Cat Cafe Manager Review: Meow, we’re in business


Few games have such an informative name as Cat Cafe Manager. Reading it, you probably have a good idea of ​​whether it’s something you’ll enjoy or not. The combination of a cat adoption game and a restaurant simulation is enough for comfort-seeking players to jump in without inspecting further. And while Cat Cafe Manager is definitely a comfortable experience, it also has its flaws, and the hands-off management of it all can lend itself to both pleasure and frustration at different times.

The setup is familiar. You’re new to town and you’ve been given a piece of land. Naturally, you do what any sane owner would do: start building a small business that combines two of mankind’s greatest idols: brunch and cats. Right after you start building your dream cafe, the bubbly music and adorable 2D art direction provide the laid-back vibe you might expect from a game like this.

But right away, Cat Cafe floods you with messy, text-based tutorials. It’s a bunch of information dumped in your lap, which can be a tough opening for any gamer, but especially for the younger or less experienced crowd that such a game can attract. Yet once the busy UI is deciphered, the game’s economy is actually well designed, forcing you to offer your cafe to different clienteles to meet different needs.

For example, if you need more building materials to expand the square footage of your cafe, you need to advertise to the punks in town and make sure you serve their favorite food and drinks for maximum satisfaction. If you need ingredients and recipes instead, you’ll want to have some witches visit. There are six types of customers in all, and each has their own motto, as well as their own wants and needs in order to have a good time in your cafe.

Can you pet the cat?  Yes, you can pet all cats.
Can you pet the cat? Yes, you can pet all cats.

This business consideration cleverly extends to several aspects of the game. You’ll need more than just the right selection of items for the right customers. You’ll also need to adopt and train the right stray cats to snuggle into customers’ laps, befriend particular locals, and hire and train the right staff to ensure they can cook well, serve quickly and , yes, even clean the cat pee.

Between working days, you’ll start new projects – skills, really – like gaining more staff or chairs, restocking cat food and toys, and further upgrading your cafe with sleeker wallpaper, prettier plants, and more. more snazzier tables and chairs. Eventually, your once modest café will eliminate the mismatched decor in favor of a cohesive theme such as a bewitching bistro, hipster hangout or dive bar.

Collectively, all of these considerations flow into an overall coffee rating, and every day you’ll receive customer ratings from everyone who visits your store. It’s a nice in-game economy that ensures there’s always something to do, at least for the first dozen hours.

It’s just a shame that none of this really matters. You see, this coffee rating has little effect on anything. Your mismatched dining sets can lower your overall rating, and a witch who’s been denied her beloved pretzel might mean she didn’t have a good time, but Lemonade Stand isn’t. the case. Nothing has any real consequence in Cat Cafe Manager.

During my time with the game, my almost three year old daughter became obsessed with it, so when I wasn’t playing I let her mess around. Naturally, this meant that some menu items were not replenished and some customers were unhappy. Granted, even some of that aforementioned cat pee hasn’t been cleaned up, I’m sorry to say. But when I picked up the game for myself, I found that I was nonetheless rich with its many currencies and resources. Because your hired staff behave on their own, the game is essentially played once you’ve brought in co-workers for a few hours. Sure, the coffee machine can break down, but customers are always happy with a back-up order, even if it’s just a glass of water in the worst case.

In this way, the game’s laissez-faire design is a little too hands-on, revealing that this isn’t so much a real restaurant sim, but more of a dress-up for an admittedly adorable game about cats. and coffee. There’s no way to fail and no way to even truly succeed on a noticeable level, because the number of customers you serve in a day comes down only to the number of chairs you can buy and place in your café.

An end goal for yourself may include choosing a cafe theme, like this artistic display.
An end goal for yourself may include choosing a cafe theme, like this artistic display.

Gallery

Skill points are doled out generously, and money, in its many forms, will keep flowing whether you have a leaping mega-Starbucks or a ramshackle assembly line of herbal teas and cat pee. All of this means that your enjoyment of the game can depend on how much freedom you want. I wanted more than what’s here, but I can also squint and appreciate how anti-game Cat Cafe Manager ends up being. Younger players may need help getting past the game’s initial explanation brochure, but after that they can enjoy the game without fail states or a storyline to get in their way.

One thing that will bother players of all kinds, however, is the faulty decoration mode. The tiles are placed square by square like in The Sims. As you expand your square footage, the cursor gets lost behind already existing walls. Objects such as artwork that could have been hung on a wall strangely do not move with the wall, leaving them in the middle of the floor. It even strangely changes the way you use the cursor, because to reset the scenery after its attached wall has been moved, you have to click on the tile under the object, rather than the tile of the object itself, like this works in the rest of the game. Items often pass through walls, such as rugs that will fit indoors and outdoors. This mess makes the game feel like it’s in Early Access, but it’s not.

It’s oddly restrictive with where certain items can go too. Once I placed exterior stone tiles, but when I wanted to move them I apparently had no way to do so. When I unlocked a motorcycle decoration by befriending one of the regulars, I wasn’t allowed to place it outside the cafe like I could with some of the flowers.

It’s not a bug, but it’s also worth mentioning that the characters sometimes swear, which seems so out of place for a game like this. There’s no voice acting, so this will go over some players’ heads, just like the tutorials, but it just doesn’t match up and leaves a sour taste in my mouth given the out-of-character nature. It definitely feels like a game that would keep things kid-friendly at all times, but oddly enough it isn’t.

Cat Cafe Manager is a confusing game. Its design is deliberately forgiving, but in some cases at fault. It looks and sounds cheerful, but bugs in building your dream cafe can be frustrating. It’s still a game where fans of the genre can enjoy themselves provided they don’t mind – or especially if they prefer – something so directionless, but I find it gets in the way of what could have been a nice mix of chat-sitting and hit service.

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