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Catmaze is a Low Budget Metroidvania That Feels Way Better Than It Looks

Catmaze is a Metroidvania that's made its way to consoles after a few years of positive steam reviews. It's got a low-budget look, but feels wonderful to play!

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Geek to Geek Media was provided with a review copy of this title.

Catmaze describes itself as a Metroidvania inspired by Slavic mythology. I am always hungry for another 2D world to explore and find games directly inspired by lesser-represented mythologies super intriguing. Even with that, my eyes glazed over every time I took a look at Catmaze.

Despite its pitch, the game just looked cheap to me. The in-game screenshots and the larger character portraits just didn’t jump out to me at all. On top of that, I just recently picked up Axiom Verge for the first time, so I really didn’t need another Metroidvania…

And then of course I decided to try it out anyway. I can honestly say that Catmaze feels, looks, and sound like a budget title, just like I expected… but also it has totally distracted me from Axiom Verge!

Cats and Other Creatures

Catmaze has really nice environmental art, but the character art is a bit lacking.

Catmaze has you stepping into the shoes of a Witch who battles enemies exclusively through familiars. Instead of being able to attack directly, you can equip a melee and ranged familiar, which function as different attacks. This fits really well with the Metroidvania format because new familiars act as your abilities to access new areas.

Catmaze has two slots to equip different familiars as attacks.

So far I've got a bat familiar which I can swing in front or below me as a melee attack and three different ranged abilities. There's some sort of bug who scuttles across the ground and explodes, a flying creature who spits fireballs, and a trio of hedgehogs that circle around me and knock out bad guys. Obviously, the hedgehogs are my favorite.

The checkpoints in catmaze are big cat shrines.

Then there are the cats. I haven't actually brought a cat into combat yet, but they've come up throughout the story. Cats act as guideposts in this game. Anytime you see a cat you should follow it because it will inevitably lead you to a new ability or area to explore. More directly, I ran into an old lady who needed me to round up her wayward kittens so that they could teach me how to navigate a Lost Woods-style labyrinth.

I'm not even a cat person, and I love the cats in this game!

Budget Blues

Catmaze has solid combat, but the enemy designs are kind of bland.

I still really do not like how Catmaze looks. Well, specifically, I really dislike how the characters in Catmaze look. The backgrounds are pretty nicely detailed and there's a good variety in the locales that you visit. Detailed pixel work helps each area to really feel lived in.

Shrines let you gain temporary stat boosts in catmaze.

The characters, on the other hand, are bland. The sprites feel like placeholders that were dropped in to get a game running before the final art was completed. They aren't specifically bad, they just aren't really very remarkable. This applies to the main character, NPCs, and most of the enemies.

Even the designs of bosses don't thrill me. They are nice and big and chunky, but they feel like they are missing a pass of details.

This all became especially evident when I entered a mysterious forest and ran into these ghoulish creatures that look amazing! If every enemy and character in the game looked like these guys, I'd have jumped at Catmaze much sooner!

Final Thoughts

I've still got a lot of Catmaze to play!

I have really found myself engrossed in Catmaze. It's a game that looks and feels a bit cheap, but the gameplay loop works really well. It's a bit more straightforward than a lot of other Metroidvania games, but sometimes that's kind of nice. I'm not sure if I'll end up seeing it through to the end, but I'm delighted that I tried it out. If you are in the market for a low-impact 2D action-exploration game, this one might just do it for you, too!

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