Back in 1999, Sega released ChuChu Rocket for the Dreamcast. In the game, players must guide mice into rockets using arrows placed on the board. If the mice reach the rockets before the cats catch them, they escape safely, and the player wins.
Although the game was originally inspired by a pillow shaped as a cat, the three-person team at BySamb were more than a little influenced by ChuChu Rocket in creating BlobCat. Did they succeed in taking the formula and making it their own? After seeing the game’s adorable art, I had to try it for myself.
Released: July 2016 (Steam), Aug 2018
Platform(s): Steam, Switch (reviewed)
Like ChuChu Rocket, in BlobCat, players must help DiceMice reach safety by guiding them to the MiceHole before they are caught by the BlobCats. The gameplay is pure simplicity. Both DiceMice and BlobCats travel in a straight line unless they reach an obstacle, at which point, they’ll turn right. If they are unable to turn right, they’ll go left or reverse directions, depending on what’s available to them.
Players interrupt this path by placing arrows on the board (pointing either north, south, east, or west). Both DiceMice and BlobCats obey the arrows, so players must plan ahead to succeed. In addition, DiceMice move slightly faster than BlobCats, so timing must also be taken into consideration. Each level has a limited number of arrows that players may use, and they are awarded a star for successful completion.
However, if players can solve the level with one arrow remaining, they’ll get two stars. Solve the level with two or more arrows remaining, and you’ll get three stars (the top ranking), plus an adorable sticker for your in-game collection. The more stars you earn, the more levels you’ll unlock. Get three stars in each of the 110 levels, and you’ll get a bonus sticker, plus a crown accessory on your start menu.
Easy! Or Is It…?
The game begins in the Kitchen, where it’s just you, the DiceMice, the BlobCats, and your arrows. But each additional world you unlock adds a new twist to the gameplay, and that’s where BlobCat reveals how complicated its simplicity really is. In the Wild West, moveable mine carts can affect the paths of DiceMice and BlobCats. In Space, colored buttons correspond to force fields. Guide a DiceMice or BlobCat over the button once, and the force field will open. But guide them over the button a second time, and the force field will close. There’s even a level in the Halloween world that’s played in the dark.
The answers to each puzzle are achieved through a combination of strategy, timing, trial and error, and sometimes just plain dumb luck. In some levels, the solutions are obvious, but other times (especially the further into the game you get), you’ll find yourself wondering how the level can be solved at all, let alone with two arrows remaining so you can earn a three-star ranking. When this happens, putting the game down and coming back in ten minutes or so works wonders for giving yourself a fresh perspective (or at least it did for me).
Multiplayer & Online
BlobCat also includes a multiplayer mode for up to four players. DiceMice and BlobCats continually stream onto the board, and each player places arrows in an attempt to guide the DiceMice to their individual MiceHole (or to guide BlobCats into their opponents’ MiceHole). Each DiceMice that successfully reaches your MiceHole earns you a MiceCoin that you can spend in the in-game store for hats and various other cutesy accessories for the characters.
Multiplayer mode is best described as chaos. I’m sure there’s strategy involved, but I live with only one other person, and he didn’t want to play long enough for me to figure that strategy out. Fortunately, BlobCat offers online play (with optional crossplay compatibility!). Unfortunately, each time I tried to play online, I was the only player searching for a game. The only one.
Graphics & Sound
Do I even have to say that the graphics are adorable? Okay, I’ll do it anyways–the graphics are adorable. I love the cartoon-y quality of everything, and the cat-vs-mouse concept gives me a Saturday-morning-cartoons nostalgia vibe. Each world has a unique design in addition to its unique challenges. The DiceMice even wear different accessories depending on which world they’re in.
Each world also gets its own theme music. All the tunes in the game are great, but the clear winner is the start menu theme. However, if I’m being totally honest, I may feel that way simply because I heard that one the least. The problem is that the music, while entertaining, loops endlessly while you play. That’s fine if you play in short bursts, which is probably how the game is intended.
I, on the other hand, played this for about four hours straight. What can I say? I love puzzle games! There was definitely a point in each world where I felt I would go insane if the music continued, and so I found myself muting my screen after a time. In many ways, I wish I hadn’t ruined the soundtrack for myself because it really is great. In fact, you can purchase it on Bandcamp. But I’ll probably skip it.
Once you’ve achieved a three-star rank in each level (not to brag, but I totally did), there’s not really any reason to go back to singleplayer mode. That means the entire replay value of the game sits on the shoulders of multiplayer mode, which makes the lack of online players a major bummer. Yet even if that were remedied (and hopefully interest in the game will grow), I’m not sure the current multiplayer mode is fun enough that it could compete for very long with other party games. I know if I brought this to my family’s next get-together, people would pretty quickly be exchanging it for Mario Party.
On their website, BySamb has promised additional content will be released for BlobCat. Depending on what this content is, it could make all the difference in the replay value of the game. I’d like to see fresh levels for singleplayer, of course, but I think new multiplayer modes would also be a smart idea. A level-building option would be fun, as would a PvP mode where players can race each other to solve levels.
BlobCat feels like a familiar game, but in a good way. Its simple gameplay means that anyone can jump into a game at any time, and the brief levels seem ready-made for playing on the subway or during your lunch break. The puzzles are challenging enough that solving them feels like an accomplishment, yet they’re not so freakishly hard that no one outside of Mensa can complete them. BlobCat is family friendly and should appeal to all ages. It offers a lot of value for an indie price point ($9.99 on the Switch). If BySamb are able to solve the multiplayer problems, BlobCats will be chasing DiceMice for a long time to come.