Metroidvanias are a great genre, and Catmaze happens to be a newer indie game Metroidvania… with cats! That’s a win-win combination, right? Well, that is debatable, but that is why we review games. To help you know what you are about to dive in to and whether or not you should even try it out.
With that that, is Catmaze an action adventure that you need to play? Or is this cat-themed Metroidvania a disaster? Let’s find out!
Catmaze opens up with a weird timeline where a lot of cats exist in the future, and then it returns to Year 0. We then see a witch at a house who then becomes pregnant, and ultimately births a little witch baby. Sixteen years later, the baby is a teenager, and the mother is sick and coughing.
You play as the daughter, Alesta, and your mother tasks you with your first major errand, which is to retrieve a rare item called Plakun. You are then on your way to a world that is chock full of mushroom baddies as you explore, save, chase cats, open chests, and more. Alesta will even meet quite a few NPCs along the way and venture to new areas where even more baddies will make her life a living hell.
The story of Catmaze is pretty bland, and honestly, the dialog drags for the most part. At the core, there is a heartwarming yet sad scenario between a daughter and her mother, but the writing is pretty lackluster and does not communicate the intensity of the situation well enough, as it favors lore and some Slovak mythology. Alesta is a fun character, but unfortunately she is hard to connect with due to the writing and the lack of depth.
Catmaze is a Metroidvania, which means it is an action adventure with progressive powerups, so when you receive new items/upgrades, you should be able to open up the map more and access new areas until you reach the end. Catmaze does do this, but the map is oftentimes confusing and does not offer the player an understandable path as to where to go next.
The combat relies on two types of attacks, which are melee and ranged. As you play the game and progress, you will unlock new melee and ranged attacks that will help you open up the map more and advance the story. Unfortunately, items and their potential are rarely communicated, and it is possible to initiate boss fights without the appropriate items, which I found to be displeasing.
Once you open things up, though, Catmaze does progress quite well. There are lots of unique biomes that provide differing experiences depending on which area you are exploring. Enemies are also diverse depending on the area, and the corresponding bosses normally connect with the theme of the area and the enemies within. There are a certain amount of progressive powerups in each area as well, and they are usually led by random cats or a question mark on the map. Again, though, that question mark can be deceiving because you may need another progressive item to access that next one.
Boss fights are okay. They are big and unique to their areas, but they can be more difficult than what feels appropriate, especially considering the challenge of the area that preceded. Bosses are often well designed and can be fun, but when they feel unfair and a bit too random, that does hurt the overall experience a bit.
Catmaze looks pretty good, too, and the sprite work is charming. Alesta is super-cute, and the various enemies and their differences help to make all of the areas maintain a fun and healthy flow of gameplay. The backdrops are a bit bland at times, but overall, everything does look great and carries a fun and adorable charm about it.
The soundtrack is all right, but it is nothing to write home about. I do take issue with the sound effects, as they are pretty lazy and do not often fit the scenario they belong to. Some times the combination of the music with the area is a bit off-putting as well, and that is a bummer. I do not normally critique sound effects so much, but something about the repeated sounds and how aggressive they apply to the game became grating to me after a while.
Overall, Catmaze is a decent Metroidvania with a fair amount of minor flaws. It will take you a good amount of time to complete, at least 10 hours, and the price is great for the amount of game you are getting. It is only unfortunate that the amount of minor problems pile up and sour the experience.
Catmaze is based on some Slovak mythology, which I found interesting, but I honestly wish they dove a bit more into that instead of this complicated path that did not give us enough insight to understand what is being presented. Despite that, the story is still a decent one that will keep you invested in short spurts.
If you are yearning for a new Metroidvania to play at a low price, Catmaze is a fun and unique one, especially at a discount. Keep an eye on this one, and pick it up when you see it on sale. At full price, though, it is a bit difficult for me to recommend.
Decent story with some Slovak mythology
Fun progressive powerups
Adorable pixel artwork
Confusing map and notifications at times
Can access bosses without appropriate powerups
Sound effects are often off-putting
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My name is Jason Capp. I am a husband, father, son, and brother, and I am a gamer, a writer, and a wannabe pro wrestler. It is hard to erase the smile on this simple man.