As interest in board games continues to rise, so too does the interest in exploring new ways of playing those games. One such way is through digital ‘ports’ of those games – translating them PCs, consoles, phones, and tablets.
While digital versions may not exactly replace the feeling of a physical board game, many add subtle tweaks that such as for solo play, campaign modes, online competition, or simply as a more portable way to enjoy the game. This is new territory to explore. Welcome, to the Pixel Provinces.
How will Cat Lady fare in the search for the purrrrrfect adaptation of its physical counterpart? It’s time to lay back and take a good long stretch as we find out!
Cat Lady is a set collecting game designed by Josh Wood and published by AEG in mid 2017, where it inverts the concept of the typical “cat lady” caricature into a positive mission where you are trying to collect and feed as many cats as you can to build an impressive cattery.
Throughout the game, you go about collecting cats as well as food to feed them, along with numerous cute costumes, toys, and catnip to treat your furry friends. These cards are set up in a 3×3 grid on the table, and on your turn you must take all the cards in any one row or column, trying to avoid whichever set of cards the previous player has blocked from you. Special cats can also be collected by using Lost Cat cards. Each of these Lost Cats score in unique ways and can potentially net you more significantly points than the average variety feline.
Balancing the number of cats and food cards you collect is a necessity, as any unfed cats will go hungry at the end of the game and cost you points. Collecting sets of different toys and costumes, as well as the ever-alluring catnip, can also add to your overall point total. Once the deck is depleted and all the cards have been played, the final scores are tallied and the player with the most points is the superior cat lady.
You’re guided through the tutorial by experienced cat lady Margaret, who’s hopeful that she can teach you to be as successful a cat lady as the famous League of Cat Ladies member Gertrude. Margaret’s warm tone as the guide is inviting and emphasizes the beginner-friendly nature of the tutorial.
The tutorial is broken up into three individually-playable sections, with each focusing on a different aspect of the game’s set collection mechanics. Each section introduces a deeper level of set collection than the last, and the well-paced progression through the tutorial’s practice games is helpful for new players as each game proves engaging while still being informative. If you’re already experienced with Cat Lady’s mechanics, however, you will likely not need to run though the tutorial as the new controls and the app’s UI is both highly intuitive and user friendly.
Cat Lady comes with two game modes: classic and challenge. Classic mode allows you to play local games with up to four players, any of which can be either fellow cat-loving friends, or AI players. The easy, medium, and hard AI have personalities to match their difficulties, and the detail the app includes makes being a member of the League of Cat Ladies that much more welcoming. The easy and medium AI, such as Tiny Benji and Audrey, put up a surprisingly fierce fight for what’s intended to be easier opponents, and the difficulty only ramps up further for the hard AI opponent and cat lady extraordinaire, Gertrude.
While the classic mode is straightforward and engaging, especially for those familiar with the original card game, the challenge mode presents more of a mystery. The app doesn’t really address what challenge mode is, and there is no description of it anywhere in the game’s menus. Challenge mode games feel and play similarly to classic games played against AI players, but their true meaning remains unclear, which can leave players confused even to its current purpose.
Another option that’s much more notably missing from Cat Lady, however, is an online mode with the ability to play against other players. The simple set collecting mechanics and lack of direct player interaction positions Cat Lady as an almost perfect game within which to integrate an online mode, and not including it as an option gives off the distinct feeling that the app is missing something.
Cat Lady’s artwork and music immediately makes the game feel inviting upon opening the app. The artwork from Cat Lady’s physical version has transitioned beautifully to the digital screen, and the clean look of the art pairs well with the game’s streamlined and user-friendly controls.
Simply swiping to collect cards makes the in-game controls highly intuitive, while the well-organized player tableaus make keeping track of your cards and final score a breeze. Having the ability to quickly assess your points and game position when compared to your opponents keeps you focused on your own set collecting strategy, and the counter included with the deck makes it easy to keep tabs on how many turns you have left.
In keeping with the spirit of cat ladies, the game also includes a myriad of achievements that you can complete for trophies. Cat Lady functions without any notable mishaps, and the spirit of the physical game is conveyed beautifully in the app.
Cat lovers everywhere can rejoice and live out their cat lady dreams through this mostly well-designed app. Just like its physical counterpart, its cute artwork and simple premise makes it enticing for everyone to come join the League of Cat Ladies. Cat Lady’s clean aesthetic and intuitive controls make the game extremely user-friendly, while the lighthearted spirit of the physical game is conveyed well through the mechanics and achievement system. Although the game is notably lacking an online mode, which will likely get the hair up of some as it does limit its usability to those wishing to compete for feline ownership glory, the AI players are engaging and the ability to mix and match AI players with local friends still provides plenty of gameplay options.
Cat Lady is available on these platforms:
Sara Perry is a contributing writer and aspiring game designer with a love for games both physical and digital. Also cats. She can be best reached via Twitter.
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