For a short while, I’ve been seeing these photos of cats in a yard, and so many of my friends would talk about it and post pictures of cats stuck in boxes or other objects. A lot of them encouraged me to play, but I didn’t understand what the game was and I told myself not to download games on my phone until:
— T (@tnumali) November 22, 2015
Then I got two other messages forward to me about how THERE WAS A LEXY CAT!!! So I said, yup, I’m definitely playing this.
The first time I played this, I didn’t realize that the game was a real-time kind of game. After buying my first toy, an hour passed and still no cat. I end up buying more, and later on, I get my first visitor:
If only you saw how giddy I became. Its name was Shadow! I have a Siberian Husky called Shadow that’s white and grey, so I thought it was a cute coincidence. But here I was, bored with the game and I go 180 just like that. So I asked my best friend what I was going to do with the cat and she said to take its photo.
… Hold up, what?
I was dumbfounded. I downloaded a game to take photos of cats. Seriously? So I tell my friends I don’t get this game, and that I got bored again. Initially, I thought that Neko Atsume was something like a Tamagotchi / Nintendogs type of game, so after finding out that you play as some sort of cat paparazzi, I was quite disappointed.
I won’t say the game isn’t cute. It’s unbelievably cute. Look at kitty Fred, all stupid in that tiny cardboard box. It’s very simple and shows a typical Japanese household. Your house also starts to look nicer as you expand your yard, which means being able to set more toys, and more food to entice more cats. To acquire more toys and get better food, you need to get sardines from each cat that visits you. There are regular sardines (my favorite) GOLDEN SARDINES!
Depending on the “goodies” you purchase for your cats, you either get animated or stationary kitties. Sometimes they’ll lie on your yard, asleep or awake, and sometimes they’ll play around, so you’ll see them rolling around, or even jumping. I kind of wish that some cats could interact with each other, to see more interesting things while watching them on the yard. Other than the yard, you also get to view your album / catbook, which keeps track of all the cats you’ve photographed, and all the cats that
have visited you. You also have the option of choosing a specific photo you took of a specific kitty for all your cats in your catbook. The game allows you to take screenshots to save to your phone as well. Tip: If you click “News” in your menu, a daily password may appear and give you free sardines and gold sardines as well. Look out for it!
Random seasons occur in the game as well; on occasion, it will snow.
I love the game’s background music. It sounds very similar to the background music on the Mii screen when playing on the Wii. There are what sounds like riffs from a xylophone which kind of matches the game’s cuteness and low-stress trait, and reminds you a lot of slice-of-life type of anime. It’s played on loop, and has no noticeable dead air. Occasionally, certain things you click will elicit a “meow” sound, but for the cats in the yard, if they’re jumping or playing with a toy, there are no extra sound effects, which I like just fine. Cats in real life can make a ton of noise especially with other objects, and if paired up with this game, I can only imagine how disruptive the sounds might turn out to be, and also how the sound effects will clash with the music. Sometimes I leave the game running only because I like the music. My favorite one is the music when your yard has snow, it sounds like music from a music box.
Despite initially bashing the game, I found myself checking the app way more than once. I asked a couple of my friends that have played the game for a while and they check around 3-5 times a day. I checked almost 8 times every 5 minutes. I don’t know what it is about this game that sucks you in. A lot of them would make fun of me for “hating” on the game, but also playing it so much.
As I’m sure you’ve already noticed from the cat profiles, they each have their own personality and Power Level. I don’t know if the levels correspond to how much sardines they give, but other than that, there’s nothing much to do with their stats. Although it’s very cute that the game offers a profile so the player can personify the cat and imagine what they could be like. The saddest personality I’ve seen so far is “Sore Loser”.
There’s a lot more to this game than I initially thought. Although I would understand if people just didn’t enjoy the game, but being a casual game, I think it works quite well. Apparently, if a cat visits you often enough, they can become your friend and give you a gift, or a “memento”. Right as I opened the app, the screen goes black and this cat walks to the center. Imagine my fear. You know how cute things delude you into thinking they’re harmless, but in reality they can rip your throat and eat you alive?
… Okay, I’m toning it down, but this happened, and apparently this cat liked me enough to give me a gift! I don’t remember what I was given, but I think it was something used. I only recently downloaded the game again because I told myself to stop playing once the Lexy cat arrived.
I thought that these regular cats are all you get (except for the Lexy cat ;)), but then I found out that there are special cats that visit depending on the toys you lay out, and the food you offer in the food bowl. After purchasing Frisky Bitz (which is in a yellow food bowl), I got a new kind of kitty called Tubbs. I hated Tubbs for a while. Why? Okay, sure, its different from all the other cats, and stands out. Super cute. But first off, it eats ALL of your food (and I’m the type of person that likes to save up considering how some of your goodies can get expensive) and this:
You ate all my food. And I get one sardine. Let’s not be selfish here, okay, fine, I am a virtual cat lady here to give you food, comfort, and fun.
The concept of casual games is not alien to me, although it’s something I’ve only recently come to understand. Casual games, in my opinion at least, are the types of games you play every now and then when you have time to kill. That means these games are fun to go back to, or makes you want to play again. Neko Atsume may have a strange concept, but there is direction and a goal: to collect all the photos of the cats. Building up and saving all your sardines is not an easy task, because depending on how much goodies you lay out for them and depending on the type of food you offer, different kinds of cats will come and these aren’t businesscats, they give you little amounts of sardines. Probably the most I’ve gotten (that I remember) is around 20+ which funnily enough is because of the Lexy cat. Being patient enough will grant a bigger yard, which allows you to harbor more cats, increasing the chances of getting more cats, and especially the rarer ones like Tubbs. Because the art is cute, the wait isn’t at all frustrating which makes this game a good casual game.
Rating: 8 / 10
According to Yutaka Takasaki, the game’s developer, Neko Atsume was meant for a “just look and enjoy” type of game, especially one that children can play without thinking too hard. It definitely is a low-stress game, and due to it’s popularity, it’s proven that even older audiences enjoy it. Although I rarely check it nowadays. It’s a nice game to play for a while, and what’s nice is since it’s nothing like Tamagotchi, your cats don’t die on you.
I revised my rating because I realize that a casual game should have different criteria from the usual type of games I’ve been playing / reviewing. As Neko Atsume is the type of game you would likely visit every now and again, I think it is almost the epitome of a casual game.