Review by Bill Wood
"Not much to do with lasers, but awesome nonetheless."
LaserCat is an Xbox Live indie game featuring a cat, who -- despite the awesome title -- has no lasers at his disposal. This cat is on a mission to rescue his owl friend, who has been captured by some cranky old wizard dude and transported to an unknown location in outer space. If you're still with me after those last two sentences, please read on. It gets better.
The best way I can describe LaserCat is a Metroidvania game on the Atari 2600. I'm sure there are more accurate descriptions but they fail me at the moment. As the titular feline hero(ine?), you'll be exploring various rooms on a huge map in search of the 30 keys that will secure the release of your avian companion. Most rooms are a combination of traps and enemies, and although there is no way to attack your enemies, they are usually quite easy to avoid. The focus is light on contact and heavy on exploration, which is a nice refreshing of pace from the "punishment platformer" archetype that permeates many Xbox Live indie games. Checkpoints are numerous, which means you're never far away from a game save. And since all checkpoints also double as warp zones, you can teleport to any previously explored area in the blink of an eye. Convenience is the key word here.
The minimalist approach to graphic design is a suitable compliment to the minimalist approach to game design. Character sprites are limited in detail and animations are sparse. In fact, if not for the giveaway in the title, you could have told me the protagonist was a dog or a rabbit or a chupacabra and I've have probably believed you. The game's artistic stylings are very reminiscent of the Atari 2600 era -- or perhaps Intellivision as it was a slightly more advanced piece of technology -- with modern flourishes added. Objects glow vibrantly and colors shift randomly, creating a soothing effect that blends perfectly with the methodical pace of the game. It's easy on the eyes, which helps to create a game that you'll want to keep playing.
Like many one-dollar indie games, LaserCat isn't going to take you very long to complete. I believe my first playthrough lasted roughly an hour and a half, which included exploring every single room on the map and backtracking quite a bit. Some of the areas need to be accessed in a non-linear fashion, which adds a bit of time and challenge to an otherwise easy game. Despite the short length (or perhaps because of it), I found myself looking forward to future playthroughs.
If you can't tell by reading this review thus far, I really enjoyed my time with LaserCat. It definitely won't leave you scratching your head or chucking your controller against the nearest wall, instead it is a well-paced and simple little video game to relax with, a nice of way of unwinding in front of the TV set after a long day. And who doesn't need that every now and then?
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 01/19/12, Updated 01/23/12
Game Release: LaserCat (US, 04/28/11)
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