Catmaze Review

Introduction

Catmaze is a metroidvania inspired by Slavic folklore and developed by indie studio Redblack Spade. It was originally released on Steam in May of 2018. It was then published to Console by Ratalaika in September 2022.

Review

When Alestas mother is sick, she decides that she’s going to go to the forest and get her an herb so that she can feel better, just like her mother would do for her. Unfortunately, that isn’t what is needed, and the spirit of sickness, Mara, comes and takes Alestas mother away in the night. Alesta vows to get her mother back by figuring out a way to travel to the otherworld, Nav, and teaching Mara a lesson for her insidious ways.

The story starts off really basic and I wasn’t expecting anything to truly happen. But after the opening act, the story kicks off into high gear. The tone of the game really centers more around death, revenge, and being uncertain of your actions. From the townsfolk who regret their decisions of living where they do, to the kids who regret trying to find a golden fish that their father told them about. There were plenty of stories to find in the game, and I was invested in them all. I loved helping the town’s woman find her cat. Or helping the guards spend time with each other because they were husband and wife.

Unfortunately depending on the route, you take, you may end up missing out on some dialogue. At one point in the game, I went to my objective as opposed to going to talk to a character to learn more about an area. This led me to be thrown into a conversation that I clearly missed some context on, and that was absolutely disappointing. The game also has two separate endings, depending on how much you clear of the game. Luckily, I missed just a few things when I originally cleared the game, so I was able to go back and easily finish up the two side quests I missed, so I was able to unlock the true ending. It was absolutely worth it, just to make everyone happy who is suffering, and it helped that the dialogue was absolutely fantastic in just about all the story bits.

At the beginning of the journey, I was absolutely frustrated with the way the exploration worked. I enjoy the odd metroidvania, and maybe it’s because I’m so used to some of them being quite generous with checkpoints, and save points, but this has them so spread out, and as you press on, you die, so fast! There are some stats in the game that you can increase through means of upgrading bracelets you find, or by holding an amulet and keeping a certain amount of items on you that “increase their level”, but no matter how high I increased the defence stat, I never noticed the difference of damage taken.

The map never really told you where to go either. You’d get question marks layered around it, and when you accepted side quests, the same thing happened, so there was never a way to differentiate which one was which. If you ever forget what you were supposed to be doing, there was at least a handy dandy journal you could read that would give you a brief summary of things you’re doing or have done. Unfortunately, there was no mark to indicate if you’ve already finished said thing. Sometimes you don’t even get a true hint on what to do. So, at the beginning of the game, I needed to find a spell to let me hit a boss from far away. I didn’t know I had to; I didn’t know where. I happened to stumble upon it by sheer accident.

After the opening act, it does get a bit easier to traverse around the world, but there were a few times where I ended up somewhere I wasn’t supposed to be. Or I had to go to a completely separate area to get a power up, so I could get through the main area. This is what annoyed me the most in all honesty. Needing to go to the other side of the map to be able to progress, without it giving me a hint. Maybe that’s a little too hand holdy, but even old games give you a bit of something, depending on what game it is. Though when I think of a perfect metroidvania, I think of Metroid Zero Mission.

The bosses in the game are plentiful and you really have to get used to their attack patterns if you want any hope in defeating them. They were fun, hectic and a joy to beat. Even if a lot of them had moves that I could in no way dodge. The downside to them, is that they all had such huge health pools, and most of the time, I was just stuck whittling away the red bar, as I dodge this attack, or jumped over that platform, or took this ball in the face because I can’t jump over it, but the boss is also running under it! But even the bosses were loveable characters at the end of the day, just misunderstood. Typical, am I right?

Rating

Rating: 7 out of 10.

Pros:

  • Well Done Story
  • Plenty Of Side Content
  • Giant Cats

Cons:

  • Opening Is Rough
  • Boss HP Pools Are Large
  • Defense Stat Didn’t Feel Like It Mattered

Summary

I’ll be honest, I was not expecting such a fully fleshed out game and story considering the game was published by Ratalaika. They tend to be in the smaller scope of games, which is fine. So I was caught completely by surprise with this sprawling adventure that I came to love. I just wish it wasn’t so rough around the edges.

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Game & Developer Information

Developer Website: Redblack Spade
Developer Socials: Twitter
Publisher Website: Ratalaika Games
Publisher Socials: Twitter
PSN Store Links: £7.99/€9.99 Europe / $9.99 North America
Trophy Information: 56. 40-platinum 1 / Gold 2 / Silver 5 / Bronze 48

Catmaze – Trailer

Published by oniwalker

Co-owner of NodeGamers(dot)com. Reviewer and Guide Writer. I'll play just about anything as I cry about my backlog!

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