Wizzord has kidnapped Owlfriend! We can’t afford the ransom! Only LaserCat can save the day!
Welcome to LaserCat, a love letter to those games you may well have played as a child on a Spectrum or NES. An 8-bit game of exploration and platforming, with a bit of trivia thrown in for good measure. A reminder that you don’t need ambient occlusion, HDR lighting and a 20 square-mile world to have an excellent game. Sometimes, all you need is a simple idea, tight controls and a sense of fun to create something worth a player’s time, and that’s exactly what we have here.
We begin our adventure with Owlfriend being kidnapped by the evil Wizzord, who taunts LaserCat with an insurmountable ransom. LaserCat, being a brave light based feline, has no choice but to brave Wizzord’s devious castle to rescue Owlfriend from his sinister clutches. That’s it, no fancy back story, no character building, just straight into the world, ready for action. This is a nice change of pace from a lot of games with huge preambles. There’s nothing wrong with a solid backstory and well written characters, but sometimes you need something light to get into without having to sit through an epic cut-scene first.
Anyway, into the castle we venture! We are told that 30 keys must be found and returned to checkpoints before finding Owlfriend’s cell to be reunited with our ally. What follows is around 2 hours of exploration, key finding, questions answering (more on that in a bit), silly fun. LaserCat controls simply, with arrow keys handling movement, A jumping, S dropping through platforms and Q and W being used for saving and warping between checkpoints respectively. Personally I found the game easier to handle with a controller, but a keyboard doesn’t increase the challenge by much. The castle is fairly large, with 225 rooms to explore, so warping between checkpoints is a rather useful feature.
That’s not to say that traveling around the castle takes a huge amount of time as each room is the size of a single screen, often with a platforming puzzle to complete. Death in these rooms is fairly common, but you’re rarely far from a checkpoint so it’s no big loss. Each room tends to have a theme to it, or an amusing name with a pop culture reference, such as a room full of vents being called “Come to the castle, we’ll have a few laughs”. Some rooms contain the keys required to rescue Owlfriend, normally through completing a simple platforming challenge. Once collected, you’ll need to answer a trivia question on any number of different subjects, where an incorrect answer means death! Each key has its own question so it doesn’t take too much to learn the answers if you keep getting them wrong. Don’t expect anything too taxing though.
The game looks nice, evoking that classic graphical style of the 80s very well, but modernised enough to look pretty by today’s standards. The rooms are colourful and everything stands out well, with enemies being bright red and platforms you can drop through being clearly marked so trial and error is ruled out. Some rooms are different colours each time you enter them. I’m not sure if there’s a reason for this, but it’s certainly noticeable. The sound is also rather good, with the music standing out as particularly excellent. Clean, upbeat tracks cycle throughout the game without becoming tiresome. This may be due to the game being fairly short meaning the music doesn’t overstay its welcome, but the tracks are rather fun and have that chip-tune style that you would associate with classic games from the 80s, although with sharper sound.
I did come across a couple of bugs whilst playing. In the version I played, I couldn’t jump when standing on a moving platform, making some platforming very hard or impossible. The developer was quick to patch this issue in the Steam version and was resolved. I found some odd frame rate dips when playing in windowed mode. My PC isn’t a spring chicken, but this is not exactly a graphically intensive game so that seemed a little odd. Full screen mode had no such problems. On the whole, the game is fairly stable, and the developer has been keeping tabs on the game and updating it as necessary which is something more developers could stand to replicate!
On the whole, this is an enjoyable little platformer that is a nice reminder of what many would consider the golden era of gaming. It’s a well put together game, with sharp controls and a sense of fun that certainly earns its rather low asking price. At a cost of 80 pence (on Steam) and 2 hours of your time, what have you got to lose? Chances are, you’ll have a good time with it.