That's right: the cat puns start early. Not even the title of this fur-st purr-son mess-making game was able to escape the witty claws of developer Chris Chung, and his creation is littered with word play (guess what the pause menu is called). Catlateral Damage has been available on the PC for about a year already, so it may be that it's crossed your path before. After a successful Kickstarter and an incredible amount of exposure on YouTube, it's finally made its way onto PlayStation 4 – but is it up to scratch?
Let's not pussyfoot around the fact that this is little more than a small, silly, light-hearted distraction, not dissimilar to the likes of I Am Bread or Goat Simulator. That is not to say any of these games aren't worthy of your time and investment; we're just saying there's no real narrative to speak of, and no deep systems to learn. You are a cat, and as a cat, it's your mission to knock over as many of your owner's belongings as you can before the timer runs out. This is all that the game is, and for some, it won't be enough to warrant a purr-chase. Fortunately, what's here is surprisingly addictive, and it soon becomes clear why our feline friends feel the need to nudge our stuff nonchalantly to the ground: it's fun.
In Objective Mode, you have to work your way through a handful of procedurally generated levels, each house bigger than the last, with the simple aim of causing as much mess as possible. The simplistic controls and agile pace make manoeuvring each location a breeze, and it doesn't take long for each stage to be reduced to kitty-curated chaos. Bashing books, clothes, crockery, and all manner of household items is, while repetitive, inexplicably satisfying, and it doesn't take long before you're zooming around each room like a furry, crazed wrecking ball.
The graphics follow the same design template as the gameplay, with solid colours and thick outlines making for a cartoon look that suits the daft nature of the game. The sound is also a match, with a handful of frankly forgettable tunes accompanying the catlamitous action, and some crude sound effects round it all off. But while the aesthetics are fun, there are significant tearing issues which, combined with the cel-shaded visuals, can become headache-inducing. This is a shame, and is another nail in Unity's coffin, but hopefully a patch will follow to smooth out the purr-formance.
Strewn throughout each location are various extras and secrets that give you more to play for. Attacking specific sparkling items, such as cat toys and fern plants, provides you with upgrades to your jump height, speed, and swatting ability. You can even earn temporary power ups from completing certain events that occur at random, which vary from the ingenious (catching the red dot from a laser pointer) to the pointless (disco lights). Collectibles like the photographs of real life cats owned by fans are a cute addition, and as you progress, you'll even unlock new playable furry friends.
Although Objective Mode is far from difficult, you may find yourself wanting to roam around at your leisure, knocking over vases and DVDs as and when you feel like it. Enter Litterbox Mode, where you're free to pick a level and wreak havoc upon it without the pressure of a timer ticking down. It's a nice idea, and is a great way for kids to play, free of what little challenge the main mode presents. However, even with procedurally generated levels, and a few hidden areas that add some much needed variety, there's only so many times you can knock things to the ground before the novelty wears off. The simplicity of the game's core concept is a double-edged sword: it's instantly fun and easy to grasp, but it lacks the depth that would elevate it to something more than a whimsical curio.
Catlateral Damage is a charming and unashamedly simple game, and it's clear that a lot of love has gone into every facet. It's not without its paws... Claws... Sorry, flaws – but if you can forgive some screen tearing, and are taken by the idea of playing as a destructive kitten, you'll find a lot to like here. The core gameplay of batting myriad items to their demise is surprisingly a-mew-sing, and may just help you to understand your real life pet that little bit more. For the cat lovers and the curious amongst you, Catlateral Damage is pretty much purr-fect, but anyone else may want to give it a hiss.