Gotta love a game that does what it says on the can. Hackycat lauds itself as the ultimate in cat-kicking simulators, and that’s not a lie. It provides precisely what a mobile game should: Charming aesthetics, simple but fun gameplay, and a host of levelling and social options that extend gameplay to a surprising extent. It’s not even just one of those games you recommend to support Australian indie devs – it is genuinely worth it for its own sake.
No prizes for guessing that this game is about kicking cats, and keeping them in the air for as long as possible. Before you call the RSPCA though, the presentation is not in any way mean or cruel, and it’s not likely that kids are going to go out and try it themselves. The art design is very cartoony, with light background music in the menus and cute meows from the cats on each gentle foot-nudge. Unlockable Hackycats have a lot of personality (Hipstacat is a personal favourite) which suggests some of the attention to detail that has gone into this game. All this makes it completely approachable and about as non-violent as a cat-kicking game can get.
The core gameplay requires you to tap on a cat in mid-air, and keep it aloft with continued taps. More cats parachute in, increasing the challenge: Eventually it becomes quite frenetic with four or five cats in the air at once. If a cat hits the ground, it’s game over. So too if you accidentally kick a pink bird that periodically flies across the screen (apparently they’re an endangered species). More strategic taps on either side of the cat, or a flicking action, will send it in a particular direction, which is useful for collecting the rows of cheezburgers that appear. (See what they did there?) Once you have collected enough of these, a “Superkick” target appears which allows you to launch a cat out of the gameplay space entirely, thus reducing the pace somewhat.
Of course, all this is sharable via Facebook, and a whole variety of upgrades are possible with in-game currency. Of course the inevitable microtransactions allow you to cut corners here, but they feel completely unnecessary unless you genuinely feel like supporting the developer. For example, you can “adopt” new cats (some of whom give bonuses per appearance), or unlock new players (up to three) and new environments (also three). An in-game XP system also unlocks special bonuses which make it easier for you to keep your cats aloft and score points, and a quite sophisticated scoring system revolving around combos and low kicks encourages as much skill-honing as possible using tap-screen mechanics. 38 mini-goals encourage you to work towards achievements that earn you in-game currency, and there is quite a sophisticated statistics tracker as well. Online leaderboards seem to be the only missing element in an otherwise complete package.
Let’s be honest, you won’t get 200 Skyrim hours out of Hackycat, but as far as it goes it is a charming, diverting mobile game that has much longer-term playability than you would expect. Check it out for only a dollar, even if just to show other people and see their reactions. Oh and it definitely attracts attention on the bus.