A few weeks ago we were sent a review code for PUSS! on the PS4, a game I knew nothing about other than the accompanying image of a cute kawaii-style cat and the description being an “intense ‘avoid-em up’ puzzle”. Little did I know that once the epilepsy warning leaves the screen, PUSS! becomes your own mini-rave, a spectacular array of flashing lights, drugged-up-like visuals, very challenging gameplay, and a frustration factory that will have you throwing your controller at whoever is nearby. In short, I’ve not played anything quite like this before – and be careful if you have epilepsy!
The developers of this strange, psychedelic adventure are teamcoil. It originally launched on PC, Android and iOS, but it’s now out on PS4, Xbox One and the Nintendo Switch, meaning you can now buy it on whichever platform tickles your fancy. It’s going to be hard to describe what this game is, as the whole concept and presentation is bonkers – so, be sure to watch the trailer at the end of this article to ensure you get the gist of what the game is like in action.
Although the game is probably ‘best’ played whilst you’re intoxicated with some form of recreational drugs, I played it clean yet still felt like I was as high as a kite – but just what is PUSS!?
PUSS! begins with a video that looks like it’s been pulled right out of an ’80s inspired tense horror film, with its purple lighting, distorted images, and intentionally cheap-looking special effects. From what I gather, there’s a cute ginger cat watching the TV as “help” appears on the screen. Being a curious being, it crawls up and jumps into the display, transporting itself into the videogame world and becoming the body-less protagonist of this strange and intense puzzle game.
At first, the ‘story’ isn’t told to you, you’re just thrown right into the deep end of this strange puzzle game, picking up the rules and controls as you go. But, upon completing the game for the first time, you finally reach the beginning of the actual game! The digital world has been invaded by five strange creatures, each one holding a key which you need to retrieve in order to face the final boss. You can take on these beings in any order you wish, yet each time you enter their lair the world is randomised and you’ll face different challenges than you did the last time you tried (and failed).
The concept of the game is simple – complete short and simplistic puzzles in order to face a boss and obtain a key, but the actual reality is a hard-core dodging puzzle game that will have you screaming more than a game filled with jump scares…
As advised above, technically PUSS! is a simple puzzle game, all the puzzles you come accross are based on a single concept – dodge things to stay alive. But, it’s not as easy as it sounds as the game quickly goes from having you simply avoid falling floor tiles to avoiding over a hundred projectiles being thrown at you in a very small and confined space. Thankfully, you can gain a lot of lives based on your score – this kitten doesn’t only have nine lives!
The variety in the game, considering it’s all based on one concept, is very good. Some levels have you working your way through a maze, unable to touch the sides or any moving blocks which rotate in patterns around you, yet others have more complex mechanics like a rising water level which forces you to hurry up before you drown. In itself, this wouldn’t seem that bad, but this happens whilst the game is flashing bright lights, distracting you with psychedelic cats in the background or spinning at the bottom of the screen, and occasionally the level will pulsate in various bright and contrasting colours.
In a way, if you were to simplify the game even more and strip out the creepy 3D rendered cats, the game actually reminds me of the Atari 2600, simple colourful mazes which are over within seconds. But, you can’t strip out the creepy cats, they’re always there, staring into your soul and haunting you in your nightmares…
When If you make it to the end of a set of mazes, you’ll be faced against a boss creature. These usually revolve around dodging an onslaught of projectiles until you can find an opening and attack them in a first-person perspective. But, some are a little different, such as running away from a giant shrimp whilst dodging blocks and objects, or riding on the back of a unicorn and entering a shoot-em-up stage. You’ll find yourself questioning your sanity more than if you’d eaten the flesh of Leviathan and become succumb to Cthulhu’s will.
Defeating the boss unlocks an ally to help you with the final fight, allies such as Jesus…
One thing which I loved about the game is that once you’ve completed a set of stages and defeated the boss, that set of levels is now completed. Even if you die (or, when you die), you don’t need to complete those stages again – which is great, as I died a lot. To help with this, you’re given points at the end of each level based on how fast you completed the puzzle, how often you died, and if you bumped into things. This score cumulatively adds up and offers extra lives like there’s no tomorrow – meaning the game is self-aware as to just how hard it can get.
PUSS! isn’t impossible, it’s borderline impossible but it’s still doable if you have patience and good reactions. The stages don’t seem to increasingly get harder – due to the random nature of which ones you’re given – but there is a difficulty curve that is introduced with certain stages. You could do three or four levels which are simply moving around a maze and dodging things, then it’ll introduce a timed level or one with switches, and you may lose a bunch of lives trying to figure out the pattern and how to complete it in time.
It’s all about purr-severance, you have to keep at it and try to push through, getting a little better each time. Then, when the dreaded level comes up which ate numerous lives previously, you now know how to beat it so you ‘should’ be able to overcome it with little issue – ‘should’. I played the game in short bursts – about 20-30 minutes at a time – simply due to the game literally giving me a headache after a while and the gameplay frustrating me because my reaction speed is pretty bad these days. But, those looking for a challenge will surely meet their match with this game.
PUSS! is quite unique in terms of its music and visuals. As you can see by the images I’ve used in this review, it’s visually made of nightmare fuel and ’80s retro designs – imprinting some rather disturbing and crazy images which will come back and haunt you as you try to sleep at night. This is enhanced by the creepy music and sound effects which play throughout, mixing various genres and styles together, having loud static noises as you touch things, and generally making the creepy game even creepier.
The game has been adjusted recently so that when it’s first loaded, the visuals change to a dim style so that it doesn’t trigger epilepsy in unaware people. However, once the game starts you can go into the options and pick one of a number of visual styles, making the game much brighter, more active, and even more trippy-coloured. It’s fun to experiment with what scheme you use, just remember to tone it down if you start to get headaches.
To enhance this mind-controlling aesthetic, you can swap your head-only pussycat to one of 95 (I’ve seen 40 but the info we have says 95) different designs. Some of these are cute and cat-like, others are… well… a little different.
The console edition of the game includes 150 levels, so although you’ll see the same levels rotate, you’ll often see new ones that you’ve not encountered before, and an online leaderboard so you can see just how well you stack up against others around the world. In terms of the consoles, the PS5 has a bit of a ‘nanny’ issue at the moment, if you try to post a tweet from the console and it includes “PUSS” in it (as a hash or a word) then it doesn’t let you post the tweet. So, if you wish to show off various videos or images, don’t change the text in the tweet box and it’ll send with the #PUSS tag, you’ll just have to add any text directly via Twitter.
If you’re looking for a challenging game with a pick-up-and-play concept, you should check out PUSS!. Although it looks like a cute kawaii puzzle game from the main title image, this game will eat away at your sanity and make you question what’s going on. It may not be impossible to beat, but it’ll surely push you to your limits with some of the more difficult and insane levels, testing your reaction speeds and patience as it throws everything but the kitchen sink at you. If you like cats, and torturing yourself, you’ll love PUSS!
- - Very original visual design
- - Addictive and challenging, will take a while to beat
- - Although the puzzles revolve around a single concept, each one feels fresh and new
- - The cat is cute, sometimes
- - Lots of skins to pick from and different visual colours
- - Certain images will haunt your nightmares
- - The game can get very hard once the bullet-hell kicks in, requiring fast reflexes
- - If you get frustrated easily, you'll get frustrated with PUSS!
- - There are difficulty spikes due to the randomness of the levels you play