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Neko Odyssey marries cute cat photography with satisfying sleuthing


A photograph of a cartoon cat's behind in Neko Odyssey. The Eurogamer Wishlisted logo sits in the bottom right corner of the image.
Image credit: Eurogamer/Flyhigh Works

The Internet has been devoted to cats since its very beginning. We’ve had cat focused forums, cat-themed flash games, art and even a website dedicated to pictures of cats in sinks, aptly named Cats in Sinks. Not to forget about I Can Haz Cheezburger and Nyan Cat. (Look I can’t list them all, we’d never get to the video game part.) The rise of social media has brought us accounts, some with millions of followers, solely focused around someone’s cat. If you’re online, there’s truly no escape from our fluffy friends; ‘cats’ is one of the most searched for terms on Google after all. Thanks to this feline fever, you really shouldn’t be surprised when I tell you about Neko Odyssey - an upcoming game all about photographing cats for social media.

Neko Odyssey is set in a town overflowing with cats - they’re on the rooftops, in shops, wandering about the streets - and it’s your job to photograph them all. Each photo you take is automatically uploaded to an Instagram-esque social media site where you’ll gradually gain likes and followers on your journey to obtain online cat clout. The Steam Next Fest demo tasks you with getting your first 200 followers, and the photography mechanics on display here are quite simple. ‘Walk up to cat, take photo, stroke cat if you feel like it’ kind of simple. There’s no need to worry about lining up a shot or worrying about picture resolution like in other photography-based games such as Toem or Pupperazzi. Despite this, though, I had a great time with Neko Odyssey, because while the art of photo-taking might be easy, finding your subject isn’t nearly as straightforward.

The cats of Neko Odyssey are not static creatures. They all attend to their own schedules as the day passes - moving around the shops they inhabit, entering or exiting buildings and, in typical cat fashion, sitting in locations your camera has no hope of reaching. If you want to photograph the well-fed grey cat who frequents the tearoom, for example, then you need to visit during the morning, as it will depart when the afternoon rolls around. There’s also a cat lurking behind a hole in a wall on one street who offers three different photo opportunities throughout the day, including the chance to take a scandalous butt picture when it gets stuck!

Sure, you can spend your time taking bog standard ‘cat sitting down’ pictures, but it’s those unique cat pose photos which really rake in followers. However, hunting these cats down requires you to keep track of their locations during different times of the day - and I can easily see Neko Odyssey becoming one of my ‘Notebook’ games as I scribble down where, and when, each feline ends up (especially since you also have to contend with your character’s ten o’clock curfew and stamina bar, which slowly decreases as you run about town). With these additional factors at play, Neko Odyssey’s focus on time management comes to the fore.

A photograph of a cat rubbing its belly in Neko Odyssey.
A photograph of a cat on a large ball in Neko Odyssey.
A school girl checks their phone and cat social media account in Neko Odyssey.
Image credit: Eurogamer/Flyhigh Works

You can’t photograph every cat in a single day. No matter what you do, you’re guaranteed to miss something - even if it’s just running back home to see your own cat lying atop a watermelon (I’m not joking). Instead, you'll need to take a much more considered approach, familiarising yourself with each cat's routine before you can snap the perfect photo of them. Matters are further complicated when night starts to fall, too. By this time you’ll most likely be running low on stamina and food items to replenish it, but you know what they say… Cats do tend to get up to secretive activities at night, and with the clock slowly ticking towards 10pm, the question becomes: where do you go before you’re forced back home?

I found myself pondering this very conundrum during my playthrough of Neko Odyssey’s Steam Next Fest demo, but even last-minute decisions like this can sometimes yield surprising results. It was 8pm and, since stamina naturally depletes even when you’re standing still, I needed to quickly decide which final shop I'd visit before ending my cat hunt for the day. Even though it wasn’t nearby, I decided to visit the bakery, as I’d been unable to photograph its resident cat earlier as it was hiding under a table. Upon entering, I knew I had made the right decision - the cat had donned a chef’s hat and apron and was rolling some dough. Yes, this does suggest the bakery’s goods are made using unpaid cat labour, but who cares - he has a little rolling pin!

A 2D pixel art scene of a young girl and a cat in a tatami-room shop in Neko Odyssey.
A 2D pixel art scene of a school girl walking down a street in Neko Odyssey.
Image credit: Eurogamer/Flyhigh Works

It was this investigative part of Neko Odyssey which I came to love, as it felt like I was being rewarded for remembering and revisiting certain cats. Part of me still wonders whether I even found all of the unique cats and poses hidden in the demo (listen, I'm tempted to just stop this write-up here and go straight back to Steam to find out, I'm that invested in my cat collecting), and I really hope developer Secret Character build on these kind of encounters for Neko Odyssey’s full release, especially since the promise for more complex photography mechanics is present within the demo. I spied tabs for cat food and toys in the inventory menu, for example, suggesting you’ll need to either entertain or bribe future cats for the chance to photograph them.

A school girl approaches a cat in a baker's outfit in Neko Odyssey.
Image credit: Eurogamer/Flyhigh Works

It’s a shame an aspect of this gameplay wasn’t in the demo, as I think it would have been fun to experiment with - though I am happy it ends with a storyline hint (I hope the cats can talk, I really want talking cats). Still, even though Neko Odyssey may appear simplistic on the surface compared to other, more instantly gratifying photography games out there, its focus on patience and investigative timing is what's really caught my eye here. I’ll be looking forward to its full release later this year, and not just because I’m a sucker for games with cats in them.

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