This week on Zed Games Maylee and Elliott confuse and bewilder with this weeks gaming news, Tobi and Zahra combine forces to review Schrodinger’s Miniature Garden, and Paul casts the runes for a review of Divination.
Tag: indie game
On Zed Games this week Hazel and Rani are joined by Stocky, with the week in gaming news by Zahra, a Trek to Yomi review by Paul, and A Memoir Blue review by Rani!
Developer: Roost Games
Publisher: Freedom Games
Music: Sonya Vos
Platforms: Steam, Nintendo Switch
Released: 15 April 2022
Genre: Strategy, Simulation, Visual Novel
A ‘tail’ as old as time, your grandmother has left you her beloved cat cafe in the town of Caterwaul Way. In all her yarns, you’ve known about this sleepy little village, and the magic and joy it had given her. And ‘meow’ it’s your turn, you arrive at the address and find… an empty field and an old… pirate?
No, it’s just Bonner, a friendly fisherman who thought it would be best to inform you that unfortunately the beloved cat cafe has long since crumbled away. Just how long ago did your grandmother live here? But don’t get your hackles up, you have enough materials and resources to get a small little shack put together. Throw in a tiny little kitchen, and some… rough looking furniture and I guess you have a cat cafe! But you need cats.
Luckily some strays have turned up, and they’re super friendly. Add them to the mix and look at what they’ve dragged in. Customers! Granted, all you can serve is water but when you see their face light up as the cat you just found curls up in their lap, well.
I guess you can understand why your grandmother loved this so much.
Cat Cafe Manager is a 2D simulation managing game, in the most adorable, simple art style. You’ll be learning about what it takes to run and grow a cat cafe, eventually filled with a roster of staff and adorable little kitty cats. And you’ll also get to know more about Caterwaul Way, which is entirely populated by witches, fisherfolk, artists, vagabonds, punks, and cats of course! You’ll meet and bond with a cast of characters and learn about their relationships with each other, the village, and with the cafe. And you’ll learn about what’s going on in the woods.
Don’t worry about it. It’s not spooky.
Let me walk you through a day at the cafe.
Doors open, and customers arrive. They take a seat. Already we start to get feedback, with customers waving as they walk through the door, and a disappointed emote when they can’t find their favourite seat (or there isn’t enough of their preferred decor around).
You take their order, dash over to my little kitchen and put together their order. Some orders, like espressos and lattes, need a coffee machine. Others need a fridge and a chopping board, like sandwiches and salads. As you expand and grow your cafe, you’ll have to expand your menu too, which requires recipes, more ingredients, and specific equipment.
You bring them their order, they enjoy the order, and while they’re relaxing one of the cats hop onto their lap and curls up.
Some customers will have a favourite cat or two, but trust me, every cat is a winner.
Hopefully happy, the customer then heads on their merry way, leaving payment.
Now, the payment you receive depends on the customer. Vagabonds will pay with fabric, business guys pay with gold, punks pay with materials, fisherfolk pay with fish (obviously), witches pay with… nectar? And artists pay with gems (obviously).
You’ll need each form of currency in order to expand the cafe, buy decor and cat supplies, learn new recipes, buy new furniture. So if you have a specific goal in mind, you can adjust how you advertise to each type of customer in order to draw in specific currency. But there is one universal currency, and that is love.
After you meet a mysterious, ominous looking cat you’ll be shown the cat shrine, and you are urged to restore it. Why? You’ll find out in your own time, but the path to restoring the shrine is by love. Heart. Passion. You can select a project which will expand your cafe, unlock more furniture, allow you to house more cats, have more seats, and hire more staff. And with each project completed, the shrine starts to look just a little bit less wild.
Every customer has preferred themes, decor, food, drinks, and cats. Some cats will be naturally attuned to fisherfolk or witches. So to make everyone happy, you’ll have to keep growing. And it’s really satisfying watching that D rank at the end of the day gradually climb to a C, and then a B. I’m getting pretty close to an A rank myself.
It’s actually kinda a lot of work! So you need more staff.
You can go to the village noticeboard, where you can adopt out cats, or hire more staff. And as time goes on, you can train your staff, perfect for when you get hit with a rush of customers. They’ll get better and quicker at taking orders, small talk, making orders, cleaning up, and calming cats down. Just like a real cafe!
