Whenever I start making a review, I always do some research on the developers and the game itself. Not just for the sake of gaining some trivia, but also because I want to be prepared for what I am going into and understand the visions behind a product. This surely does not excuse any poor or clumsy design choices, though it can help me to see things from a different perspective. While doing some investigation on the people behind Coffee Talk, I also found out that they had a pretty solid track record, with MagiCat being the one that caught my attention. It has two of my favourite things combined in its name, so how could I resist?
Spicy, but undercooked
A Wizkitty known as MagiCat is guarding a magical gem when a monkey out of nowhere steals it. Upset at this mischievous act, the tiny hero sets out to claim it back and rid away the evil of this land. That is what I got out of the story since any dialogue is merely the animals making their appropriate sounds, like the bees buzzing. It is an adorable setup, but clearly there to only provide a simple reason for you to go on a journey.
This is a traditional platformer with an overworld to explore and access the different linear stages with. As the furry protagonist, you can jump, flutter, climb wireframed surfaces, crawl, and cast damaging projectiles horizontally. Everything works adequately, though the opponents are underwhelming obstacles that just halt your progression. The single exception is when you have to use them for acquiring collectables in the form of red gems, which I will get back to later in this review.
Besides this, MagiCat has other mystical abilities at their disposal that are restricted in use. In each level, you can gain bewitched jars that could be easily deciphered as your limited MP for dashing both on the ground and in midair. Otherwise, you can use 10 of them at a checkpoint to restart upon death, which there are three of in each stage. This is a commendable idea by making you choose between less punishment upon possible deaths or being prepared for upcoming challenges.
Outside of these vases, there are two other main collectables. One is the three red gems each place has, and the other is coins that come in silver and gold. The former is the highlight as they will force you to take on clever puzzles and courses, which really sweetens the adventure! Some examples of these are reaching somewhere in a quick fashion or by tinkering with the area. All of them are enjoyable due to testing your skills and showcasing imaginative setups, but also rewarding for another reason.
You see, these jewels are also a currency that you can spend at shops for abilities like healing and a stronger dash or for overworld uses such as destroying trees and creating platforms. These are really engaging mechanics for this genre since they are always useful and limited by the number of paws you have on the map screen or mana in the levels to not make you overpowered. Because of this, these enhancements add a lot of various ways to approach this game, to the point you could tackle later sites early on if so desire.
Speaking of, by finding 100 coins you will be supplemented one more footprint in the upper corner, which is used to pay for functions on the map alongside the gems. However, they are also used for reviving you on the spot, which despite being helpful, makes the journey too easy. The cost does increases with each death, but this is never noticeable, especially due to you having a health bar consisting of four units as a form of extra insurance. That is, until the later places that love bottomless pits, which will cause easily frustrations alongside the present knockbacks.
In fact, I have mixed opinions about the levels’ designs. On the one hand, MagiCat is phenomenal at being diverse with its setup, be it turning gravity off to make a stage into a flying shooter or utilizing wind for tricky jumps. These are great concepts and are well utilized when they appear. What is the issue, is that all of them occur once. Because of this, none of these varieties evolves or improves the adventure’s difficulty overall. Instead, the empty voids below will be the main lacklustre obstacles.
Also unfortunate is that the power-ups do not become a part of your permanent arsenal, such as the grappling hook. It could have made for more imaginative platforming, but instead presents an inconsistent problem as they stand. Some locations have unique altitudes and set pieces, while others demand the bare minimum due to uninspired layouts and enemies filling up the spaces to create tedious challenges. Which I cannot say helps since the foes are just awful. They take multiple jumps to their heads or a couple of shots to be dealt with and are rudimentary with basic patterns.
Every area also ends with a boss fight, and it shows the developers had a hard time figuring out how to make all of them interesting as 90% are simply bigger versions of regular adversaries. Making them worse is that they are either bullet sponges and shoot annoying projectiles or giant blobs running back and forth. There was an attempt at using the environment for creative setups in these encounters, like disappearing blocks or bouncing ones, but they hardly feel different from battling normal opponents. Even the last 10% that do not have small adaptations are dull since they all have rudimentary movements.
Despite that Magicat is solid in content with 63 stages, my experience with them was all over the place. This adventure is ambitious with clever takes on exploration and fitting mechanics, yet also gets tedious whenever combat is involved, never evolves with any ideas presented, and contains bizarre difficulty spikes. I wonder if a better focus with fewer levels could have made this into a quality product. As it is now, it is kinda like playing with a kitty: you will have fun, but it can become disastrous too!
Gameplay Score: 5/10
Maybe that is harsh, but it is still true. Areas are made out of bland set pieces, enemies are generic representations of monsters like the shallow squares flying or mere bunnies hopping, and no animation is satisfactorily implemented. To be fair, I do like the concepts of icy locations or lands made out of candy, but nothing imaginative is done with any of them. For example, the Chocolake is just brown water that has chocolate patterns as backgrounds with red spiked balls everywhere, and that is it.
Similarly can be said for the music, due to it consisting of terribly repetitive tunes with minimal diversity of instruments included. Even with plenty of melodies, they are all too alike with their poor rhythms and usages of stock sounds, making them flat and uninspired with the bad loop being the cherry on top. If I can give this title anything, the colours are pleasing to the eyes and the hero is adorable, but this is far from a magical world.
Presentation Score: 3/10
Cats can learn new tricks too
After beating the campaign, you are able to play through it again with all the items acquired. This is a neat reward for speedrunning, yet the stages are still uneven in quality and even more apparent with this unlock. Still, going as fast as you can is exhilarating and time trials also appear after crossing the finish lines. Whenever the intriguing gimmicks have to be done in a quick fashion, there is a nice pressure being put on you for making your reflexes and skills count.
Looking around for the secret ponds where you can change the MagiCat’s colours and finding rainbow gems were also a joy, as you have to search the environments thoroughly. You can even get different style projectile attacks, offering a ton of cute cosmetics! Although, getting all the red jewels is a mixed bag. It can be gripping due to the mentioned difficulty and imaginative layouts, but a lot of them you only get one chance to grab, forcing you to retry an entire stage if you fail.
Even with the aspect of obtaining a true ending, you are getting the best experience by just going for what seems to be entertaining. Attempting to get a 100% file is rather tiresome with replays and challenges like never dashing for a section, being just there. Even the in-game achievements are uninteresting since they are more about showcasing how much you have completed than if you did anything unusual. However, 50% of the additional content is engaging enough.
Extra Score: 5/10
This is incredibly frustrating, as MagiCat definitely could be a strong title due to the ingredients being there clear as day! With the creative ways to travel around the overworld with, varied ideas focusing on the genre, and a sweet enchanted furball as the protagonist, there is a great recipe here for a clever and fun platformer. However, it does not enhance any concept, the level’s designs alter in quality, and the presentation is dull. If you fancy quantity and can overlook the mentioned issues for its potentials, you might be pleasantly surprised. Otherwise, I truly hope a sequel will be made, as it could be pawesome!