Super Phantom Cat (officially Super Phantom Cat: Remake – though it’s a remake of mobile game Super Phantom Cat 2, rather than the first game – confused yet?) is a bright and colourful platformer starring the eponymous feline – a white cat named Ari, who sports a lightning bolt on his chest – on a quest to rescue his sister Ina, who is kidnapped by aliens in the game’s opening scenes.
It’s clear straight away that Super Phantom Cat has been made with a lot of passion. The vibrant colours and simple, cartoony visuals give the game an immediately appealing look – the animation and character design, though deliberately very basic, is very cute and full of neat touches. The main character’s idle animation, for example, sees him pull out a Nintendo Switch to play on. The enemies are similarly infused with a nice level of character; some are aggressive and will charge towards your character, others are shy and – somewhat inventively – may even pretend to be flowers until you’re a suitable distance away from them.
The soundtrack is similarly bouncy and joyful and – though a tad repetitive in some places – complements the visuals nicely.
Though the game starts off as a very basic platformer (I keep using that term, but developer Veewo somewhat cutely refer to the game as a ‘Catformer’) with a number of secret areas to discover in the levels, it quickly evolves into something more challenging. Powers are slowly revealed – there are five to discover, with the ability to grow climbable vines on otherwise inaccessible walls (the ‘Plant’ power) being the first, followed by the ‘Blink’ power – which gives the player the ability to phase through walls. The three further powers to unlock are: Slam (a ground pound-style ability), Ice (exactly what it sounds like – a freeze ability) and Resize (which allows you to change the size of enemies).
Levels, though short, are filled with secrets and unlockables for the completionists out there. Chests, unlocked with keys that can be purchased from the player’s Base (which itself is locked after the third level is reached), can contain coins or character ‘shards’ – once you’ve collected enough of a specific character’s shards, you can unlock them to be used instead of the usual player character (a white cat named Ari). In all, there are 35 characters to unlock. The level designs are clever and there are often multiple paths to the end, requiring several playthroughs to uncover everything they offer. Growing out in a variety of directions, secrets are hidden in increasingly devious places in the stages as you progress. Even levels themselves are sometimes revealed with the discovery of certain chests, which adds extra, often unexpected, stages into the mix.
It’s not a perfect game; the feedback from being hit is a little too slight – and it can sometimes be a little too punishing for what, at first glance, looks and feels like a breezy, casual platformer. Buying keys and mixing potions – which can be done at your base – isn’t given much attention or explanation and was something I stumbled upon almost accidentally, after going through a number of levels without any chest keys at all. There are also moments where a hole will lead to instant death – and, with levels expanding up, down, left and right, this can sometimes feel cheap. The final level of each area also sees your character auto-running through a very challenging stage; the auto-running is more of an annoyance than anything, though – and it’s a relief to get back to being in full control of your character after these levels are cleared.
These are small grumbles though, really. Especially given the price – there’s a wealth of content and a decent amount of challenge here. Though small in scope, it’s clearly the work of some very talented developers – there are surprises, clever level design and cute touches in abundance here. Super Phantom Cat seems to have found a good home on the Switch, with the short bursts of play and vibrant visuals perfectly suited to the console.
Developed by Veewo
Release Date: 2017
Platforms: App Store / Google Play / Nintendo Switch Steam (Early Access)