Developer: Roost Games Publisher: Freedom Games Music: Sonya Vos Platforms: Steam, Nintendo Switch Released: 15 April 2022 Genre: Strategy, Simulation, Visual Novel
A ‘tail’ as old as time, your grandmother has left you her beloved cat cafe in the town of Caterwaul Way. In all her yarns, you’ve known about this sleepy little village, and the magic and joy it had given her. And ‘meow’ it’s your turn, you arrive at the address and find… an empty field and an old… pirate?
No, it’s just Bonner, a friendly fisherman who thought it would be best to inform you that unfortunately the beloved cat cafe has long since crumbled away. Just how long ago did your grandmother live here? But don’t get your hackles up, you have enough materials and resources to get a small little shack put together. Throw in a tiny little kitchen, and some… rough looking furniture and I guess you have a cat cafe! But you need cats.
Luckily some strays have turned up, and they’re super friendly. Add them to the mix and look at what they’ve dragged in. Customers! Granted, all you can serve is water but when you see their face light up as the cat you just found curls up in their lap, well.
I guess you can understand why your grandmother loved this so much.
Cat Cafe Manager is a 2D simulation managing game, in the most adorable, simple art style. You’ll be learning about what it takes to run and grow a cat cafe, eventually filled with a roster of staff and adorable little kitty cats. And you’ll also get to know more about Caterwaul Way, which is entirely populated by witches, fisherfolk, artists, vagabonds, punks, and cats of course! You’ll meet and bond with a cast of characters and learn about their relationships with each other, the village, and with the cafe. And you’ll learn about what’s going on in the woods.
Don’t worry about it. It’s not spooky.
Let me walk you through a day at the cafe.
Doors open, and customers arrive. They take a seat. Already we start to get feedback, with customers waving as they walk through the door, and a disappointed emote when they can’t find their favourite seat (or there isn’t enough of their preferred decor around).
You take their order, dash over to my little kitchen and put together their order. Some orders, like espressos and lattes, need a coffee machine. Others need a fridge and a chopping board, like sandwiches and salads. As you expand and grow your cafe, you’ll have to expand your menu too, which requires recipes, more ingredients, and specific equipment.
You bring them their order, they enjoy the order, and while they’re relaxing one of the cats hop onto their lap and curls up.
Some customers will have a favourite cat or two, but trust me, every cat is a winner.
Hopefully happy, the customer then heads on their merry way, leaving payment.
Now, the payment you receive depends on the customer. Vagabonds will pay with fabric, business guys pay with gold, punks pay with materials, fisherfolk pay with fish (obviously), witches pay with… nectar? And artists pay with gems (obviously).
You’ll need each form of currency in order to expand the cafe, buy decor and cat supplies, learn new recipes, buy new furniture. So if you have a specific goal in mind, you can adjust how you advertise to each type of customer in order to draw in specific currency. But there is one universal currency, and that is love.
After you meet a mysterious, ominous looking cat you’ll be shown the cat shrine, and you are urged to restore it. Why? You’ll find out in your own time, but the path to restoring the shrine is by love. Heart. Passion. You can select a project which will expand your cafe, unlock more furniture, allow you to house more cats, have more seats, and hire more staff. And with each project completed, the shrine starts to look just a little bit less wild.
Every customer has preferred themes, decor, food, drinks, and cats. Some cats will be naturally attuned to fisherfolk or witches. So to make everyone happy, you’ll have to keep growing. And it’s really satisfying watching that D rank at the end of the day gradually climb to a C, and then a B. I’m getting pretty close to an A rank myself.
It’s actually kinda a lot of work! So you need more staff.
You can go to the village noticeboard, where you can adopt out cats, or hire more staff. And as time goes on, you can train your staff, perfect for when you get hit with a rush of customers. They’ll get better and quicker at taking orders, small talk, making orders, cleaning up, and calming cats down. Just like a real cafe!
There were a few polish issues that were sometimes a little silly, like cats teleporting around the cafe, customers phasing through walls, just goofy little stuff that didn’t really detract from my overall experience. I did experience a couple of crashes, and occasionally there was some aspects of design that made it a bit frustrating (like my not realising that chairs needed to be set a certain way for them to work properly), but the team are really diligent, and would often fix these issues while I was asleep, and I could return to the game the next day with problems resolved. There are probably a couple of other little things that’ll pop up, but nothing ever really stopped me or made me want to stop playing.
Cat Cafe Manager has a lot of little details that I find really charming. The title screen is sweet and calm, sniffing out the village drama is a delight, and hearing the cats purr is so soothing. Hearing them yowl is less soothing, but the game delivers on those cafe noises. And spooky noises. And the little beeps and boops that bring life to a game. It’s understated, a bit relaxing, and if I wanted to play my lofi anime beats to run cat cafes I could.
There’s a few key things you should probably know about me. I love cats, I work in a cafe, I love cat cafes, and I really enjoy games where you build something and create resources to expand the thing you’re building. So when I heard about this game I grabbed at it with both of my… paws?
I’ll quit it with the puns. That was ‘A-PAW-LING’.
Cat Cafe Manager is built up of so many things I love, so I was super excited to boot this game up and start my cat cafe adventure. Which is sounding like I’m building up to revealing I was severely disappointed, but I wasn’t. I liked Cat Cafe Manager! It was fun, I enjoyed the main cast revealing little parts about their lives to me, piecing together their upbringing, their problems and hopes and joys, and watching them grow and resolve things, with a little bit of input from their friendly neighbourhood barista.
It was nice to see the cat shrine grow and become restored, seeing more and more cats return. Bonding with the cats in my neighbourhood and cafe, watching them return and building trust with them. Watching the cats bond with my customers, and then getting the cats adopted to loving homes.
The game can be slow at times, really each day is about passing the time and calling your regulars over so you can talk to them. But there was a sense of pride with watching my cafe come together. Each day becomes another step towards expanding it, making it bigger and better, cultivating it to become a welcoming space to everyone who walks in.
Whether they’re a witch, punk, vagabond, fisherfolk, artist, or even a business guy. They’ve all got a place at my cafe.