Are you a cat person? I am not. I vaguely understand the appeal and, outside of a few cool cats, I am not a feline fan. I’m not even that interested in cat videos: I just cannot get myself to like them.
But, what if the cat is not real? That is different. That is why Neko Atsume works for me and will probably be the closest that I get to cat owning. The game has been around for over a year but is recently getting attention because of a somewhat ridiculous, “NY TIMES IS ON IT!!” story about the appeal of the game. It’s as ridiculous and stupid as you might expect an over intellectualized article about fake kittens to be. Yet, it does capture why the game is so great: because it just is great.
For the uninitiated, here is how the game works: you have a little indoor-outdoor apartment where you put little cat toys out and, when you aren’t looking and when you are not in the app, cats come and play with your toys. There is no metric of more cats meaning you get more points but the cats do thank you for hosting their play times by giving you a fish currency where you can buy more toys. Certain toys lure out certain cats and, if you catch the cats in the act, you can take a photo of them for your photo album, like a very low stakes Pokémon Snap.
That is it. That is the entire game.
And it is soooo greeeaaat.
While I spent much of this past weekend doing deep dives into lauded 2015 consolers like Life Is Strange and Rocket League, Neko Atsume was the game I kept going back to. It’s an easy game to dip in and out of, to see what cats are hanging out and what toys you can buy to get more cats to stop by your place. Will the famed baseball loving cat Joe DiMeowgio stay long enough so that you can get a photo of him? You never know until you stop by. What did Tubbs eat all of this time? You have to check in and see for yourself. The little world of the kitty collector is always going and, despite it never being action packed, it is an easy game to play that requires no actual playing.
It’s kind of like a Tamagotchi without the responsibility of keeping your gigapet alive. These pets are free to go elsewhere and will not chirp when they need feeding. They also have much more personality than any pocket pet you’ve ever owned. No, none of this makes any sense and you probably are not sold. You just have to download it and try it and talk to people about it like you are crazy while you are out with other adults drinking, stealing away a moment to check on your cats. You will sound insane talking about this game, I assure you. But. It’s a great game.
You can download Neko Atsume from the app store. You can also purchase fish currency within the game for very cheap and, yes, I did that one time to get a bigger room so that I could have more cats, which is something I have never done in a game but—Alas.—my kitties demanded I make an in-app purchase.