The moment I started playing Catlateral Damage, I knew my daughter would love it. I could imagine her giggles as she caused mayhem in the digital house, laughing as she knocked over pictures and trophies. “She’s going to become addicted to this,” I kept telling myself, wondering about the diminishing access I would get to my computer because she’d be playing on it.
Catlateral Damage is, thankfully, designed to be accessible to anyone. The result of an FPS-inspired game jam, the game uses the basics of the genre — point of view, dual-stick controls — but replaces guns for paws and curses for purrs. There is not one ounce of mean spirit in the game; Catlateral Damage is pure joy.
As I played the game, I was instantly struck by the visual design. It reminded me of cartoons, like watching Tom & Jerry from a first person point of view. Sean Baptiste, Communications lead for publisher and partner Fire Hose Games, noted the reason behind its distinct style. A pseudo cell-shaded look, it was created to let one-man developer Chris Chung focus on the technical design aspects of the game instead of the aesthetic. And it just kind of stuck, Baptiste explained as he hovered over me. I’d imagine that if it looked more realistic, it would kind of take some of the playful magic away.
And it worked. I was a kitten, running around a house and climbing on furniture. The demo tasked me with destroying 270 items in the five minutes that my human owners had left me alone, and so climbing onto and into everything was crucial. In the kitchen I ran across countertops knocking over cooking utensils, which would disappear into a puff of smoke when they hit the ground. If anything rolled under the kitchen table I would have to jump down and bash it with my paws.
More than just the visual design, the low-to-the-ground vantage point really helped to put me into the body of the kitten. As I crawled under the bed I felt the low ceiling on top of me, as if my body was stretched out. Knocking over expensive items and picture frames (some of which included photographs of cats that the game’s Kickstarter backers submitted) it never felt malicious.
That’s because Chung totally loves cats, and I could definitely see it. “Is this good for cats? Would cats actually do this? Would a cat have fun with this? Would you have fun as a cat doing this?” All of these questions were what guided Chung on specific design decisions. He wants us to feel like we actually are the cats we’re controlling in the game, not just destroying things in a minimalist FPS. From the demo I tried it was clear that these intentions were realized.
As short as it was, my time with the game was enjoyable. I ended with a grin from ear-to-ear, contemplating how often my daughter would ask to play it and how long those play sessions would end up being. As good and whimsical as it is in concept, I’m curious to see how Chung and his support staff will flush out Catlateral Damage to take it beyond novel idea. Much like the inattentive cats that appear in the game, something will need to sustain our attention for longer periods of time. While no other specific challenges or puzzles were revealed Baptiste did mention that Chung and his team are working on a variety of levels and buildings, including a super market and museum, that will add to the chaos.
I just want more stuff to break. Hopefully I won’t have to wait long, as Catlateral Damage is aiming for release this year on Steam.