The original Cat Quest hit two years ago on just about everything and offered up something new. Starring a cat that needed to save his sister, it combined adorable felines with action RPG mechanics and a touch of dungeon crawling and comedy. The humor was pun heavy while the combat was fast and allowed you to quickly pick up the core mechanics while still rewarding higher-level play. Its action RPG mechanics were addictive and the dungeon-crawling aspect of it was done just about perfectly. Dungeons were bite-sized and allowed for players to get things done in a small timeframe. While it was released on just about everything, it fit in perfectly on the Switch and to a lesser extent on mobile, where the smaller scale of the adventure worked nicely even if the controls weren’t exactly on-par with the console and PC versions.
The sequel features some of the first game’s characters and changes up things just enough to keep things fresh while also making things accessible to newcomers. Instead of playing as a king cat (aren’t they all) out to find his sister, you now have the ability to switch between two characters. Beyond playing as just a cat, you can also play a a dog — which is largely just a visual difference on the surface, but it goes so much deeper in the core game.
The original was hurt by only having a sword and it resulted in you needing to stick and move more. In an action game like this, that isn’t the most exciting as you needed to evade more than attack and it led to things being too repetitious. Now, with two characters to switch between, your strategy changes completely. You can play the game the same as before and just slice and dice, but now, you can make one character an up-close brawler and the other a long-range spellcaster or ranged weapon user. While you do only start off with a short-range sword, you quickly get more powerful variants of bladed weapons alongside long-range magic.
This magic allows you to play the game as almost an isometric Mega Man, as you can do a lot of damage from afar — but at a cost. While you do gain a lot of range and therefore freedom with a ranged attack setup, your HP is halved. This means that you will have to get better at the core game — mainly defense, to survive, let alone excel. Instead of being able to turn your brain off and slash, you need to plan every movement to evade enemies and then attack them. If everything works out perfectly, you will land a shot from afar while your ally attacks close-up or vice versa. This results in a far more rewarding experience than the first game — even in its earliest goings.
The first gave you a steady progression in difficulty, but its formula never truly changed. The sequels ups the ante not only in the kinds of combat you can do, but in how you approach tougher battles. Having two characters on-screen at once works well because the AI-controlled ally actually has a brain and will go to attack or heal whenever possible. You can also switch between characters with the press of a button, so if you go into a big fight thinking that long-range is the way to go and find out that it isn’t, you can easily just swap characters and try the battle from short-range without having to die and reload your save to find out the hard way.
Cat Quest II keeps combat easy to learn, but harder to master. The defensive side of combat is far more robust and easy to grasp here thanks to the usage of giant red circles showing the attack radius for enemies. This goes from light to dark red to let you know that an attack is winding up with the dark red meaning it’s going to make impact within the next second or so. Having this time means that you and your partner can attack with a better plan than just hoping to avoid attacks as you can see them coming easily and thus a losing battle is just one where you either came in with a poor loadout or need to learn the attack patterns. Having the red circle helps, but doesn’t solve every problem as several enemies attack in quick bursts, resulting in the player still needing to keep their eyes peeled for attacks.
The core game is a blast to play and made even better by a bright art style that hasn’t changed much since the first — but also shows that getting things right once means that you don’t need to do much to improve upon the sequel’s graphics. The environments and characters are all bathed in deep color, with details making it easy to tell facial expressions and emotions without the need for text. The font size is also nice and large by default, which makes reading the occasional walls of text much easier. Animations are limited, but that works in the game’s favor when it comes to planning out your attacks and also evasion as it’s easier to time everything without overly-elaborate animations getting in the way.
Cat Quest II’s music and overall sound design are good — if not memorable. The soundtrack is light-hearted and cheery, but never quite gets out of first gear when it comes to normal battles. Overworld music is chipper, while battle music is on the lighter side of intense. It goes up in tempo, but never becomes as intense as you would imagine — even for dungeons or major battles. Still, it’s enjoyable and executed well — it just never sticks with you after a play session. The sound effects are decent — but nothing more. No matter how much you level up a weapon, an attack sounds the same at high or levels — so the feeling of growth and progression is stilted a bit.
Overall, Cat Quest II is a fantastic adventure that’s easy to recommend for players of any age. It’s a big improvement over the first and greatly expands upon what worked before while fixing some of the issues that didn’t. Having two characters to play as simultaneously keeps things fresh, as does the addition of long-range attacks. The graphics aren’t a giant improvement over the first, but they’re still good overall and pleasing to the eye. The weakest point is its sound — which isn’t bad, but unspectacular. Anyone seeking an action-centric dungeon-crawler will love Cat Quest II — and if you didn’t like the first, the second may just fix that.