I briefly thought that Smash Cat Heroes could be something. I really did. The visuals and music felt like they had potential, the combat was mindless but enjoyable enough, and there were even some cat puns, which never hurt. Within minutes, though, I realized what the game was; it isn’t clever and it isn’t fun. In no way is it even competent. It is a mindless, button-mashing grind with little to no redeeming factors.

So what’s it about? Well, it is about cats — and that is about all I can tell you. The story is non-existent and, when it does show up, it is anything but engrossing. I have honestly never been less interested in a game’s story in my life. There is a brief period of dialogue every couple of levels, but aside from the aforementioned cat puns, the text never leads to enjoyment, so there is no reason to read it.

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Neither is there a reason to do anything else in the game. The basic gameplay is simple, a standard button-masher. Press the Y button to swing your sword, B to roll around quickly, L/R to power up a meter, and A to use a super move. Combos and energy meters come into play to make things a bit more complex, but alas, it controls rather stiffly. You can only move up, down, left, and right. Diagonal movement is not allowed and some attacks are done in a way that, once you begin the attack, it is hard to stop until a combo is finished.

The entire game is just one thing: beating up all the enemies on the screen, then beating up some more enemies, then more enemies show up, then even more, until you reach the boss. Then, you beat the boss and move on to the next level. Rinse and repeat. Already, this is not a recipe for success, but it still could have been a fun game.

Unfortunately, the enemy and level design is horrendous. Enemies take no skill to defeat: just hammer on the attack button until they die. Roll around occasionally if you want, throw in some special moves, whatever, but none of it takes any real skill. Just mash buttons and wander around the arena taking on horde upon horde of idiotic enemies that are all basically the same. It isn’t that there is only one type of enemy, but there are not many types, and all the ones that do show up hardly differ from each other. It simply turns into a mindless grind of attacking the same basic enemies over and over again in the same way.

But fear not that the game is easy. Oh, don’t worry about that at all. The enemies, stupid though they are, have some basically impossible-to-avoid attacks. They are not telegraphed at all, so whether or not they hit you is basically up to luck. Additionally, hit detection is unpredictable at best, and the controls, as stated previously, are a bit stiff.

N3DS_SmashCatHeroes_gameplay_3What this means is that a huge horde of enemies will come at you, you mash the attack button, and all but one in the middle dies. That one comes up and hits you in the face before you realize what is going on or can get away. It turns every battle into a game of chance; you will eventually win, but you will likely get hit in the process. It isn’t skill. It’s just luck. Occasionally, an enemy with a long-range attacks shows up and these can sometimes require a bit of strategy, but it is rare that actual skill ever comes into play.

Bosses fare no better. If you can get in close enough to attack, they will attack you first and you won’t be able to avoid it. It all comes down to who can hit each other enough for the other to die first — or, if you have a full energy meter and can unleash a couple special moves, they die immediately with no effort. No skill needed; if you win, it was either undeserved or pure luck. To put it another way, it is completely unsatisfying.

Here is the real kicker, though: every time you die, you go back to the beginning of the level. Obviously, there needs to be some punishment for death, but it’s just too much. Levels go on for quite a while and when every level is just the same hordes of enemies coming at you, it gets incredibly annoying. Dying on a boss and having to redo the same five minutes of button-mashing to get back where you were is utterly infuriating, especially because — as was said previously — whether you win or lose is rarely up to actual skill.

Additionally, the way the game ups the difficulty is horribly done. Though a harder enemy type is added occasionally, it usually becomes more challenging by just extending the length of the levels. Every level is longer than the last. Nothing else but a background changes — you beat a level, you get to move on to an identical level that now goes on for longer and becomes even more infuriating when you die.

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The game has three playable characters, but the difference between their stats is minimal and they go through the same set of levels, give or take a few changed bosses. Unfortunately, you have to progress through the campaign separately with every character, so unless you want to get all the different dialogue options, switching between them only detracts from the experience.

The game does have upgrades. Enemies drop gold and you get to take the aforementioned gold out of the level, whether you win or lose. These can be spent on adding to health, attack, defense, et cetera, so if you have trouble on a level, you can spend the gold you received from the failed attempt to give yourself a better chance. This was surprisingly well balanced and was the one thing that kept me going through the worst parts of the game. Even when I continuously died at the end of a long level, I knew that, if I kept trying, I would eventually be able to buy enough to let me actually beat it.

Visually, the game is bad. At first, it seems at least somewhat charming, but it soon becomes clear that the backgrounds have had no thought put into them, and the sprites are poorly designed and horribly animated. Musically, it also starts off fine and quickly declines. The music has a nice style to it, but alas, there is only one track and it plays for every single stage. It becomes insanely repetitive, which perfectly complements the gameplay. Fortunately, I never came across any glitches or crashes, so the game is at least playable.

Conclusion

There is no reason to ever buy this game, even for the low price. Boring combat, ridiculously repetitive, overly punishing, poor controls and enemy designs, bad visuals, no musical variety, and few redeeming factors makes this a game very, very few people could possibly enjoy. Do not buy Smash Cat Heroes. It is not fun. It is not a good game. Unfortunately, for once, it really is that simple.

But then again … cat puns.

Written by Jonathan Harrington

Jono loves to play and try out all types of games, but he’s especially fond of those with “Xenoblade,” “Okami,” or “Zelda” in the title. He is a features and reviews editor at Nintendo Enthusiast, though he also dabbles in news.


Pros:

  • Combat can be fun at first
  • Upgrades are well balanced
  • The one music track is pretty good
  • Cat puns?

Cons:

  • Mind-numbingly repetitive
  • Overly punishing
  • Boring combat
  • Visuals are unpleasant
  • A pointless story
  • Only one track

Final Score:  2.5 / 10

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