There were a few polish issues that were sometimes a little silly, like cats teleporting around the cafe, customers phasing through walls, just goofy little stuff that didn’t really detract from my overall experience. I did experience a couple of crashes, and occasionally there was some aspects of design that made it a bit frustrating (like my not realising that chairs needed to be set a certain way for them to work properly), but the team are really diligent, and would often fix these issues while I was asleep, and I could return to the game the next day with problems resolved. There are probably a couple of other little things that’ll pop up, but nothing ever really stopped me or made me want to stop playing.
Cat Cafe Manager has a lot of little details that I find really charming. The title screen is sweet and calm, sniffing out the village drama is a delight, and hearing the cats purr is so soothing. Hearing them yowl is less soothing, but the game delivers on those cafe noises. And spooky noises. And the little beeps and boops that bring life to a game. It’s understated, a bit relaxing, and if I wanted to play my lofi anime beats to run cat cafes I could.
There’s a few key things you should probably know about me. I love cats, I work in a cafe, I love cat cafes, and I really enjoy games where you build something and create resources to expand the thing you’re building. So when I heard about this game I grabbed at it with both of my… paws?
I’ll quit it with the puns. That was ‘A-PAW-LING’.
Cat Cafe Manager is built up of so many things I love, so I was super excited to boot this game up and start my cat cafe adventure. Which is sounding like I’m building up to revealing I was severely disappointed, but I wasn’t. I liked Cat Cafe Manager! It was fun, I enjoyed the main cast revealing little parts about their lives to me, piecing together their upbringing, their problems and hopes and joys, and watching them grow and resolve things, with a little bit of input from their friendly neighbourhood barista.
It was nice to see the cat shrine grow and become restored, seeing more and more cats return. Bonding with the cats in my neighbourhood and cafe, watching them return and building trust with them. Watching the cats bond with my customers, and then getting the cats adopted to loving homes.
The game can be slow at times, really each day is about passing the time and calling your regulars over so you can talk to them. But there was a sense of pride with watching my cafe come together. Each day becomes another step towards expanding it, making it bigger and better, cultivating it to become a welcoming space to everyone who walks in.
Whether they’re a witch, punk, vagabond, fisherfolk, artist, or even a business guy. They’ve all got a place at my cafe.
In Zed Games this week Hazel chats news with Zahra and repeat guest Caroline, Paul embraces their inner furry with a review of FixFox and lastly Zahra, Caroline and Hazel fan over the Sonic the Hedgehog 2 movie release.
This week Paul and Hazel give us something to wrap our lips around with all the reviews and news. Zahra brings us the news this week before Paul blows us away with a review of Kirby and The Forgotten Land, then waves their tentacles around for a spectacular Tentacular review.
On Zed Games this week Maylee chats with Hazel on this week in gaming news, Zahra talks inspiration at Camp Squiggly, and Paul kick-flips into his review of OlliOlli World.
Developer: Forgotten Key
Publisher: Daedalic Entertainment
Music: Forgotten Key
Platforms: Windows, macOS, Linux, Nintendo Switch
Released: 25 October 2017
Genre: Adventure, Flight, Exploration, Indie
Every pilgrim starts here, venturing into the cave that shelters the shrine. Along the way giant tablets stand, carved with the words of the past, describing hopes and fears, legends and history. At the shrine itself you pay your respects, lighting the incense before the statue of a figure who holds a lantern in their hands. Your ritual complete, you turn to leave, only to realise that the lantern has started to glow. Bewildered, it floats towards you and you reach out to it, and once your hand clasps the handle you experience…
A vision of something terrible.
The cave starts to crumble and collapse.
And suddenly you are surrounded by ghosts. No… echoes of the past, revealed by the lantern, capturing a moment of fear forever.
As you flee the cave and the shrine, you find more of these echoes, these memories, and once you escape you find that you must continue your pilgrimage and find out why the lantern has lit itself for you.
