You can also play Catlateral Damage in litterbox mode (sandbox mode) to explore the various houses and get some practice with the controls. Each level is a house filled with bookshelves to plunder, cabinets to empty, and tables to clear.
Merely knocking an object over is not enough to score points. If you knock a row of books off a shelf and they land on a bed or a table below, those objects don’t count toward your total. You have to jump down and get everything properly on the floor. Thoroughness as an agent of chaos is required.
Objects that you would expect an ordinary cat to use or mess with, like cardboard tubes, scratching posts, and toys, generate power-ups that add to your speed, the height of your jump, or the raw force of your paw swipe. Random events like mice to hunt or laser pointers to chase also generate power-ups.
Once you get comfortable with the controls, the proverbial light bulb will appear over your head when you see a cabinet filled with dishes. The tinkling crash of those dishes breaking on the floor below is very satisfying.
I didn’t see the point of using any of the different cat models I unlocked. Being in first-person perspective, you can’t see anything beyond your paws when they swipe left or right. Choosing different cats amounts to the same kind of “Awwww!” moments as seeing the real-life cat photos you unlock by knocking their pictures to the ground. There are 243 different cat photos to unlock, giving cat fanciers something to coo over.
There are “supermarkat” keys to find, which unlock a trip to the supermarket. Your shopping list designates specific items and how many to find and knock off the shelves.
I liked that the reticule is a cat face. It’s cute that you finish each level by jumping into and sleeping in a box. And if the adorable concept is all you were looking for, Catlateral Damage is a slam dunk.
I often felt like I was fighting the controls during my run through Catlateral Damage. Movement was slippery, as if my cat was jumping onto surfaces that’d been lubed up. I’d try to stick a landing on a bedpost or the edge of a kitchen sink and kept sliding off.
Your speed, jump, and swat powers are measured via status bars that fill up as you collect power-ups, and about halfway through each status bar I began ignoring available power-ups because I didn’t really need them. The power-ups were given out so often that they lost meaning.
The difficulty curve doesn’t keep up with your ability to become Supercat, making tremendous leaps to the top of refrigerators and zooming through houses at blazing speeds. I’d beat a level where I had 400 objects to knock to the floor on a 10 minute timer, and the following level only required 190 objects, with just as generous a time limit.
I realized during a supermarket level that I didn’t even necessarily need to swat anything to the floor. I could just run straight down the shelf, and knock everything over that way.
About two hours into the game Catlateral Damage began to feel like a curiosity in the classic sense, a conversation piece to show your friends or a cute game to show relatives who don’t play video games and think they are exclusively about gunplay and violence. Once you grasp the concept behind the game’s pitch and power up your cat, Catlateral Damage might feel very repetitive.
This is obviously a game that doesn’t take itself too seriously, meant almost entirely for cat lovers. You may feel like picking up your kitty and giving him or her a hug when you’ve finished with Catlateral Damage, because even if they resemble the destructive star of this game, that’s just how cats work and we love them anyway.
Catlateral Damage was released today on Steam for PC, Mac, and Linux.
Disclosure: Our PC copy of Catlateral Damage was provided by Fire Hose Games.
Illustration via Fire Hose Games