The Cat Machine Review

Score 80When I first saw the game, I felt like they may be using the cuteness factor of cats to sell a subpar puzzle game.  I was wrong.  The game offers some real challenge, demanding that you build an all-purpose solution to several different problems.  The Cat Machine requires crafty thinking and some patience in order to solve these complex conundrums.  Anyone looking for a great strategy game for the weekend could do much worst than this thoughtful and cute game.  I’m proud to say that The Cat Machine is more than welcome to has a cheezburger.
WHAT WE LIKED
º Engaging puzzles offer a great range of complex solutions.
º Tone is playful, which keeps you calm as you pull your hair out.
º AHHH- look at the adorable kitty!  Who’s a cute little man!?
WHAT WE DISLIKED
º The puzzles’ designs can get a little repetitive; visuals and strategy.
º Could’ve used more Science Cat narration to keep me invested.
º The price is a little high for a game that feels like a free-to-play.
So close to the end, and yet so far.  Where’s my drawing board?

In this age of online over-’catsuration’, you can’t scroll your news feed without seeing some pictures of a grumpy or dumpy looking cat, so it’s no surprise that Cranktrain would pounce on the opportunity of utilizing our furry friends in this adorable and addictive game.  Cats are cute.  Just damn cute.  That’s why your co-worker who loves cats a little too much will really like the premise behind this game; our continued existence is all due to the important work these cats are doing in The Cat Machine.

The titular contraption is a sophisticated piece of machinery that uses unimaginable technology, maintaining the stability of the Earth as it rotates the sun.  Yes, it turns out it’s all thanks to a series of colorful cats being thrown off of train tracks that keeps our life-giving planet on its orbit.  Thanks a lot Newton; it doesn’t have anything to do with gravity at all.  It was cats.
Thankfully, you have Science Cat there to explain all of this to you.  Wearing a pair of glasses and a little bow tie, he articulately explains all of this.  The machine, being built by the cats, is the “only way the Earth can be prevented from being flung into the sun.”   Nonsensical story aside, The Cat Machine just uses these adorable felines as a cover to their puzzle game, and these challenges will take up a fair amount of your time, as you sit and ponder their solution.  
The game is relatively easy to understand.  You’re given a train of cats, made up of a random selection of three different colors (blue, yellow and red), and ending with a white cat.  The cats follow the leader, its color deciding which extensions the train will go down.  After they go over one of the bridges that you’ve placed, the lead cat flies away, leaving the next in the train to go down another colored path.  The goal is to end the journey with the white cat flying off the solidary white path.

Doesn’t sound too hard, and it feels especially easy in the earlier stages, but this gets dramatically harder as you progress.  The game throws more complicated level designs at you, and sometimes you’ll have up to five different trains you’ll need to map out.  So, not only will you have to make a route for one train, but you’ll have to build it to accommodate several other different paths as well.  
These courses have to be built on hovering platforms, all of which have a limited number of connections.  This makes it an even tougher task considering all of your trains have to arrive at the same last railing.  This makes mapping out a solution daunting, as you may have a near perfect setup, except for that ‘last part’.  So, you take it back a few steps, and find that it’s impossible to have three trains go onto the same platform.  I guess it’s back to square one!
With that being said, you will slam your head into your keyboard several times while playing this game; but it’s okay.  You’ll eventually figure it out, and you’ll feel very satisfied as the cats triumphantly circle the screen, meowing out a jaunty little song.  Again, it’s cute, and its playful attitude doesn’t intimidate those who may feel like a ‘dum-dum’ when they struggle with problems.
Oh, Science Cat; just so delightfully nonchalant about this whole, controlling the Earth stuff.

Each machine has its own purpose, such as the Black Hole Safety Net, which was created after Science Cat “accidently created a black hole.”  He assures the player, stating he knows “that sounds quite dangerous, and yes, it really is exactly how it sounds.”  But don’t worry, this cat isn’t a fool; he’s got a bow tie.  Having a little backstory to some of these machines adds a lot of weight to their importance, but sadly the game doesn’t feature as many as I would’ve liked.

Sound effects work very well, but are very minimalist.  Mostly consisting of light meows whenever your cats take off from the rail system.  The staging music is light, but playful enough to keep the tone the developers were going for, consisting of small electronic pings and orchestral undertones.  When you start your train, the music jumps up to a quirky suspenseful track that works very well as you wait to see if your planning is going to work.
The controls are handled almost entirely by mouse.  The list of trains are displayed in the upper left-hand corner, the different colored tracks on the center-left, and the menu and speed controls are on the lower-left.  You’re able to zoom in and out of the puzzle with the scroll wheel, and move the map around with the right button (or with WASD or arrow keys).  Adding tracks is as simple as clicking and dragging from one point to another, or clicking on arrows as you build it piece by piece.  Simply put, the controls couldn’t be easier, but they lack enough complexity to really make it interesting.
And that’s probably my only problem with the game.  The 50+ levels simply get too repetitive for its own good.  Its minimalist approach is fine, but the levels end up feeling two-dimensional, and possibly adding some height or obstacles to the paths might’ve given the experience more diversity.  That’s not to say the challenge isn’t there, because it is- I just felt like I was solving a different version of the same puzzle each time.  Even the scheme of the levels are mostly the same, with a similar ocean background occupying every platformed level.

Overall, this isn’t a bad game, but it’s lacking that something to make it truly memorable.  The puzzles are engaging, so if you’re someone who likes getting your brain twerked for twenty minutes as you try to solve a puzzle, this will satisfy that part of you that likes torturing your noggin.  While its ten dollar price point is on the higher end of where a game like this should be, I can honestly say it gave me a few chuckles, and a rewarding experience when I solved something I started to convince myself was impossible.  Plus, it has cats; so if that’s a buying factor for you, I’d say pick this game up meow.  Sorry, couldn’t resist.

·      Publisher – Cranktrain
·      Developer – Cranktrain
·      Genre – Puzzle Strategy
·      Release Date – August 12, 2015
·      Version Reviewed – PC
·      PEGI Rating – N/A
·      Multiplayer – No
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