MagiCat – If a Christmas Calendar was a game

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This isn’t my first time playing MagiCat as I’ve played it as early as 2018, but never went beyond world 3. There is a reason for this, though I can assure you it’s a personal one and is not reflective of the quality of the game. This time, I made sure to complete the game 100%, including the time trial of every stage before I started writing the review. There is a New Game+ as well, but I didn’t really bother with that as it didn’t seem to change that much to the overall experience. No difficulty modes are able to be selected as well, so what you see is what you get. The version I’ve played is the Steam version with an Xbox 360 controller, with the game also being available on Nintendo Switch.

Isn’t it funny how I talked about never being a mage in games in the last review, yet here we are again? Well to be fair, any genre that isn’t an RPG usually doesn’t give me much of a choice. MagiCat is a game I’m glad I found back in 2018 because at the time, I never heard of it nor did I ever see it appear on the store when looking for 2D Platformers. Good thing the activity tab on Steam exists so I can stalk people see what other people play, have brought, or reviewed. MagiCat is one of a few results of it, as the cute pixel art style immediately enticed me–particularly because it reminds me very highly of a Japanese-exclusive Super Famicom game in terms of graphics: Do-Re-Mi Fantasy – Milon no Dokidoki Daibouken. It’s not similar in any other way though, but the colourful graphics are basically one-on-one. So I was excited, bought it, played it, and… dropped it after doing two worlds. Though I guess I myself am to blame here for that, as I was enjoying the game. I guess I just wasn’t in the mood for it at the moment. Now I was though, so let’s remedy that and give MagiCat an actual try!

Usually with reviews, I post a ”history and trivia” section–especially with Indie games. As hard as I tried however, I could not find any worthwhile information regarding the development of MagiCat, or information about the developer Kucing Rembes. The only thing I found was a YouTuber called Magicat with the exact same cat as the profile picture, but I honestly have no idea if this person has anything to do with this specific game to begin with since there are literally no references made to it. If anyone has more history on the development of this game, please feel free to let me know and I’ll make an edit to the review to add it in!

The game starts with the most Oscar-worthy of dialogue: a cat meowing, and a monkey replying with ”ook ook”. I was certainly taken aback by this wondrous display of conversation, and can’t wait to learn more about the other animals the cat meets across their journey, complete with this amount of dialogue.

All joking aside, we obviously don’t play a game like this for the story. A monkey with a top hat and cape (but unfortunately without a mask. We were this close to having Tuxedo Monkey) steals some random magical stone, and the cat wants it back. It doesn’t get much deeper than that and frankly, that’s alright; I didn’t expect much more than that from a simple platformer that doesn’t have a deeper meaning. There is a specific way to actually get normal dialogue, but you will have to find that out yourself. Frankly though, it won’t really add that much.

MagiCat Cutscene

Once this cutscene ends, we gain control of our kitty here who has all the moves a cat has in real life too: an infinite array of hairballs to spit out, a flutter jump, and a mid-air dash. …What do you mean ”that’s not how cats move in real life”? Anyhow, our unnamed kitty is fun to control overall, so that part of the game is already solid. Combat is also enjoyable due to the hairballs not going in a straight line but instead in a slight arch, so there is more emphasis on positioning for our kitty cat. I’m just going to call them Charlie from now on by the way, otherwise I’ll get a song about kitties stuck in my head.

Charlie technically only gains one optional new improvement to the dash and that’s about it for our protagonist. After all, they don’t need much else in terms of abilities due to how the levels are structured. Every level can be beaten without dashing once, which is even encouraged due to the score multiplier at the very end. While I would normally laugh at a scoring system and move on with my day pretending it doesn’t exist, it’s actually quite important in this game. You are rewarded a consumable currency called paws at the end of a level, relevant to the first two numbers of the score. These can be used to revive at the exact spot you died in a game for example.

Every level can be beaten without dashing once, which is even encouraged due to the score multiplier at the very end.

Other uses these paws have are overworld abilities that need to be brought from shops. I genuinely love this overworld, as it is designed for a user to skip levels and make it to the end of the game as fast as possible. There are a few trees blocking your path to the next level in sight, meaning you have to do four levels to walk around to it? Nah, screw mother nature! Or what about making a bridge to connect to other islands? Because I’m a completionist that has to do every level, I didn’t skip any of the levels and had way too many paws near the end of the game. So I did the next logical thing and built a bridge from the first level all the way to the end. Spoilers, it worked!

The overworld is a prime example of how this game is designed because there are two approaches: the collect-a-thon platformer, and the game suited for speedrunning. You unlock the time attack for a level after beating it first, where you are most likely attempting the collect-a-thon aspect, so let’s cover that first.

Every level is basically split into three separate screens, with each of them housing the main collectable being red gems. These are another currency and are used to buy the before-mentioned overworld abilities, the dash improvement, and a few other buffs like the ability to heal mid-stage. They are often locked behind puzzles related to that level, which brings me to what is probably the main point of interest for MagiCat: the level design.

What makes the level design unique in this game is that every level–and I mean every single one of them–has a unique platforming gimmick to them that’s prevalent in the genre. It’s not as notable in the first few levels, but you’ll come across one quickly that has switches to toggle the visibility of walls for example. The first screen introduces you to the gimmick, with the second- and third screens getting a bit more advanced usage such as having these walls be over bottomless pits and spikes. Finally, every stage ends with a mini-boss that also uses these particular gimmicks in the battle itself.

What makes the level design unique in this game is that every level–and I mean every single one of them–has a unique platforming gimmick to them that’s prevalent in the genre.

