Cat Girl Without Salad originated as an “April Fools joke” back in 2013, with developer WayForward claiming the game will be every genre under the sun, and come out for every system possible in fall of that year. That didn’t happen, and the game’s announcement, despite being supposedly real according to WayForward staff, was largely dismissed as a simple joke. Over three years later though, the project was announced on the tumblr of the lead artist and was released exclusively through the Humble Monthly Bundle for June 2016. Was this oddball little curiosity something worth waiting so many years for? Eh… Kind of.
Cat Girl Without Salad ~Amuse-Bouche~ Review
Platforms: PC(Reviewed), Mac, linux
Developer: WayForward Technologies
Cat Girl Without Salad ~Amuse-Bouche~ is the first part in what WayForward hopes will be a new franchise, one focusing on the antics and adventures of the bubbly bounty hunter and cat girl Kebako along with her pet Squiddy as the two venture through space for fortune and glory, or something along those lines. What story is here is mostly justification for Kebako going on a journey through the stars, shooting down colorful and cutesy enemies as she makes her way to the next boss all while engaging in a barrage of enjoyable dialog.
Said dialog is easily the highlight of the game, as writer Adam Tierney delivers a humorous script that can be pointed at for trying a little too hard to cram in as many jokes as possible, but it is consistently joyous, and the entire thing is reminiscent of a higher quality modern cartoon. Well, if the producers of that cartoon were cool with regular references and nudges to games and anime. While voice actors, Cristina Vee and Todd Haberkorn, both put on energetic performances, clearing taking delight in bringing the extreme personalities of the small cast of simplistic but endearing characters to life.
This charm is further emphasized by the squishy and adorable designs for every character and enemy in the game, complete with slick and fluid animations. Though they can be a little limited. Along with a Jake Kaufman produced soundtrack, which fills every stage with the ecstatic intensity that often accompany his scores. All of these elements make up what would be an excellent start of a cartoon series, but Cat GIrl Without Salad is a video game. A video game with a clear adoration for its medium, with a slew of references scattered about almost every aspect of its design, but not a particularly good game when you get down to it.
Cat Girl Without Salad is a basic 2D ship shooter, shoot ‘em up, shmup, Gradius clone, Salamander knock-off, whatever you want to call it. It’s one of those, and its core unique mechanic is a reliance on various power ups that trade out your basic pea shooter, a literal pea shooter, for a pretty diverse arsenal of weapons.
Said additional weapons include a gun that shoots purple Pac-Man who freezes enemy bullets when gobbling them up in accordance to you how you direct them using face buttons. A gun that shoots a Mega Man who can jump on enemies to deal additional damage, including chain jumps. A menu based RPG gun that lets you flee from bullets, get up close to deal massive damage, heal yourself, and toss arching magic vials of death. Yes, it is as incredibly useful as it sounds. A gun that shoots collectible golf balls at angles you cannot control, making aiming very difficult. A gun that shoots multicolored orbs that can be matched into a pair of three in order to detonate a screen clearing bomb. Along with a DDR gun that asks the player to match button presses ala DDR in order to fire their weapon… yeah, its the worst weapon bar none.
I appreciate the versatility and novelty and variety of these weapons, but they are often very tricky to use due to their unique nature, many of them require the player to look away from the wave of enemies shooting and flinging themselves at Kebako, and weapons are lost after getting hit a single time, even though Kebako can take up to twelve hits. Meaning you will probably spend most of the game using your simple pea shooter, making for a more frustrating experience than it should. One where you struggle to deal any real damage to enemies as their internal timers end and they begin flinging themselves at the titular cat girl.
Boss fights fare a little better, offering a single target to focus pouring damage into and a variety of (mostly) well telegraphed attacks to avoid. Though you probably won’t avoid every one of them, especially if you’re trying to maximize damage with a specific weapon. In that case, you’re likely going to spend most of the battle using your pea shooter. Slowly chipping away at their health as they begin to repeat the same attack patterns.
Thankfully, clearing the game once unlocks a gameplay mode where you can freely switch between your entire arsenal of weapons in order to make the extermination of enemies easier. Sadly, their gimmicky appeal of some does not last for very long, and others just feel worthless in most scenarios. While the RPG gun is just as overpowered as I assumed it would be when choosing to play through the entire game a second time with this new feature. While this made the gameplay substantially, it still wasn’t very good.
If Cat Girl Without Salad simply utilized a more traditional weapon power up system, then I could have probably viewed it as a simple one hour romp that was well worth checking out… whenever it properly goes on sale. The writing, voice work, and art featured here are the culmination of a group of people who were determined to use their skills to bring a joke to life over the course of a few months while putting in as much love and affection into it as possible. Unfortunately, it kind of sucks as a shoot ‘em up and you’d probably enjoy watching a commentary free playthrough of Cat Girl Without Salad more than actually playing it.