As if I wasn’t already thought of as a cat lady, I’ve fallen deeper into the stereotype. After playing Neko Atsume, I’m determined to collect as many cats as I can on my iPhone.
To best sum up the game, think Pokemon mixed with Hoarders: Buried Alive packed together into a mobile game. Basically, you pimp out your yard (and eventually more houses) to attract cats with cushions, cat apartments, and other cute decor. When the cats are done hanging out, they leave you fish, which is used as currency. Usually they leave silver fish, but once in a while you’ll get gold ones, which which are used to buy special items like hammocks and the rest of your house. The items help bring more cats to your yard, and while you can’t actually play with them, they perfom cute animations. Simple enough, right? Well, the game is entirely in Japanese.
Created by Hit-Point Co. Ltd, Neko Atsume, or -ねこあつめ- (which roughly translates to “Cat gathered”), is very popular among Android and iOS users. From Twitter to Reddit, the game is all over the internet. It’s become so popular, there’s now merchandise available to decorate phones, a book soon to be released, and three CDs featuring the different cat sounds. Yes, you can now listen to cats in your spare time.
The game itself is very slow, especially since cats just come in and out as they please while the app is closed. There are over 40 different cats to collect, each one offers a different special but unusable gift. Different toys attract certain cats, and some special ones like the cat dressed as a Sphinx or a maid will only come if specific items are placed in the game.
There are in-app purchases to buy more fish, and internet is not required to play (but is needed to buy fish).
I took the time to test it out for myself. At first, I had really high expectations and was thinking it would be along the lines of Nintendogs. While the game doesn’t offer any kind of interaction between you and the cats, it’s still a fairly decent excuse to look at your phone.
I found myself opening the app frequently to check food levels, if any new cats came into my yard, and if I got any goldfish. I’ve been saving up for the rest of my house in order to bring in more cats. I’ve been testing out which toys bring special cats to the yard, what food gives more goldfish, and what items aren’t worth purchasing because of the lack of reward. Sadly, putting expensive food outside means that Manzoku-san, or Mr. Satisfaction, will eat it all. I couldn’t tell you how many times I got upset at him, especially since keeping the food bowl stocked is the key element in attracting cats – in fact, they won’t come if there isn’t any food. Once in a while he would leave gold fish which was nice, but still frustrating.
The cats also have attack points. These are used to show which cats are more dominant than others by taking over toys or furniture. They also have personality types,
What makes the game even more enjoyable is the fact that I couldn’t understand anything. I was playing blindly for a while before looking up what everything meant on the menus and cat profiles. Had this game been translated to English, its popularity may not have been so high. The novelty of the game relied on the lack of understanding, paired with the cute graphics and adorable music.
For you mobile gamers that change the time on your phones to get more items sooner, it doesn’t work; I tested it out myself only to have my fish taken away accompanied by a pop up window.
Overall, Neko Atsume would make a great game for people who can’t have cats but want one, or don’t like the thought of shedding or the responsibility that comes with cleaning litter boxes.