This week I’ve been looking for a new gaming adventure for my mobile phone – AdVenture Capitalist only gets you so far, and the Christmas game was pretty disappointing – when gradually all my social feeds were taken over by pictures of virtual cats. One download later and I’m the proud owner of some cute kitties courtesy of the Neko Atsume game.
Let’s get this out of the way first – IRL, I’m really not a cat person. I just don’t get the appeal. If I were to share my living space with a pet (and my fish, Dean Venture, doesn’t count, because he doesn’t take up sofa space) I’d at least want it to depend on me to some extent. Cats seem to just do what the hell they want, regardless of my presence.
But over the last few days my Instagram and Twitter feeds have been taken over by pictures of the cutest virtual pets; lazing on cushions, playing with balls of yarn or just plonked in boxes and buckets – so adorable. These pictures were all shared by Neko Atsume players, and I decided I just had to have a go for myself.
How to play Neko Atsume
It’s quite easy to get involved, with just a quick download to your iPhone or Android device. The tutorial then takes you through the simple process. The aim is to attract the cats to play and relax in your yard, which you can do by using silver and gold fish as currency to buy a range of treats – from posh cat food to luxury furniture and balls of yarn.
You’re then meant to check in with the game several times a day to see who pops up in your yard – at the moment there are 49 cats to ‘collect’, which you can do by taking pictures and adding them to your galleries and cat profile pages. These profiles also keep track of how many times each cat visits and which items they like to play on best.
When a cat leaves they’ll leave you a gift of either gold or silver fish which you can use to buy more treats. You can spend real money to obtain gold fish, but the good thing about this particular microtransaction system is that you’re in absolutely no danger of falling behind in the game if you choose not to. Many a free-to-play game gets this balance completely wrong, but being as this game is the very definition of ‘casual’ it’d be pretty hard to get wrong.
It’s that gentleness which is my very favourite thing about it; Neko Atsume is hardly even a game, more an interactive experience with virtual pets that are overloaded with kawaii cuteness. It’s so soothing too – always a sight for sore eyes and good for a few relaxing minutes.
If you’re pining for the days where Tamagotchi ruled the playground (and the teachers’ desk drawers), I’d definitely recommend checking this out.