While not all gimmicks are perfect *cough* darkness level *cough*, I enjoyed the majority of them. And due to how the levels are set up, learning how these gimmicks work is an absolute no-brainer. But while the idea of having a separate gimmick for every level sounds brilliant on paper, I also felt it was a bit… formulaic? You learn the gimmicks, execute them and move on, just to never see them again. The core platforming challenges, aside from these gimmicks, don’t really change that much. The best way I can describe it is that it feels like there’s a lack of progression, simply because the structure is always the same. There was only one level that differs from this structure called Moon Shield, which was a single-screen low-gravity puzzle level that you have to go through in a specific order, and this is probably also the most memorable level as a result.

What also doesn’t help is that the variety in enemies is very low, with mini-bosses just being bigger variant of these enemies. The enemies that appear far more frequently than others are the slimes and bat… cubes? Bat cubes. Anyway, these offer little to no challenge as slimes don’t attack, and neither do the bat cubes really. Only very seldom do you need to use a stage gimmick to kill them, like anti-gravity. This is a shame because these enemies just aren’t fun to fight against due to them offering not even an ounce of resistance. They have the tendency to have after-death effects later on, but this doesn’t change the enemies themselves–frankly, it just makes them more annoying. Mini-bosses do have it a bit better due to them literally being designed around the stage gimmick, but they’re still slimes or bat cubes very often and execute the exact same movements as a result.

MagiCat Miniboss
This boss is quite clever, and that usually remains the case.

Thinking about it, I truly feel like the enemies have more impact on the level design becoming formulaic than anything else. This is because when doing the time trials, you don’t really have to worry about enemies unless they are in your way, and you don’t have to face mini-bosses either. It’s probably my speedrunner nature talking here, but I genuinely had quite a lot of fun getting through these stages as fast as possible. Like I mentioned before, the levels are structured not only for collect-a-thon purposes, but also for going through them as fast as possible. Due to Charlie not having to worry about the collectables, they can just easily skip by them and ignore most of the level in favour of getting through them quickly. Heck, Charlie can even ignore most gimmicks because the usage of the dash, unlike normal playthroughs, is encouraged now.

The dash is also a good example of how this game allows you to set your own difficulty without actual difficulty modes involved. Now, I am personally of the opinion that MagiCat isn’t that difficult of a game, yet I see many people contradict that opinion so I don’t know what to think anymore. Regardless, it is not encouraged to use the dash in the stages due to the multiplier, but it is in no way restricted–especially given that I had more paws than there are cats in this world near the end. This would also make some gems far easier to get and yet again, nobody is stopping you. It is completely up to you whether you use the dash, buy abilities from shops, and more since the levels themselves can all be done without any upgrades ever. And fortunately, you can’t abuse the dashes infinitely either as they require MP, restored through limited bottles in the stage that are also used to create your own checkpoints once every screen.

Playing MagiCat feels like opening a Christmas calendar every day of the month; for each one that you open, there’s a new level with unique gimmicks- and puzzles. This completely negates the effect of the game feeling repetitive over time, though unfortunately, it doesn’t do enough to prevent the levels from becoming formulaic–even if they are well designed. In a way, they are all structured the same with three screens and a boss, with the gimmicks differentiating them from others. The enemies also barely change over the course of the game and are not fun to fight against as a result, with the mini-bosses being slightly better due to them using the stage gimmicks in their fight. That said, the ”formulaic” level structure also makes speedrunning a joy, which is encouraged with each level having a time trial and the flexible overworld allowing the player to skip levels. The controls being satisfying further helps in making this game a fun one to speedrun. Finally, MagiCat does a good job at allowing the user to select their difficulty without a difficulty mode being involved, encouraging them not to use the dash but not restricting or punishing them in any way for doing so. While I probably won’t revisit this game quickly for completion again, I am definitely not objected to speedrunning this adventure in the future.

8.5

Nepiki's Rating

Overall rating

Game Score
8.0
Fun Score
9.0
Positives
  • Every level is a new and unique gimmick, with mini-bosses at the end also using said gimmick.
  • Really fun game for speedrunning, encouraged in multiple ways.
  • The cat protagonist controls smoothly.
Negatives
  • Levels tend to be formulaic due to a strict design.
  • Enemies are pathetic and don't change over the course of the game.

And that’s a wrap, thank you for reading! MagiCat is one of those games where I didn’t really understand why I disliked specific parts of the game during my playthrough, but reviewing the game made it all the more clear to me. That said, I still highly enjoyed my time with this hidden gem of a 2D Indie Platformer, and I can’t wait to see more from this developer as their core approach to level design is a good one. If I’m ever getting into speedrunning again, MagiCat is definitely high up the list.

I should prepare for #MonthOfSonic already, but there are still one or two articles that I want to get out before then. Wish I could activate my speedrunning skills for writing but oh well! Hopefully until next time!

What is your favourite gimmick that is commonly used in (2D) Platformers?

For me, I definitely consider anti-gravity to be up there, or low gravity. It technically doesn’t change much to the core gameplay, but also feels different enough to be an actual gimmick as jumps are way higher, on controls are upside-down. Definitely not for everyone, but I like it personally.

Element-changing gimmicks are also fun. The one where you can’t cross over lava, but toggle a switch and hell gets frozen over. Celeste actually had a pretty good level with that!


Does this genre interest you? If so, I have multiple other Platformer reviews ready for you!

About author

Nepiki

A gamer and writer at heart who wants to combine his hobbies into one. I am 25 years old and I'm from the Netherlands. Having played many games over the years, I wanted to express my love for them, however obscure they may be!

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