If you're like me, you may find the Indie store a little demotivating at times. Sure it has had its fair share of genuinely entertaining titles (Miner Dig Deep, Apple Jack, AvaGlide and I MAED A GAM3 W1TH Z0MBIES 1N IT!!!1 to name just four of its more obvious choices) but still, after all this time and after numerous (mostly dissappointing) demos downloaded, countless massage games and downright terrible Avatar game, it's still yet to find its killer app. And while I'm not in the fortunate position to say that LaserCat is that game, that defining moment for the Indie store, it sure comes a lot closer than most and can hold its own with the four titles mentioned above.
Even though I knew it wasn't, having grown up with the 8-bit era, I felt like I was playing an 8-bit classic on an emulator while playing my way through LaserCat. And that's certainly not a bad thing. It felt nostalgic. It reminded me of the days when only gameplay mattered. Its humour wasn't trying too hard to be clever, instead it relied on innocent cheap gags and knowing nods at an era now passed but feeling very much like the present. It had that feel of a game that had been lovingly coded by one person in his bedroom for a few weeks, released on a cassette for £1.99 and picked up from your local corner shop's rotating rickety metal display stand. And I loved it for it.
How can you not love a game called LaserCat where the cat in question doesn't have a Laser, is out to rescue his owlfriend who has been owlnapped and imprisoned by the evil space-frog, Wizzord? The only way to save him, is to traverse 225 rooms of mental, glorious, 8-bit themed platforming goodness, filled with rotating blocks of randomness, devils that look a bit like buddhas, and squiggles. But even if you find Owl you won't be able to set him free until you have collected all of the 30 keys dotted around the game. And collecting keys isn't as simple as 'collecting' them, oh no. Once you collect one you're taken to the Riddle Realm. Here you're asked a humourous trivia question and get to choose from three possible answers. One gets you the key, the other two drop you into lava and make you go back to a checkpoint. You just couldn't make this up. Except obviously someone has. And you just don't get games like this anymore. Except obviously you do.
If there's one genre the Indie store excels at delivering it is platformers. Johnny Platform's Biscuit Romp (and Johnny Platform Saves Xmas), the Arkedo Series, Oozi, and the aforementioned Apple Jack, are all genuinely enjoyable games. But despite the decent competition, in my opinion LaserCat sits at the top of that genre's league table. Purring contently.
Whereas Apple Jack is undeniably a great game, it suffers from imprecise controls. Oozi plays like an enjoyable Amiga title, but again suffers from similar control issues. Johnny Platform has tighter controls, but perhaps just lacks that little something to make it all that memorable or to drive you on to completion. Whereas LaserCat doesn't suffer from these issues.
The controls are incredibly precise and responsive. The level design so memorable that even after playing my way through 225 rooms (and it having been 72 hours since I played the game) I can still remember a number of them vividly now. The music compliments the action and the awful visuals add to the charm rather than detract from the experience. And although it's not all that challenging, even that turns out to be a good thing, enabling you to enjoy the ride rather than getting frustrated at yet another pixel-perfect jump.
In fact, LaserCat's only failing for me was how quickly it was over. After about 70 minutes, it was completed, all rooms navigated and the owl saved (oh no! Spoiler!). And at 70 minutes of pure fun for approx 60p, can anyone really complain? If I ever come across anything else in life that gives me as much enjoyment and fun over 70 minutes for 60p as LaserCat did, I will be a happy man. And when a game's only real failing is that it has left you wanting more, has it really failed?