Aer: Memories of Old is an exploration adventure game with puzzle and platforming aspects. With the ability to transform into a bird, satisfying flight controls, a vibrant, beautiful, minimalist art style, relaxing music that matches the mood, navigating this shattered world is enriching, satisfying, and never feels like a chore. Seeking out the history, discovering the events that led to this, and figuring out your part to play in it, is up to how thorough you are through your journey.
In a world that is literally shattered and broken apart, having the ability to fly is an essential one, and in Aer the flight system is beautifully managed. With a single button in the air you transform with a flourish, and spread your wings. With a few flaps of those wings you speed up, you can turn and bank, dive and rise. There can be a lot of distance between islands, with a lot of empty space, and you’ll be flying a lot. So it is fantastic that the act of flying feels fun, fast, and satisfying. I can look out for visual cues indicating speed boosts in the form of wind channels, bursting through clouds feels invigorating, and diverting my journey slightly to investigate a floating island with a memory on it only adds to my pilgrimage.
Throughout the world you’ll need to unlock shrines, some of which requires solving a puzzle unique to the shrine. There is minimal information, figuring out the puzzle is all up to you, but I only ever felt ‘stuck’ on one puzzle, and that was only because I accidentally backtracked. They’re pretty straightforward, but there is a diverse range of puzzles for each shrine, and for inside the shrine itself.
As you make your journey you’ll encounter tablets and scrolls that record events that have happened, and through these you’ll piece together the history of this world, and a bit of your own history. But what really brings these history lessons to life are the echoes, the memories you find in the world, throughout the whole world.
Indicated by little symbols, once you light the lantern the memories are revealed to you. Some of them are quiet moments between friends, past explorers witnessing something remarkable. A lot of the memories capture dark moments of history, of the deaths, fighting, fear, people trying to escape, people trying to fight back.
Weirdly enough, the memory of a death that got to me the most was of an accident. A mundane, unremarkable accident.
The history becomes humanised, and I spent a lot of time flying around finding more of these echoes. And as I progressed, the memories told a story of greed and darkness, and one woman trying to prevent the end. I won’t say anymore about it, as finding these for yourself is a huge part of the experience.
Now, if I need to find one thing to nitpick about, it’s the platforming. Auk as a character is designed for flying around, but as a human, she can be a little tricky with her jumps. At times there would be a delay between pressing the jump button and actually jumping, and sometimes there would be no jump at all. And it happened just often enough to be quite frustrating, especially when I’ve solved the puzzle but I can’t clear this 3 foot gap in the floor.
I would get over my frustration once I’ve cleared the shrine and I’m back in the sky though.
Now, moving onto the music. It is bright and dark, open and feels like taking a deep breath into your lungs, or suffocating like you realise you’re a creature of the air and you are deep within this island, lost and trying to trust your path. Within caves and shrines it feels sombre and humbling, with the right combination of eerie notes to keep you on edge. But when you take flight, and the sun is shining, the music turns joyful and vibrant.
It fits the game and the art style, complimenting in a way that isn’t overwhelming nor redundant. And often I find myself leaning forward in my seat as the organ-like notes play, and I realise I’m about to see something special.
I heard about Aer a few years ago and thought it looked cool, and then forgot about it until I came across it on the Nintendo store. I picked it up, installed it, and forgot about it again until the holidays when I suddenly had a lot of spare time.
And I just fell in love with it.
I think we’ve all had our daydreams in that boring class where we looked out the window and wondered what it would feel like to be a bird. And I feel like Aer fulfilled that fantasy quite well. But to have such a satisfying flight mechanic, and then to combine it with the memories and snippets of information that encourages you to explore, the two becomes a wonderful combination, and even if I found myself crossing the entire map multiple times, it was fun and relaxing, and a bit exciting at times. It encourages you to take your time and your path, and I found a lot of enrichment in that. It’s a short game, but well worth the afternoon I took to just look around.
This week Zahra and Hazel talk news, Guest Reviewer Caroline reviews Binding of Isaac and Zahra runs us through Bright Memory: Infinite.
This week Paul and Rani talk gaming news and Paul guides us through the battleground that is Chivalry 2. Then Hazel regails us with a tail of gliding through the universe that is Exo One.
For the final show of 2021, Ezie and Elliott talk Game of The Year and discuss Halo Infinite after chatting about this weeks exciting Gaming News.