Remember that scene in the 1971 movie Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory where the tour group take a boat ride through a psychedelic tunnel? Remember how utterly terrifying it was (still is)? Now imagine such lunacy applied to an entire video game; that’s pretty much what you get with PUSS! Billed by developer teamCOIL Studio as an ‘avoid-em-up’ puzzle game, you’re required to navigate a series of complex maze-like stages, avoiding every wall and obstacle on your way to your goal. Oh, and you also happen to be a cat.
We should probably elaborate on why PUSS! can be regarded as pure nightmare fuel. The visual style for the game is heavily reliant on psychedelic colours, abstract shapes and objects, and a soundtrack that’s composed mostly of odd noises, whispered voices (sometimes speaking in entirely different languages), and static. It’s genuinely quite unsettling in the exact same way the tunnel scene was in Willy Wonka, only here it’s sustained over extended periods of time. Don’t go into PUSS! expecting cute kittens and pretty rainbows, because this ain’t it.
PUSS! is not only aesthetically quite difficult to wrap your head around, but its levels can also get ridiculously tricky. Once you get past the opening ‘tutorial’ section and its accompanying boss fight (which is by no means a cakewalk), the game spares no mercy, throwing everything it’s got at you right from the start. Triumphing over each level requires a combination of expert timing, quick reflexes, a little bit of luck, and a tonne of patience. Is it too hard? That’s really dependent on your own expectations; some of the levels, however, absolutely border on sadistic.
This isn’t to say the game is impossible, by any means. Your brave little cat (which, by the way, can be changed into one of 40 different skins) is granted with a set number of lives for each group of levels, and the game is reasonably generous with these. It’s also really good at communicating when you’ve touched something dangerous in each area, emitting a loud static noise accompanied by quick screen flickering; much like the underwater music in Sonic titles though, hearing the static noise is anxiety-inducing, to say the least.
In terms of performance, the game rarely stumbles, although we did encounter a couple of freezes when entering one of the game’s worlds, forcing us to quit out and reload. From a gameplay perspective, it’s a smooth enough experience, with minimal hiccups throughout. We should mention as well, even though the game provides fair warning at the start, if you’re prone to epilepsy or seizures, you should probably stay away from this one.
If you’re after something challenging and, shall we say, different, then PUSS! could well be right up your alley. Its gameplay is simple enough for anyone to pick up, but the difficulty ramps up quickly to outrageous levels. Nevertheless, it remains strangely addictive, and will likely hold your attention for a good while as you pour blood, sweat, and tears into progressing through its levels, inch by inch.