Purring ‘Til Your Heart’s Content
Cat Cafe Manager is an adorably chill and fun simulation game where it places you squarely in the whisker-filled faces of cute cats to befriend while managing a modest cafe. With plenty of mechanics to manage and a categorically loveable premise, I thoroughly enjoyed my time delving into its gameplay and joyous vibe.
The game throws you right into the adventure, where you create your character, decide on your first cat, and explain the general game mechanics within minutes. Within 15 minutes, I already had a general understanding of the story, what was expected of me to build my cafe, and how I could best grab the attention of stray cats to befriend. This quick-to-start aspect was a fantastic way to get the game going and got me engaged right away.
Thematically, you play the grandchild of the former owner of the cafe, where you’re able to contribute to the community by building the cafe back to its former glory within Caterwaul Village. As you gradually build out and customize your venue, you begin to see several regular (and reoccurring) patrons. These characters offer a bit more lore and story elements to the game, in addition to having their own character arcs to develop. Though these interactions with characters were a fun addition, they sometimes felt a bit out of place with the mayhem of the cafe. Like other games currently available, these relationships also offer additional resources and unique items – further incentivizing these communications. The story doesn’t create anything overly deep, but rather allows for the catalyst of the gameplay to take center stage – albeit still having an adorable message at the end.
Cat Cafe Manager at its core focuses on the gameplay of managing several mechanics at once in real time. From choosing which drinks to have at your cafe, to prioritizing ingredients, to making the hard choice to move a cat to a forever home; these plus several other mechanics can seem daunting all at once. Happily, there’s never a major sense of panic or urgency within the game. Rather, the game gently reminds you with prompts and alerts that you can address immediately or otherwise choose to focus on different mechanics in the moment. Balancing all these became much more streamlined as you upgrade through some mysterious events.
Unfortunately, the balancing of certain resources became very one sided. The resource to buy recipes and ingredients for food, for example, is only supplied by a specific type of patron. Since each genre of character offers a specific resource, you end up focusing on them only and every other character becomes secondary. Even with this, I found myself constantly having the in-game daily loop of managing the cafe for the sole purpose of getting more resources. Which, in turn, allowed me to craft food, but then use those exact resources that I wanted to use for other recipes and characters. If there were more options and ways to earn resources, this could mediate that frustration, but once I succumbed to the notion that I would never be fully stocked, I was able to enjoy the experience a bit more.
To mediate some of this, Cat Cafe Manager also offers a layer of customization with respect to staff members you can hire and cats you can entice to join your cafe. Each of these staff members and cats can offer special abilities and character traits that can help further streamline the in-game daily activities or offer additional bonuses when patrons are happy. One ability, example, offers bonuses for every four furniture items in the diner theme. So, buying and placing numerous diner themed items will compound the benefits, further layering in all the mechanics and gameplay features in a streamlined fashion.
My best outcomes of enjoyment came when I played Cat Cafe Manager in small bursts. For the past few days, I would play at the end of my day, winding down the calamity of teaching with some cute cats and helping the digital patrons enjoy a nice cup of coffee. The oneish hour experience daily was just the purfect amount to really get the best out of it.
Overall: 8.0 Out of 10
Cat Cafe Manager is a great game that locates an intricate balance of catty cuteness with catchy game mechanics. The quick start up and lack of complication early on allowed me to rapidly weave the intricacy and cater to my inner cafe-designer. Cat Cafe Manager is the game equivalent of catnip that I will likely not be able to duplicate nor stop enjoying anytime soon.
A copy was provided by the publisher for the purposes of this review on PC.
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A version of this review is also posted on Six One Indie.