PC, Nintendo Switch
April 14, 2022
The life of a Cat Cafe Manager awaits! Your grandmother left you a small café in the sleepy village of Caterwaul Way, and it’s up to you to fix the place up, impress the locals, and befriend the neighbourhood cat population. Time to roll up your sleeves, break out the tools, and start hammering away. Your cat café can be the talk of the town with the right attitude, menu, and of course, the right cats.
That’s right, Caterwaul Way is home to a plethora of extraordinary felines. The café can become their home, to the delight and relief of the villagers. Who knows, maybe their presence will loosen tongues and help you discover the secrets of Caterwaul Way…
Starting the game feels like most business-building simulations out there. You are starting a new life after a letter from your recently departed Grandmother. She wants you to continue her dream of owning a Cat Café in Caterwaul. However, there is only land, no café, no cats, just a blank canvas.
Residents of the town come by and offer you assistance and reminisce about your Grandmother. They also conveniently own the stores in town where you need to go to purchase furniture, food, and cat-related items. This town, however, is weird because they don’t use money for currency. Each store requests a different currency, fish, nectar, gems, fabric, and gold. Cat Cafe Manager has a knack for introducing strange mechanics that are inventive but not executed effectively, and this is but one example. To obtain the different currencies you need to serve specific types of customers in your café. Witches give you nectar, fishermen pay in fish, businessmen in gold, artists with gems, vagabonds in fabric, and punks in wood. The game offers you the ability to advertise to specific groups of customers, and when selected it seems only those customers enter your café. This in itself is a little weird, limiting your clientele to a very specific group of people.
“Cat Cafe Manager has a knack for introducing strange mechanics that are inventive but not executed effectively…“
The main issue I found was I rarely saw most of the groups as I was just constantly pandering to the Witches. To stock your café, you need to purchase ingredients, which are paid for in nectar. This means I need constant Witch patrons. But having Witch patrons means serving more food and beverage, which means purchasing more items. It seemed incredibly unintuitive to me. It would stand to reason that ingredients should’ve been purchasable with an actual universal currency, that way every patron group could help to contribute to the running of the café. It isn’t the case though, so I hope you pander your café to the Witch group should you want to find any kind of success.
Strangely, cats seem to be more of an afterthought than the main attraction. In Cat Café Manager, you are more focused on running a café than managing cats. To acquire cats for your café, you must tame ferals off the street. You gain their trust after luring them to your land and once trust is gained, they then mill about your café. Each cat is given statistics and a levelling up system. They can also be trained to appeal to specific groups of patrons. A cat trained in 3 points of ‘fisherman’ will make that demographic happier when they visit. You are also encouraged to rehome your cats via a noticeboard in the town, however, there is little to no real benefit in doing so. Why would I spend so much time training up cats to love my witches only to rehome them off for a bit of ‘delight’? I found myself ignoring the rehoming mechanic as I didn’t see the benefit of wasting my fish currency on expensive lures to get new unskilled cats to sit in my café. I’d rather keep the ones I have to help maximize patron happiness.
So what is the aforementioned ‘delight’ mechanic? Each patron gives you a certain amount of delight from attending your café and it is tallied and used to expand your repertoire of available functions for the game. It’s their equivalent of a tech tree. You can unlock items to be sold in stores like furniture styles, new foods and beverages, and cat items. There are also options to expand your cafés seating, staff, and cat capacity. This tech tree system is set out in the woods and introduced to you by a mysterious being, bringing some semblance of an intriguing storyline. It does not, however, deliver a whole lot.
Building your café requires wood that you place in specific floor tiles. I did appreciate that building and remodelling your café is rather easy and does not punish you for changing your mind. This is great because I found myself remodelling almost every day to help create a better flow. There is a glaring issue though that you cannot delete, remove, or sell old items from your inventory! This leaves your inventory full of old starter items you need to sift through. Items also seem to be rather finicky to place and move, sometimes even looking out of place. I found cat bowls sometimes glitched out and I couldn’t refill them again. Patrons also ignored toilets placed. This may be a minor glitch that is patched out after release, but it was frustrating to need to buy more bowls than needed to keep my cats happy.
One of the positives I can point out is that the game offers amazing representation through the character designs. Your regular customers, that also own all the stores in town, have great diversity within their ranks. Our head witch Carla-lalla talks about her two mums and the pressure she has to take over the family business, whilst Bonner the fisherman affectionally talks about his husband Gavin often. There doesn’t seem to be any friendship or romance options open to you, but it is nice to see a normalised array of partners in a game not specifically aimed at the LGBTQIA+ community.
Whilst the NPCs you meet are diverse and heartening, your own character is as generic as generic can be. Your regulars are heavily detailed and designed, while you are stuck looking like some random person off the street. When you hire staff, they look just like you. This left me feeling super unimportant in a game I’m supposed to be investing in. I am the owner of the café, I’m restoring the shrine of Caterwaul, I’m helping all the regulars sort out their issues, I deserve to have a unique looking character too.
- Great representation within the LGBTQIA+ community
- Cute art design
- Game mechanics aren't executed well
- Lack of detail in main characters design, feeling of unimportance
- Cats are overlooked
Cat Café Manager entices you in with hopes of cute kitties and a bustling management sim but sorely underachieves. There are a lot of awesome and inventive ideas, however the execution leaves a lot to be desired. I found myself enjoying the game with its chilled vibes and laid-back style, but also felt frustrated at all the missed potential. Whilst the representation of diverse characters gives the game several bonus points, unfortunately there are a lot of features missing to help make Cat Café Manager a timeless simulator classic.