Cat Café Manager

One of the great things about video games being so ubiquitous in the 21st Century is that there really are games for every type of player. And not only that, but you can break game categories down even further into very specific subcategories based on exactly what you’re feeling in the moment.

Sometimes, for example, you want to guzzle espresso drinks (or Red Bull, if you’re into that) and conquer a brutally difficult Soulslike. Other times, you might be into sipping green tea and doing some low-stakes crafting and building. Or maybe you’re in a black coffee mood, when your taste swings toward complex strategy RPGs. And then there are times when you have a craving for those super-short, one-more-run-style roguelites, which I’m tempted to say is the gaming version of having a sweet tooth.

But there are also times where you simply need to decompress after a long day of work, where you’re mentally fried and you just need to turn your brain off and idly click on things. I’m not throwing shade here; these ultra-casual games are legitimate gaming experiences in their own right, and there’s definitely a time and a place for them.

In that last category, you’ll find Cat Café Manager, a game I’ve been casually cuddling up with for the past few days.

Cat Café Manager

In Cat Café Manager, you’ll be moving into a new town to revitalize your grandmother’s cat café. Yes, if you replace the word grandmother with grandfather, and the phrase cat café with farm, this sentence perfectly describes Stardew Valley. The general premise here is familiar, which seems like it’s a deliberate nod, almost like the developers are promising a comfort-food experience. And that’s really what you get here.

When you fire up the game, you’ll be greeted by the most soothing of melodies. The music in this game is quite good, and it reminds me a lot of The Sims, with those ultra-catchy earworms that are both upbeat and chill at the same time. In fact, the sound design in general reminds me of The Sims, especially the way your customers speak to the cats (with their “Cootchie cootchie coo” baby-talk phrases).

The general gameplay loop has you serving customers, adopting cats, and upgrading your café. There are specific customers that the game calls Regulars, and each of them has their own mini-storyline for you to uncover as you raise your friendship levels by inviting them over and chatting them up.

Cat Café Manager

You can even set up your own food menu, unlocking more menu options as you get deeper into the game. This ensures that your customers will always be able to order something they’re into, so long as you have the ingredients on hand. You’ll also be upgrading your cats so they will endear themselves to different types of customers.

Actually, the “different types of customers” thing brings me to my biggest gripe about Cat Café Manager. Customers are divided into different types: There are witches, punks, vagabonds, businesspeople, fishermen, and artists. Instead of paying you one standard type of currency, each customer type has their own currency. Punks, for example, pay you in Materials, which you can use to expand your café. Fishermen only pay you in Fish, which can only be spent at the pet shop.

Cat Café Manager - Resources

This means that instead of having one simple currency to spend wherever you want, you have six different currencies, and each one can only be spent on specific things. I guess I understand why it’s broken down this way, because it incentivizes players to cater to a broad client base instead of just focusing on the mega-rich businesspeople and raking in the big bucks. At the same time, though, this system feels needlessly convoluted, and it leads to some stressful moments where you’ve got stockpiles of one resource, but you’re missing the one resource you actually need in the moment.

I’m no stranger to games with convoluted currency systems, but I wouldn’t have expected it from something as chill as Cat Café Manager. Then again, this system becomes more intuitive with time, and once it clicks, you can shut down your brain and just go to town. Especially once you start hiring additional help, which frees you up to play in a more relaxed manner (before you hire anyone, the pace of the game can feel really fast).

Cat Café Manager was made for chill evenings where you just don’t have the energy to do much of anything. It lets you click away the hours, expanding your cat café empire until you’ve become the talk of Caterwaul Way. Despite my one big gripe about the currency system, I do think there’s a whole lot to love here.

Disclaimer: I was given a review copy of Cat Café Manager for Steam, but the opinions expressed in this article are my own.

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