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Neko Navy

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC
Genre: Action
Publisher: Fruitbat Factory
Developer: DeathMofuMofu
Release Date: June 14, 2017

About Brian Dumlao

After spending several years doing QA for games, I took the next logical step: critiquing them. Even though the Xbox One is my preferred weapon of choice, I'll play and review just about any game from any genre on any system.


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PC Review - 'Neko Navy'

by Brian Dumlao on June 30, 2017 @ 1:30 a.m. PDT

Neko Navy is an horizontal-scrolling shooter revolving around flying cats versus 10,000 soothing characters!

The cute-'em-up isn't a formal genre, but it describes shooters that use very cartoony elements in lieu of more serious ships and other aircraft. Parodius is probably the best example of this, but other titles like Otomedius Excellent and Twinkle Star Sprites are slightly more modern examples. The one thing they all have in common is their use of anime girls as protagonists. For those who want adorable style masking a devilishly difficult shooter, there aren't many alternatives to the cute anime girl — until now. Neko Navy takes on the task of making a cute-'em-up with one thing that people may find cuter than an anime girl: cats.

With no narrative to start things off, Neko Navy feels a bit classic. You select one of three cats to control. Mugi is an average cat with good movement speed and a decent spread. Miracle is the much faster cat but only has a straight firing pattern. Chiyoko is the slowest of the initial bunch but has the widest firing pattern. There are three other cats you can unlock, but the game must be completed in the three various difficulty levels before they can be seen. Interestingly, while you see a preview of the cats' firing patterns, you won't know about their movement speed until you actually play as them.

From there, the game obeys some standard "bullet hell" conventions. Your cat's only vulnerable point is shown clearly at the center, so you have a good chance of navigating the parade of bullets. You collect loads of cat icons to get a big score bonus at the end of the stage, and you can power up the bullet barrage via power-up icons. You have a bomb at your disposal, but its type and effectiveness depend on your cat, so you can get anything from a flamethrower to a screen-clearing electrical storm that turns enemy bullets into collectibles. It's straightforward beyond the fact that you'll fight things like biplanes with eyes, medicine capsules, and a giant creature made of meat products.

Aesthetics aside, there are some subtle differences between Neko Navy and many other bullet hell titles. The cat icons you collect actually boomerang back to the right side of the screen, so if you miss them the first time, you can still grab them on the return path. You only have one bomb at your disposal, but you can get it back over time as you destroy more enemies. You die after being hit once, but you come back immediately with all of your bullet powers and your bomb intact, so dying in a boss fight doesn't mean you're returning at a major disadvantage. Also, destroying enemies while up close gives you a point bonus, though it takes some time and observation to realize that's what the "Brave!" pop-up is about.

The game consists of seven levels, but as in other shooters, the levels can be downright brutal because when you're just starting out, you have no credits to continue playing. As you keep playing and dying, though, you'll slowly accumulate credits, and continuing finally becomes an option. At the very least, it ensures that you won't be able to play once and walk away after the credits roll.

Beyond the aforementioned unlockable characters, there's not much else to the game. You have a training mode that lets you replay any of the unlocked levels, which works well if you're aiming for high scores. You have leaderboards for all three difficulty levels, but they only record the top 10 players, and the game already has enough people with some astronomical scores posted. Unless it gets wiped periodically, expect to never see your name appear there.

As far as presentation goes, the music is rather unusual for a bullet hell shooter. It comes off as upbeat in some segments and calming in others, but it's great overall. It blends well with the sound effects, which don't drown things out. Interestingly, for a game featuring cats, the meowing is kept to a minimum, and you'll only hear it when a cat dies. Visually, the game shines thanks to a color palette that emphasizes the foreground over the background, ensuring that nothing gets lost amidst the sheer number of on-screen bullets and enemies. You'll rarely die due to momentarily losing sight of your character. The designs for both cats and enemies are adorable, mostly due to the fact that they're all drawn with squiggly lines so the child-like nature is amplified even if the rest of the game is tough as nails.

Neko Navy is a fine shooter, as long as you're fine with it bringing nothing new to the table. It has an inviting aesthetic for those who are looking for something cute, and it comes in at a decent length for the genre. It may be tough, but it feels fair, and the game gives you enough to beat it if you're willing to invest some time. This may not be the ultimate cute-'em-up, but for genre fans, it's still worth checking out.

Score: 7.0/10

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