Strike Force Kitty Review

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Who’d have thought that we’d be playing games where the lion’s share of time is spent not playing. We watch, we occasionally tinker, but most of the time we’re picking lint out of our belly buttons. The spirit of idle games is everywhere, from the automated battles of Raid Shadow Legends to the skirmishes of Totally Accurate Battle Simulator

But if you’re part of the club that does like them (we’re included in that), then you’ll know the truth: you are actually playing them. In the moments between the action, you’re strategising. There’s tactical thought in which unit you upgrade, or which business you invest in. The idle bit is the pay-off: you get to watch as all your choices come to fruition. It might not be as exciting to play as Street Fighter 6, say, but it has its charms. Plus you need gaming downtime on occasion.

And then we have games like Strike Force Kitty, which blurs the lines between idle games and other genres. Suddenly, a little of that excitement bleeds in. Because Strike Force Kitty is just as easily classified as an idle game as it is a platformer. Which isn’t the mash-up we expected when we first booted it up. We didn’t expect it to work quite so well, either.

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A one-button platformer?

You see, each level is presented as a Super Mario-style platformer. But the four kitty Marios are not played by you: they move of their own accord, hurtling forwards through the level. The only exception to this is the jump button. You can choose when they collectively jump, which is used less for some precise platforming, and more for branching: do you want to go up or down?

Rocks and tree stumps are placed strategically in the level, so you can easily rebound off them and head in the opposite direction. Now we’ve got something like a maze. You can head up, down, left or right with well-timed jumps. We’ve got a one-button platformer on our hands.

Things get more interesting as you cross paths with other teams of cats, waiting for you on the journey. One cat can be jumped over, two cats can feasible be jumped over (we managed it once), but anything with three or more cats is a guaranteed encounter. 

As you’d probably expect from a quasi-idle game, you don’t get to participate in these battles – not really. You attack them, they attack you, and the values of damage are determined by attack, defence and speed stats on each cat. What you can do is jab some MMO-style attacks on a cooldown, but you will have to ration yourself. They are finite per level, and you might want to save the best attacks for the more hardcore kitty squads. 

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Gym bros…

What happens next is the 24-carat genius at the centre of Strike Force Kitty. Each time you kick the ass of a cat, you gain a fragment of their gear. Kick their ass a maximum of three times, and the cat is now available for you to use. If that cat was a pain to kill, then there’s a good chance that they will be a boon to your team as well. So, you’re finding any means to donk that cat three times on the head, so that you get them forevermore. 

And this really is the core of what makes Strike Force Kitty so enjoyable. Between levels, you can hop over to upgrade your cats, spin a wheel to get some juicy resources, or purchase some food from a raccoon cafe that gives you temporary boosts, but the meat is in the clothing room. Here, you can mess around with the characters you have, position them correctly in your four-cat lineup, and hand them artifacts, team skills and individual cat skills for the battles ahead. 

It’s deep as deep can be – to a confusing degree, but more on that later – and there’s some idle-game strategising to be done, as you question whether to ‘theme’ your team, unlocking a cool bonus, or whether to keep to the best cats per role. There are mages, rangers, tanks and nippy buggers (although there’s no clear annotation of which is which), and you’ll need a quality mix to beat the later levels. 

We say it’s a touch confusing as, firstly, Strike Force Kitty is terrible at tutorialising itself, and secondly, there’s stuff we still don’t fully understand after double-figures of hours, probably as a result of the first issue. As an example, Strike Force Kitty has a wonderful, Sensible Soccer-like love for throwing pop-culture characters into the game and then moving the letters around so they don’t get sued. If you group similarly themed characters together – the cast of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, for example – then you get a Team Skill. But the problem is, it’s not entirely clear whether that Team Skill is permanently and passively unlocked OR it’s now choosable from a library OR you can only have that skill if the full team is in play. We have similar questions around Artifacts you gain from chests, and the individual armour pieces. Can I mix and match characters? I’m not entirely sure. 

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Jump? Or engage?

This, you would imagine, would be obvious, but Strike Force Kitty’s second problem is that its UI is an unwieldy mess. You might be able to do these things, but we haven’t unearthed the sacred ritual that will invoke the demon of activating them. This is a game that, we imagine, was made for tablet and mouse, and the porting to controller and console has nobbled it somewhat. 

There is a third problem, connected to that mobile pedigree. The latter third of the game is incredibly grindy, to the point of making us want to rage-quit. You need to be strong enough to defeat the better cats, but some of these cats are hidden behind multiple other encounters. Through attrition, you will have lost your cats and health, meaning they are improbably hard to defeat, yet there aren’t many ways to level yourself up. So you’re grinding up against cats you’ve already beaten in the hope that you will eventually get strong enough. 

These flaws are so big and glaring that surely we shouldn’t be giving Strike Force Kitty anything higher than the mid-scores. It’s also an idle game with pretensions of more, and that’s niche, right? 

But you know what? We had such a fabulous time despite these flaws, despite the mobile hangovers, and despite the lack of interaction (well, perhaps because of that). We’re going to do something rare and pull out the card that says ‘We Get To Do What We Want’ and hand it a 4. Because Strike Force Kitty swallowed up our attention for hours on end, and those hours were great. Plus, we are going to unlock that Chewbacca cat. We ARE.

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