are expected to protect yours. You do this by forging alliances or grudges against each other – a stat which is measured and displayed through red or green lines between kitties. Some will come to your air, healing you and fighting on your behalf, while some will remember that time you overstepped your bounds and expect you to pay for it. There’s a real sense of “the enemies of my enemies are my friends” about this game.
Eventually, you’ll be able to do more than scratch. Abilities are unlocked through levelling up, and later on through choosing ‘jobs’ from a skill tree. There are mage/warrior type splits in the tree, allowing for a defensive or offensive strategy. Also, and more importantly, new jobs = new hats.
It can all seem a bit daunting, and certainly did to me when I started to play, but Kitty Tactics knows this and expects you to take some risks. As you learn – or make mistakes – pop-ups will instruct you on what you did right or wrong, and how to play better. It’s a slow game to learn, especially when status buffs and abilities are represented by small symbols which you either learn or (like me) write down.
Kitty Tactics is an odd little game, unassuming and cute, but also kind of brutal. It is a tricky game to play, and ultimately has the potential to be unrewarding. After hours of effort, one wrong move will result in a quirky Game Over screen. And that’s it. That’s your legacy. No matter how many purple squares you managed to steal.
Now, don’t get me wrong; this absolutely enraged me. But as soon as I was able to press “new game”, I did so immediately. I don’t care that this game is an uphill struggle; I want to win it.
I’m not sure how the devs have done so well using so little. The backdrop is stark, the characters all the same aside from a coloured scarf and maybe a hat, the noises are simple and the music repetitive – so why then is Kitty Tactics so compelling?
The truth is, it plays like a tabletop game or something you’d dig out of the cupboard for boardgame night. It’s quick; once you familiarise yourself with the rules, and every time you lose, there’s a sense of “God, I was so close… maybe one more try”. I would like to see more attractive landscapes and backgrounds. I would like a bit more variation. But the potential is great, and there’s a lot to be said for a game you can pop open in the background of a dull Zoom meeting these days.
So, of course, my recommendation is to play it. But take heed, kitty tacticians. It may consume your life.