Imagine you see a kitty hanging around in your backyard for the past few days, poor thing. Without a collar and wandering aimlessly, you put down some food and a little red ball. Fifteen minutes later, you look out the window to see a semi empty bowl and your new furry pal playing with the toy. You’re ecstatic and decide to call her Snowball.
This is the premise of the simple yet addictive Japanese iOS/Android game Neko Atsume (roughly translates to gather the cats). You make your backyard cat friendly by purchasing food and toys to tempt neighbourhood cats to visit. They in turn will offer payment in the form of silver and gold fish which can then be used to buy higher quality food, better toys and house extensions.
Neko Atsume focuses on the joy of pet ownership and creates a world for those of us who just like to see animals happy, peaceful and grateful. A world where there is no illness, conflict, negative repercussions, and most amazingly, no litter trays!
From the moment you put down your first bowl of food your, subconscious wills you on to check your virtual backyard, not because of guilt, but to seek comfort. It’s a recipe that works somehow and has managed to develop a huge following of Japanese-illiterates to stumble around the cute interface in their pursuit of kitty nirvana. If you ever thought that buying bonuses in a game like Candy Crush was silly, this game just might tempt you to dig out your wallet to purchase some of the fancier cat towers and think that is perfectly reasonable behaviour.
Here’s a quick instructional series to help get your backyard bustling and the fish delivered asap!
After you download the game, you will be given a bowl of food and red ball. A little white cat will come and visit. Your screen might be covered with a lot of Japanese text, not to worry; exit the game and open it again. You’ll find that you are given 300 silver fish and 10 gold fish to spend on enticing cats to come to your backyard.
All your kitty needs can be bought by pressing on the green (basket) button. Once you have made your purchases, you select where to put each item by pressing the yellow button. Now it’s a waiting game, you might want to exit the app to conserve your battery for the many more times you’ll be checking on your virtual cats.
After and hour or so, you might find that some kitties have taken a liking to your hospitality. Once they have used the facilities, they will leave you some fish as a thank you. You can cash them in to spend straight away (if you have enough) or hold on to them and save for something better. To collect the fish, press the blue (fish) button or the Japanese text next to the gold fish on the bottom of the screen.
And that’s the basics. You can also take photos of the kitties and give them names in their profiles. To take their photo, press on the camera icon. Each cat has a profile page which you can access by pressing the pink (cat button). Tapping on the individual cats in your yard will also take you to their profile.
Eventually, you’ll get “special” cats visiting and somtimes you will receive gifts other than fish. We haven’t gotten that far yet but this scenario already has us checking our yard every few minutes.
Neko Atsume is adorably addictive and impossible to really explain why it’s such a joy. This is pressure free gaming with little disappointment, a lot of suspense and surprisingly great payoff. You have been warned, now get out there and put out some food for those lucky neighbourhood cats.