Cat Cafe Manager, developed by Roost Games and published by Freedom Games, attempts something complicated. It aims to not only be accessible and relaxing but to still offer the depth and options fans expect from management sim games. Additionally, it attempts to keep things simple enough for newcomers to the series to have an easy time slipping into running their own cat cafe while offering enough depth and options in the endgame to keep things interesting for hours on end.
For the most part, Cat Cafe Manager is successful in doing so. The game begins with players coming to a small town where they inherited a lot that their grandma used to run a cat cafe on for years. However, when they get there, the lot is nothing but a massive open space of possibilities. The player is given some starting supplies to make a modest starting establishment. As you play, your cafe will steadily expand to become a sprawling complex of different themed rooms, bathrooms, kitchens, and areas to keep your cats happy and healthy.
To get there, you have to appeal to a handful of different types of customers. Each one pays in a different resource, from fish and gems to lumber and fabric. The number of resources can be overwhelming at first, but once you get used to them, it is manageable but can get annoying. You can change your advertising to attract different customers to get the resources you’re looking for. The system works to encourage players to accommodate and interact with every type of customer, but having to balance so many currencies never gets less cumbersome.
Each type of customer is introduced to the player through a regular. Regulars are fleshed-out characters representing each type of customer and have a story that players can learn about as they get to know them better. Doing so also rewards the player with unique decorations that will satisfy the regular’s associated type of customer. These characters all work well enough, but they aren’t as memorable as they could have been. Instead of having the depth or charm of characters in games like Stardew Valley, they feel more like one personality trait stretched thin over fluff dialogue and small talk.
While the decorations given by your regulars help keep customers satisfied with their experience, you also need a diverse menu and an array of cats to do so. Menu items cover the standards you would expect, like coffee, teas, and sandwiches. However, each item requires you to have ingredients purchased with the currency gained by serving witches and a specific piece of kitchen equipment like a fridge or coffee machine. This mechanic is simple enough to be approachable and works well, but it requires players to constantly serve witches to stay on top of their ingredients.
On the other hand, cats are recruited by putting food outside of your cafe, attracting three cats each time. Players can then interact with one of those cats each time they come to earn their trust. After a couple of times, they will trust you enough to move in with you. Each cat comes with a trait like going to the bathroom less or giving food to other cats. Each cat also has preferences for certain customers, making them more likely to interact with them and make them happier during their visit.
During all of this, players walk around their cat cafe to take orders, make recipes, serve them to customers, repair equipment, and clean up after the cats. This gameplay is enough to keep players busy, and players eventually get skill points to level up how quickly and at what quality they can do all of those tasks. When the cat cafe gets too big for just the player to handle, there are employees to hire that specialize in cooking, serving, and cleaning that automates things and make it more manageable as you start having dozens of customers to work through at all times.
Once players get into the rhythm of Cat Cafe Manager, it has an even flow to it that is as relaxing as it is smooth. Watching your cat cafe slowly expand and customizing its decoration is very rewarding. The experience is only hindered by its mechanics’ more clunky elements and lack of meaningful endgame content. However, the game is a perfect jumping-on point for newcomers to the genre.
Cat Cafe Manager is available on April 14 for PC and Switch.
Cat Cafe Manager
- Rating - 6/106/10
Watching your cat cafe slowly expand and customizing its decoration is very rewarding. The experience is only hindered by its mechanics’ more clunky elements and lack of meaningful endgame content. However, the game is a perfect jumping-on point for newcomers to the genre.