PUSS! (Switch) Review – Feline Fever Dream

PUSS! Nintendo Switch Review

Holy crap this game isĀ weird. I consider myself something of a strange explorer, a grit-toothed cowboy ready to explore the wildest parts of the video game world. Turns out I don’t know a damn thing about weird games, as evidenced by my slack-jawed reaction to this one. PUSS! may or may not be your jam, but one thing’s for certain: you won’t soon forget this bizarre little maze game.

Part of the inherent weirdness here is the premise. You play a cat attempting to escape a glitched-out television realm. Turns out some other creatures are stuck here as well? Also there are, for sure and certain, demons involved. This leads immediately to the next weird thing, which is the aesthetic. Actually, perhaps A E S T H E T I C would be more accurate. PUSS! is, first and foremost, a vaporwave art project come to life. But rather than the soothing elevator mall tour that is most vaporwave, this game explores the darker side of the internet’s consumer culture archeology.

A Portal Into Pure Insanity

Every stage looks and sounds like a cross-dimensional portal to the hell world lurking behind every malfunctioning CTR screen on Earth. Everything from the harsh static that announces your mistakes, to the discordant music, to the unsettling visuals evokes a feeling of deep dread. Your tiny feline avatar is a stranger in a strange land, dodging violent demise at every turn. Certain songs feel like an ear pressed to an asylum wall, while other songs barely sidestep a peaceful reprieve. There is no relaxation here without worry. Taken all together, the presentation is designed to run ragged over your fractured nerves. On top of that, the difficulty level is intense.

PUSS! The Game

Maze games lean on extreme precision and quick reflexes. PUSS! requires both of these things. plus the power to navigate the pure madness happening on screen. It’s all too easy to get worked up by your failures, which leads to a cascading chain of deaths. I often went from 13 lives to two in the space of a minute. It doesn’t help that safety and suffering are usually separated by a pixel’s worth of space. If you can calm yourself, watch the patterns, and strike, then success is yours! Of course, the stage order and selection is randomized.

While not a deal-breaker by any means, the formless chaos that is the stage order can be a bit demoralizing. Some stages will just overwhelm you, and seeing one of them pop up right before a boss fight is a serious shot to the kidneys. My progress through any given area is wholly dependent on the levels I encounter. On the flip side, the odds of you running into the same hellish level order is pretty low. And believe me, you’ll want as smooth a ride to the bosses as you can manage.

Prepare For Punishment And Pain

As punishing as the regular levels are, the bosses provide their own unique physical and psychological strains. Discordant flashing images, lopsided music, and harsh digitized howls are all par for the course. These fights also add a bullet hell layer to the challenge, as if you weren’t dealing with enough already. Your initial reward for navigating these treacherous waters is access to five more worlds’ worth of stages to complete. From there, it’s a nonstop assault on your senses and skills, peppered with boss fights and brand new powers. Although you’re never provided with any serious relief from your suffering, any help is still a blessing.

Like the visuals and the sound, my recommendation for PUSS! is a complex, chaotic beast. On the one hand, it’s a beautiful, brilliant game. I haven’t heard a game soundtrack this unique in literal years. The visuals will haunt your dreams for days after you’re done with this game. And yet, the challenge is either insurmountable or woefully insufficient. After a moment of weakness, I decided to look up some let’s plays on YouTube. It turns out I’m just not good at maze games? A man hands as shaky as these should have seen this coming, but still. My evaluation of the difficulty is tied to my skills in the genre overall. To that end, if you’re a maze gamer? This will be an absolute blast. Conversely, if you’ve got no patience for high precision movement and constant dodging, PUSS! might be a pretty bad time. Either way, you’re unlikely to see a game quite like this for a very long time.

***A Nintendo Switch code was provided by the publisher***

 

The Good

  • Distinct compelling visuals
  • Unique unsettling soundtrack
  • Simple to learn but hard to master
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The Bad

  • Much tougher than it looks
  • Disorienting random stage order
  • Too easy to burn through a ton of lives