So, a lot of developers have been bringing their mobile games over to the consoles lately. The Switch in particular has more than its fair share and many gamers, including me, can be a little dismissive of any title from that background. The quality can vary wildly, and they often feel like nothing more than an attempt to cash in on the higher price point available on the console market. That being said, obviously not all are like this, there have been a few I've enjoyed recently, and after hearing good things about the iPad release a few years ago, I decided it might be fun to take a look at this one. It's recently been ported to both Xbox and Switch and I'll be taking a look at the latter version for this review.
Plus, it has a kitty in it and that's always a bonus, right?
So, is it a good catch, or one to throw back?
Well, we'll get to that in a minute, but first let's get the setup out of the way, shall we?
We're given a very simple story to frame the gameplay and, taken straight from the store page, we get the following info on the protagonist and his aquatic adventures.
"Captain Cat travels the seven seas in his boat, using his anchor as a hook to fish for the delights and treasures hiding at the bottom of the sea. But navigating the depths of the unknown waters is never easy. Can Captain Cat overcome them to catch enough fish to satisfy his hunger?"
A pretty simple concept for the story then, but obviously this doesn't mean a bad game. Instead it means that the hook needs to lie in the gameplay, and luckily it's here that Captain Cat has used its tastiest bait. Upon beginning the game, you'll be given a few modes to pick from and, like most times, it's probably best to start with the first campaign. Each level is a self-contained puzzle and most take place across a single screen, although they do sometimes scroll across a slightly bigger area. At the top of each stage sits the Captain in his boat, as he floats on the surface of the sea, and below him lies a network of coral reefs, caves and caverns reaching deep underwater. These walls form the level and create a path that must be negotiated through in order to reach the "finishing line". In this case, that takes the form of a fish that must be caught. There is one of these on each stage, and hooking them will end the level, but this shouldn't be your ultimate goal. You see real success, like in many mobile games, is measured in stars, and each stage has three up for grabs. You get one for collecting all the treasure, another for using less than a certain number of "knots" and the third is given for finishing within the time limit.
"But how do you collect the treasure, Jon? And how do you catch that fish?"
Well, like this.
As said earlier, the Captain begins each stage by bobbing along on top of the ocean. You can move left and right on the surface, and you begin by selecting a place to drop anchor. Choosing the right spot is critical though. The wrong decision, apart from breaking the hook and causing a game-over, could mean missing a pick up, using unnecessary knots or taking longer to complete the stage, and any of these can easily mess up your chance to get a perfect run.
After you get your boat into position, hitting the "A" button will drop the anchor into the water, and also starts the level timer. From then on, everything is controlled with one button. The anchor begins to swing back and forth from left to right and pressing "A" again will cause it to fire off in whatever direction the hook is pointing. It'll continue in a straight line until it hits something and breaks, or you let go of the button. This will cause it to stop in its tracks and create a "knot", a new point for the anchor to begin swinging from. The hook then begins its pendulum style movement again, and by carefully judging the swing and distances, you can chain the "knots" together. This allows you to move your anchor around the area, nabbing all the coins and treasure, while seeking out a tasty fish for your dinner.
As you progress through the stages, new obstacles and enemies are introduced, helping to keep things fresh and interesting. Eels appear that will cut an unsecured rope, spiky sea urchins can smash your hook, water currents will sweep away your anchor and portals can send it to far off locations. There are even more varied obstacles to deal with as you progress through the campaigns levels, and getting three stars on each takes not only planning, but also quick reaction times. On a lot of levels, you'll see the solution instantly but the challenge comes from actually trying to carry it out. The controls are responsive, the difficulty well balanced, and each level can be completed quickly, making it a good game for short, rapid fire gaming sessions. The first campaign, Waspfish, has 25 levels to play through, beginning simply but becoming more difficult as you progress. You can skip any level you're having trouble with though and come back later. Earning 40 of the 75 available stars in any of these levels will unlock a second campaign, Housekeeper, for you to tackle as well. This adds a further 25 levels, obviously more challenging, and has the added difficulty that the fish will hide in its "home", and only pop out every so often. Two other modes are also available, and these are playable straight away, right from the beginning.
