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Cat Girl Without Salad: Amuse-Bouche

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch
Genre: Action/Adventure
Developer: WayForward Technologies
Release Date: April 1, 2020


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Switch Review - 'Cat Girl Without Salad: Amuse-Bouche'

by Cody Medellin on June 16, 2020 @ 12:45 a.m. PDT

Interstellar mayhem, a bounty-hunting cat girl, and genre-spanning action: Cat Girl Without Salad: Amuse-Bouche has it all. No foolin'!

Buy Cat Girl Without Salad: Amuse-Bouche

Cat Girl Without Salad: Amuse-Bouche came about in an unusual way. In 2013, the idea was posted as an April Fool's joke. In 2016, the joke became a reality, but it was only available for those who subscribed to the monthly plan from Humble Bundle. Four years later, the game has come to the Switch, completely unchanged from its PC incarnation.

At first, the story seems rather normal. You play a bounty hunter named Kebako who goes on various missions to take down eccentric criminals. It doesn't take long before you learn that each criminal has some tie to Kebako's past. While that seems like the basis for something serious, the whole thing has a comedic spin instead; Kebako is ditzy and is clueless about her assailants. There are plenty of jokes, and while not all of them land well, enough of them hit the spot that you'll come away with a few chuckles.

The best way to describe Cat Girl would be an old-school, side-scrolling cute-'em-up. Enemies are ever-present, and they may be numerous, but they don't fill the screen with bullets. Throughout the themed galaxies, you'll find enemies to be more than nondescript cannon fodder; you'll face off against bells, crabs, flying eyeballs, and satellite dishes to name a few. Boss fights also feature salmon as objects to avoid and giant cats as enemy attacks. You shoot the cute cats with your peashooter, which is an adequate rapid-fire gun.

The main hook comes from its weaponry, which goes above and beyond a standard cute-'em-up. Housed in old famicom cartridges, the weapons take on properties of various game genres. For example, get the arcade gun, and you'll fire Pac-Man look-alikes that go in a straight line and deliver damage to anyone in their way. The sports gun gives you a putter that fires golf balls that ricochet all over the screen. The platformer gun shoots out a Mega Man clone that leaps up to hit anyone above the normal shot trajectory. The puzzle gun is amusing, as you essentially become the cannon from Puzzle Bobble, and matching three of the same color causes a full-screen bomb to go off. In the RPG gun, you get four guns in one; you can dash forward with a sword attack, dash backward in a run, heal yourself with potions, or attack with different potions. All of those guns are enjoyable to use, but they force you to think of more strategies beyond just shooting straight. As a result, you'll pay more attention to how you're attacking rather than just reacting, as you would in other shooters. The rhythm gun feels like a pain to use, since hitting the face buttons in time to the arrow marker hitting a designated area produces great shots, but anything off-beat is weaker than the peashooter.

While the weapons distinguish Cat Girl from others in the genre, there are two things that stand out. The game is rather easy because Kebako only has one vulnerable spot — the bow on her neck — and it's small enough that you'll pass through most enemy fire without many problems. She has a life meter and can take plenty of hits before dying. You'll sacrifice some points to continue, but the checkpoint system is very forgiving, so you have to be really bad at shooting games to die as often as you would in a modern shooter.

The game is short, but the levels go on for quite a while, so Cat Girl doesn't devolve into boss fights like modern bullet-hell shooters would. Also, the boss battles have four stages, so the skirmishes can feel lengthy but not tiresome. The game only sports a total of three levels, and the only thing you get from completing it once is the ability to play again with all of the weapon cartridges in your possession and no way to lose them. There's no online leaderboard or multiplayer, so the game sessions might be enjoyable, but few will look at this as a title where you'll continually try to improve unless you want to improve your own high scores.

Like many of the games in WayForward's portfolio, the presentation is very well done. The graphics sport the brightly colored and fluid animation you'd normally see in a Shantae game, and the themed space areas and enemy designs ensure that the cute-'em-up title is being upheld with pride. The only issue occurs when you get close to a boss fight, as the multitude of enemies suddenly brings about various bouts of hitching. As for the sound, the music fits every theme well without being an annoyance, but the voice acting is the real highlight. Although the game only sports two actors, their delivery of every silly line and ability to make every character sound wonderful should be applauded; they've done a better job than some other games with bigger budgets and casts.

Cat Girl Without Salad: Amuse-Bouche is a brief yet amusing shooter. The silliness works well, and the varied weapons make you rethink every attack to keep shooter fans on their toes. The shooting is fun for those not normally skilled in either traditional or bullet-hell variants of the genre, but it really takes some effort to not complete the game in one sitting. This isn't a fantastic game in the genre, but it's worth owning if you're down for short and satisfying side-scrolling shooter jaunts.

Score: 7.0/10

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