Cat-aclysm Review: The Cat’s Meow

Before I started digging into Cat-aclysm, I wasn’t sure what to think about it. It’s a free-to-play title on Steam, it has a grand total of 34 reviews, and it’s developed and published by a university. Overall, very strange. 

However, after spending some time with it, I can confidently say that there is much more to Cat-aclysm than can be gleaned from its surface. Let’s find out everything the game has to offer in this review.

This game was made by 1 developer!
This game was made by 1 developer!

The Product of Higher Learning

To kick things off, let’s take a look at how Cat-aclysm came to be. According to the game’s Steam page, it was developed as a student project at the DigiPen Institute of Technology Europe – Bilbao. This is the Spain branch of a University whose main campus is in Redmon, Washington, but that doesn’t mean the work being done there is any less impressive.

In fact, knowing now that the game I played was made by students (information I didn’t have prior to playing), I’m even more impressed with what I played and saw. There are some glaring absences and omissions that you would probably expect most games to have, but the creative core and drive to create a fun video game are definitely there.

Easy on the Eyes and Ears

Before we get into how the game plays, we should take a moment to appreciate what Cat-aclysm does with its presentation. The game opens with a dialogue-free cutscene that presents you with some of the characters and gives you a little taste in terms of what to expect visually. There’s a very distinct, high-contrast comic book art style being employed here, and the ink dot textures that gave the most recent animated Spider-Man films their signature flair are also present, but not overused. 

The flat textures and bright colors are also reminiscent of Jet Set Radio for anyone old enough to remember that game, or perhaps the much more recent Hi-Fi Rush. Considering the game’s music-themed touches (the main character wears headphones, there are bouncing speakers all over the palace, etc.), as well as the game’s June 9th, 2023 release date, I’d wager that Hi-Fi Rush served as a pretty significant inspiration. And that’s a fantastic thing.

That influence also stretches over to the game’s persistently thumping soundtrack. It’s not as ingrained into the gameplay as Hi-Fi Rush, but it’s definitely there, of significant quality, and contributes to the game’s overall vibe. 

Remember Jet Set Radio? Same color style
Remember Jet Set Radio? Same color style

Hit the Ground Running

Now, for the first issue I have with Cat-aclysm, if you could call it that. That super-stylish intro sets a visual precedent and I had a good time watching it, but it doesn’t really convey any kind of concrete information. There are no text bubbles, no narration, and certainly no voiced lines. This is a note I made from my first impressions before I knew the nature of the project, so it seems moot now but I still think even some text here would have gone a long way to introducing players to the game and its world. 

After the intro, you’re dropped into the city and presented with an always effective and efficient isometric perspective. The main character (named Vexa, as I learned from the Steam page) moves with WASD, dashes with Shift, and you can fire projectiles by aiming with the mouse and left-clicking. Additionally, there is a melee attack bound to the space key. And…that’s about it.

I accepted the limited gameplay and fairly generic enemy encounters as the nature of the game for the opening minutes. It certainly wasn’t ideal, but at least the art direction was intriguing enough to keep me going for a little while.

Thankfully, Cat-aclysm doesn’t only lean on its art.

Before too long, you’re given a slew of new abilities that are presented as solutions for environmental puzzles and platforming, but they can also be used in combat to spice things up significantly. There’s a grapple line Vexa uses to pull herself toward objects, but in combat, it can be used to pull enemies in close for a melee attack. Then, a disc that is used to target multiple switches to activate them with a single throw can also be used to target multiple enemies and deal a decent amount of damage. 

Mixing these new abilities into combat with the standard shooting and melee doesn’t put it on the same level as something like Devil May Cry, but it makes it far more interesting to play than you might expect from those first few minutes. I was very impressed with the level of mechanical complexity that gets added over time, it really kept me hooked into the game.

Getting Around Town

Not to sound like a broken record, but this is another issue I had with the game that could be explained away by its nature as a student project: there’s a tangible level of jank.

If you’re unaware, jank is the word gamers use when the act of playing a game just feels a little off in some way, but you can’t put your finger on exactly what. In Cat-aclysm’s case, I feel like it might have something to do with movement and boundaries in the environment. In my time with the game, I dashed everywhere because 1.) it’s cool, and 2.) the default walk speed feels too slow for the size of the environments for me. This was fine for a majority of the time, however I did find myself stuck on level geometry a few times. I had a similar issue when using the grappling hook, I just got stuck on an anchor point occasionally. 

Overall good experience, but the movement is a bit off
Overall good experience, but the movement is a bit off

It didn’t take away from the experience too much, but the several reloads I waited through did break up my momentum a little bit. Speaking on the subject of jank, the one place I fortunately never had an issue was in combat. Every encounter was fun and issue-free, which is definitely a plus.


For what it is, Cat-aclysm is a great game, and a very promising proof-of-concept for what will hopefully be the future of video game development. It’s free, and you can download it from Steam right now!

Oh, the villain of the game is a feline crime boss named Catuccino, and that’s just delightful.

8/10 helps game developers create their own storefronts or marketplaces to sell directly to players. Web2 and Web3 compatible.

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