Do you remember the internet of the late 90s? The worldwide web was a portal of information only for those who could easily navigate a PC, and websites were crafted with a frivolous blast of different fonts, colours, animations, and random sound effects. PUSS! encapsulates that creative new-dawn-of-the-net flippancy, and the capitalisation and complimentary exclamation mark of the game’s title clearly affirms developer teamcoil’s intention to pack a punch.
From the start, PUSS! is utterly unique. In the intro sequence, a cat is idly sat in front of a TV when it spots a plea for help from inside the set. Moments later, the feline has dived into the TV, and so the journey begins. The visuals instantly set the tone: glitchy, distorted and trippy, with colour-clash, psychedelic patterns, and random words occupying your eyeballs.
Using either touchscreen or Joy-Con controls, you’re required to guide the cat’s disembodied head through single-screen maze challenges, avoiding moving objects while navigating narrow pathways to reach the exit. The first couple of screens are easy enough, but the difficulty soon ramps up, with pixel-perfect, carefully timed movement required. It’s fine for PUSS! to offer a challenge (we don’t want all our video games to be easy, do we?) but there are moments when your patience will really be tested.
Touchscreen controls are best completely avoided; the cat moves rapidly, but it’s near impossible to experience precision movement. Controlling the cat with the Joy-Con is the better option. Tilt one Joy-Con to move at a steadier pace, or both at the same time to advance with more speed. This offers better precision, but the cat seems to move faster when using touchscreen controls. Therefore, each screen requires consideration of when you need speed, and when your path requires accuracy.
Some levels have a save-point halfway through (a charming 3.5” disk icon) while others that could certainly benefit from such a luxury, don’t. At least you get to choose from various cat avatars to send to their doom, although the difference is purely aesthetic. Colour tones can also be adjusted, and while it’s nice to be able to tweak the visuals, it would have been better still if the game offered a choice of difficulty level. It should also be noted that PUSS! is best avoided if you are susceptible to epilepsy or seizures.
The first boss fight – if you get there – sheds a little light on the backstory, and is a brutally hard encounter, as your cat races around the screen trying to avoid an overwhelming number of projectiles. It’s one of those moments when Joy-Con control is essential; precision bullet-hell action is not enjoyable with touch controls.
If you have nerves of steel (and more than nine lives) then it’s possible you will embrace the task that PUSS! offers. The sheer vibrancy of the graphics is genuine fun, and the original soundtrack is aptly bizarre enough to complement the action. Stick at it, and the opportunity for additional perks to improve your chances become available, and there’s a leaderboard to compare your pain with other players too.
Unfortunately, PUSS! is just too punishing at times and becomes a real grind. The game rewards extra lives after each completed maze, but they’re never enough. If you’re feeling like a tough cat, you may relish the task, but the Switch control options do not offer the finesse that a mouse while playing on PC would. Thematically PUSS! is strong however, and it’s refreshing to see such a boldly different offering.
PUSS! Review £10.79
PUSS! is a punishing pixel-precision challenge wrapped in psychedelic visuals. It feels far too brutal, and the control methods available aren’t always suited to the task. It is a unique challenge, however, for the brave.