When I started reviewing games, I vowed to beat every single game I reviewed. Even if it was only the base game, I was determined to offer an opinion based on the game in its entirety, rather than offer a general gist of what the game offered.

Unfortunately, that vow has been broken with this review. This is the first (and hopefully last) game to be reviewed on the site that I was unable to beat. Not for lack of trying, of course. I became pretty decent at the main game for the most part and I achieved things that I never thought I would ever be able to do… but I failed. Time and time again.

Was I to review the game unfinished; or should the game be swept aside, never to be reviewed? I picked the former. I really wanted to review PUSS!

PUSSY GALORE
Whilst watching some late night TV, our curious kitty gets sucked into the television set after seeing a distress message calling for help. Now trapped in a hellish dimension, our feline friend needs find a way to escape. By freeing captive companions and collecting keys, you may be able to escape this bullet-hellish nightmare.

Right off the bat, you are greeted with an epilepsy warning which sets the tone for the game. This isn’t just a game that features some flashing graphics, this game is flashing graphics. Set in a mostly  v a p o r w a v e  universe, the environments are quite bright and distracting: but they’re also quite varied. One moment you will be traversing an eerily dark landscape with haunting vocal melodies, and the next you’ll be avoiding pineapples in a bright fruity world, complete with a funky beat. Despite the vast differences in themes, it is all really, really, weird – which is what holds it all together cohesively.

As for the actual game itself, there are a total of seven worlds to navigate, each with nine levels and a boss to take down. The main levels are made up of small mazelike areas, where you need to avoid obstacles and walls to reach the goal point. Most of the levels are easy enough to work out how to proceed, but others can take a little time to figure out. Whilst it may seem like the game is demanding precision from you, it’s actually remarkably lenient for the most part. Controls are simple enough, with either stick controlling your moggy; however, using both together will allow you to go at double speed. This speed trick is rarely needed, but it can make some sections easier to do, as well as help you get through the level a little faster. If you come into contact with something, a distortion and vibration effect will warn you that death will be imminent unless you correct your position. Whilst you will still inevitably die on your first playthrough of a level, subsequent runs will be far easier. Knowing how the level works should allow you to beat many of the stages in one shot the second time around.

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CURIOSITY KILLED THE CAT
Speaking of lives, you start with a predictable nine of the, but you can earn more by accumulating points. Additional points are earned by completing a level fast or without dying, with an extra bonus for deathless level streaks. On your first playthrough of a world, you’ll be lucky to make it to the boss with nine lives intact, but replays could see you going in with over twenty. As aforementioned, most of the levels are generally quite fair, with only a small handful that can be considered to be ‘bullshit’, which will definitely help you stockpile lives as you retry the world. Each world also has a pool of potential levels to pull from, some of which are unique to that world’s theming, but there are others that are shared between levels too. Not only does it give you a chance to avoid the harder levels (should the randomness work in your favour), but it also does wonders for replayability.

Each world, as mentioned before, ends in a boss fight, and this is where the true insanity begins. Whilst the main stages consist in avoiding obstacles, bosses are more traditional bullet hell affairs. Each one offers a crazy spectacle, with a  boss experience unlike anything you’ve ever experienced before, but they can also be intensely frustrating – particularly if you are a bullet hell amateur, like me. Of course, how hard you find dodging the projectiles is entirely dependent on your skill level, but I was totally useless at it. Thankfully, losing a life in a boss fight does not result in restarting the fight: instead, getting hit by the boss makes your life counter go down by one, with the game ending if it reaches zero. The switch from lives to HP works really well as it gives lower skilled players [like me] more of a fighting chance. There were many boss fights that I thought would be impossible, but with some practice I could gain enough lives to do well enough to beat them. It’s still not an easy feat, and it certainly gave me an extremely satisfying rush once I delivered the final smackdown to these intimidating monstrosities.

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PURRFECT PAWTNERS
Another way the game aids you throughout your journey is with the partner system. Upon beating a world, you will unlock a new companion who will help you on your journey. The more friends you have, the easier things will become. Having trouble with a certain boss? Leave that one until later, and it’ll be far easier as you’ll have more buddies helping you out. The first friend is a blue owl (?) that has a chance of spawning if you die multiple times in a level. Chat with him and he’ll let you skip the level, but it’ll cost you a life or two. Other friends offer other benefits, with Jesus in particular being incredibly useful: he grants you a shield at the start of every level, which will make your first death ‘free’ – an absolute (sorry) Godsend. They all have their worth though, aside from Icarus – who doesn’t really seem to do anything. 

Despite this extra aid, it’s not quite enough to help you with the final world. They may make your time easier in the main worlds, but the final world is something else. The levels take a step up in difficulty, which leads to some pretty inventive and thrilling levels, but also some that are incredibly hard. Like the others, most of them are easier to overcome with practice, but there will no doubt be a couple that are tough enough to kill a run. The appearance of those levels are made all the more frustrating due to the sheer difficulty of the final boss: every life lost makes your inevitable failure even more likely. I had an almost perfect run in the final world, and I couldn’t even get halfway through his first phase. Projectiles are everywhere, and your method of attack is annoyingly finnicky to pull off using the analogue sticks. This is where I took my loss and gave up. Bullet Hell amateurs may be able to make it this far, but you’ll need way more more skill than that in order to stick it to the big bad. Considering the surprising accessibility of the rest of the game, this difficulty spike felt like a cliff.

Did the final boss ruin my experience? A little, but only because I was so proud of getting that far only to be met with an insurmountable challenge. The rest of the game, however, offers absurd fun that is extremely difficult to put down (at least until your eyes start hurting!). There’s very little to fault aside from that, to be honest. The design of the game is top notch, with minimal issues. I did encounter a couple of bugs throughout my playthrough, but nothing major – although one of these issues is a visual bug that can occur during the initial part of the Icarus boss fight. Aside from that though, everything runs smoothly and looks great for such a budget priced indie title.

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I won’t lie. I bought this game initially because I like cats and it looked weird. The trailer made it seem like it’d be a mix of bullet hell and simple mazes, which I’d probably end up hating. In fact, after the initial world, I ended up getting hooked. There’s a surprising amount of variety on offer, with every level being completely unique and every boss being utterly bizarre. PUSS! is not a game for the faint hearted, but it’s less hardcore than you think. At the very least, wait for a sale and give it a chance.

Teamcoil, if you’re reading this, please nerf the final boss so I can change the status on this review to ‘completed. Thanks!