The first one is called "Perfect” and includes a third set of 25 levels. Here you don't collect treasure though, instead you get one shot and you must line it up perfectly, miss all the obstacles and hook the fish.
The second mode is called "Infinite" and here you'll be given unlimited knots and will have to get as deep underwater as possible, while being chased by piranhas and also avoiding obstacles on the way down. All these modes use the same basic gameplay though, so if you enjoy one, you'll probably like them all, but I'd really consider the campaign as the main draw.
Style wise, the whole thing does look and present like a mobile game, but certainly one from the higher end. Though obviously not stretching the console at all, it still manages to have some charm in various places. The backgrounds and sea are all well drawn and animated, for what they are, and have a nice uncluttered look with all the various items and treasures being easily identifiable at a quick glance. The obstacles, enemies and fish have a decent cartoon style too, and although they're nothing special, they do have some personality to them and look reasonably well drawn.
The real (or "reel" lol) star however, at least in my opinion, is Captain Cat himself.
I rather liked his style, it's by far the most detailed and well designed. He looks enough like a drunken salty sea captain to be interesting (he reminded me of the late, great actor Oliver Reed) but still has enough cuteness to make a reasonably charming mascot.
For the sound, everything is as you'd expect from this level of mobile game. Mostly simple stuff, the fishing reel makes a satisfying click-click-click sound effect as the line extends, picking up coins or treasure gives a good reward noise, and we get a little victory tune when we clear a level. All perfectly fine but apart from these basic sounds, there's really only one other thing of note.
The title screen has an amazing song.
Now, when I say amazing, I don't mean you'll be downloading the track for later or anything, but it really is something quite unique. The Captain sings along with the tune, and uses a screeching jazz scat style that genuinely made me laugh the first time I heard it. It could have gotten annoying if used all the time, but luckily it just appears on the title screen and this keeps it rare enough to stay on the correct side of funny.
Ultimately, I enjoyed my time with Captain Cat. Presentation wise it's a great looking mobile game that still provides a good time on console. The basic gameplay is simple to grasp and fun to play. As said already, the solutions require some brains to figure out and good timing to actually complete. The difficulty ramps up smoothly, beginning simple and introducing new concepts and obstacles at a rate that never feels overwhelming. It does end a bit quick though. You see, each level is laid out in such a way that there is really only one "correct" way to do it.
Once you've earned three stars on a level, that's you done, there's no replayability to be had or secrets to find, so factor that into your buying decision. Each stage can also be done quite quickly, earlier levels take only a few seconds, and later ones last around a minute or so at most. This doesn't factor in working out the solution, or multiple attempts before succeeding, but even then most gamers will get through the 70+ levels in a few hours. There is the aforementioned "Infinite" mode that basically never ends, but no leaderboards are available so you can only compete with yourself, and I can't see it holding your attention long term.
And this brings up a common problem with mobile ports coming to console. How we play them tends to be different, mobile games do well with loads of short levels because people play them in quick bursts, when they have a few minutes. With consoles though, we tend to play for longer sessions and when doing this, it won't take long to get everything completed. The decision to buy should factor this in, as well as the low price point, and see if it's worth it to you. It's maybe not a puzzler to hold you for the long term but, for the budget price, it's a fun little game that'll provide a few hours of good entertainment. If we were talking about the mobile version, I'd say it's a must play, on console however, it's a less certain purchase. I'd recommend it for someone who wants a fun and engaging little puzzler, that doesn't get frustrating or annoying, but also won't be around for long. The price point on the game is reasonable though, less than $7/£7, so if you're looking for a quick paced, easy to pick up action puzzle game, you could do way worse than Captain Cat.
*Note: A copy of this game was provided for the purpose of the review.
FinaL Score: 6.5/10
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