By Benny Carrillo / January 11th, 2016
|Title||A Wild Catgirl Appears!|
|Release Date||January 5th, 2015|
|Genre||Adventure, Visual Novel, Yuri|
|Age Rating||None Given|
Indie games come in all shapes and sizes and from teams of all backgrounds and experience levels. A Wild Catgirl Appears! seems to be made by a small team with very little experience, and it really shows. I’ll be upfront with this one and say from this start; this is not how to make a game you intend on selling, even if you are a very small indie dev. Welcome, everyone, to the Yuri Visual Novel known as A Wild Catgirl Appears!
A Wild Catgirl Appears! was developed by NewWestGames for an event known as Yuri Game Jam. If you’re unfamiliar with the concept of a Game Jam, the idea is pretty simple. A bunch of developers get together to plan a game in a short amount of time, usually between 24 to 72 hours. In the case of Yuri Game Jam, it ran from September 1, 2015 to October 31, 2015 with the goal of creating and promoting Yuri-themed games. That in itself is not a bad idea, as it does help grow the Yuri community and helps to promote the developers that participate, giving them valuable experience. I’ll also note that all of the games listed on Yuri Game Jam page are free… except this one. Which brings me to why we are actually reviewing it. This was greenlit for Steam and released on January 5, 2015. With that being the case, we were asked to take a look at the game and I have done so. Judging from the Steam Store page, you’d think was a pretty decent game and, at $2.99, not a bad deal, especially considering it comes with a new route that was not in the original release. We’ll get to that, but, first, let’s delve into the graphics and dispel the illusion that is marketing PR work.
If there’s one word I can use to describe A Wild Catgirl Appears!, it’s chaotic. While the standard character graphics aren’t horrible, they are by far the best part of the graphical presentation of the game. It’s all downhill from there. While some of the backgrounds also fit, there’s quite a few that just feel at odds with the overall style. In addition, there’s at least one scene that defies all logic — the rollercoaster scene between Eiko and Ami which is pictured above. I’m going to use this picture to make a very critical point. If this were a free release or a prototype build, then this would acceptable. In that case, it’s practice, and being critical of it to the degree I am here would unwarranted. The moment you put something up for sale and expect people to invest money into it, however, it becomes a different story. You are asking people to pay for the experience. As such, it had better be polished. This sadly extends throughout A Wild Catgirl Appears! as it really feels it never left the prototyping stage. Normally, I would touch on the music next, but we’ll be skipping that this time (In short it’s not bad, but it doesn’t really fit the game) to focus on game design which is where I think my prototyping argument has the most validity.
I’ve mentioned this before, but Visual Novel game design really hasn’t changed much in the last several years, especially when it comes to interface design. The reason being is that these elements are just about as perfect as they need to be. Yes, one can always improve upon them, but, at the least, you need to make sure your Visual Novel has those common elements. Namely, the ability to save and load, multiple save slots, a log in case you want to review dialog, the ability to skip text that has already been read in a previous playthrough, an auto-advance mode, and choices. A Wild Catgirl Appears! has half of those: save, load, multiple save slots, and choices. The absence of the others, namely the omission of a log and no ability to skip read text, made playing through this a chore. We can all make jokes about why an auto mode exists, especially in the case of Eroge. However, these elements exist to make the player’s experience simpler and more enjoyable. This is especially important in the case of having a log and skipping through previous read text.
The log is essential for those times when you accidentally advance a few too many screens because you zoned out for a moment or just double clicked/double pressed a key. It allows a player to review what was said and, in the case where a choice is present, may allow them to go back and review the lead up to said choice, in order to better make a decision. The ability to skip previously read text, meanwhile, allows a player to skip all previously read dialogue and advance the story quickly to a choice or set of choices in order to continue down a new path. In a much longer Visual Novel like Saya no Uta, this is imperative. In something smaller like this, it’s not as detrimental, but it’s still part of standard Visual Novel design. Even the AJTilley.com games make use of the feature, despite being only four to six hours on average. The absence of the feature here only serves to pad out the game by making the player click through each screen of text every time. This is where I think A Wild Catgirl Appears! gets its claim of having 1.5 hours per route. It expects you to read through all the dialogue each time. Considering there’s a lot of common dialogue and only the ending parts of the game changes based on certain circumstances, you’ll actually finish this 100% in about three or four hours at most. This means, you’re going to end up just rapidly clicking through until you notice something different is happening on screen, in order to replace the missing skip function. There’s still one more thing we need to touch on in regards to game design, and that’s the controls.
I can hardly believe I need to bring this up, but even the controls are messed up. That’s right, the controls for a Visual Novel are bad. When you boot A Wild Catgirl Appears!, a configuration window appears. This allows you to set your resolution, whether to start in windowed or full screen, and set the controls. The problem is the labels for said controls make no sense. They’re labeled for use in another type of game, like a platformer or FPS. So, you have no idea what buttons do what. With the default settings, the only thing that works seems to be the left mouse button. No key on my keyboard would respond or pull up a menu, not even the universal standard of enter to advance the text. I cannot imagine it is that difficult to bind the advance text key to both the left mouse button and enter. At the very least this should have been done. Instead, it’s up to the player to try and figure out this mess or just deal with it and use the mouse. Also, before we move on, full screen does not work. Then again, by this point, that’s the least of our worries. That’s all the technical bits, but what about the story and characters. Can anything save A Wild Catgirl Appears! and make it worth the price of admission? Join me on the next page and let’s see what kind of story lies at the heart of this game.
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