I originally planned to write about a smaller game, but that’s when I noticed the post-count. This post right here is the 100th post for Indie Hell Zone! Wow! A real milestone! To commemorate this, I felt that a larger game would be more appropriate for the occasion!
Hustle Cat is a visual novel by Date Nighto. I’m pretty sure I got the game a year or so ago from a Humble Bundle. I originally got it because I’m a sucker for cat people – turns out the game isn’t about cat people but people that could turn into cats. Close enough.
[All bracketed, gibberish text are spoilers that you can re-translate through ROT13 if you wish.]
You play as Avery Grey, a person staying at their aunt’s house while trying to look for a job. While out on the town, they find the Cat’s Paw, a cat cafe run by a strange man named Graves that just so happens to have an opening. Avery lands the interview and gets acquainted with all their new co-workers, which is pretty nice except for the fact that employees of the Cat’s Paw are cursed to turn into cats when outside of the cafe, which kinda puts a damper on things. And so, Avery sets out wanting to fight the curse, getting involved with the world of witch magic and the lives of their co-workers.
Avery can be loosely customized at the beginning of a playthrough. They can be given short hair or long hair with different skin colors; regardless, Avery looks pretty androgynous. You can also choose what pronouns Avery can identify as, but for the sake of simplicity (and because I’m the one who played it), I will refer to Avery as “they.” As a result, the game can be as gay as you want it to be. I also dig their design because their clothes are kinda evocative of wizard robes, which is rather appropriate with the stuff in the late game.
Hustle Cat’s narration is told through Avery and for an avatar character, they’re actually fun to read. They’re a huge dork that likes to joke around and gets easily flustered. They are also a huge mess, to the point that [jura gurl ernyvmr gurve zntvpny cbgragvny, vg’f va gur sbez bs znavchyngvat genfu]. I can also relate to Avery on a personal level, because I too was just a gay person playing video games at home before finally landing a job (which is a large reason why this article is late). Some of my favorite dialogue is when they’re roasting other characters, especially Graves.
Your co-workers are Landry, Finley, Mason, Hayes and Reese, who have kinda adapted alright to the whole cat curse thing. There’s some conflict in that being a cat has improved the lives of some of the characters. Hayes, for instance, is a boy with anxiety issues that embraces being a cat as a form of coping. Of course, this is not Swery’s The Good Life, so Avery does not want to be a cat. As they find themself embroiled in the world of witchcraft, they wind up dating one of their co-workers and dealing with their problems.
Doing the character routes are pretty standard. You get choices throughout the game to spend time with characters and your lucky guy/gal ends up being the one you hang out with the most. Only the secret route requires more thought and you don’t have to worry about that until you’ve done all the others, so go wild. [N guvat gung V yvxr nobhg Uhfgyr Png vf gung gur znva fgbevrf bs gur ebhgrf raq fvzvyneyl – rira gur frperg Tenirf’ ebhgr gung erdhverf nyy gur bguref gb or svavfurq. Ab znggre jung, Nirel ubbxf hc jvgu gur punenpgre jubfr ebhgr lbh’er va naq qrnyf jvgu gurve ceboyrz, gurl qvfpbire/cenpgvpr zntvp gbtrgure, qrsrng gur ivyynva naq oernx gur phefr. Gur ubjf naq fcrpvsvpf bs gur pvephzfgnaprf ner qvssrerag, ohg abar bs gur ebhgrf ner jung V pbafvqre qrsvavgvir. Jubrire lbh jnag gb ubbx hc jvgu, lbh’er inyvq.]
The secret route is my favorite, though part of that is because of the build-up to it. Out of the normal ones, I’d consider Mason’s my favorite. Gotta admit, I love stoic characters opening up and showing a softer side, I’m all about that shit. The weakest route, in my opinion, is Hayes’. All the characters have conflicts, but his conflict is with himself – and that conflict is pretty self-evident when you meet him. He’s cute but there isn’t as much depth to his route than the others. Aside from him, the routes are alright and Avery’s dorky narration keeps things entertaining.
The art is generally pretty bright and colorful, which fits the general mood of the game. Also, I dig the designs of the characters – especially the witches. I appreciate that the witch characters are designed to look as weird as possible, [rfcrpvnyyl Anpug, jub ybbxf yvxr n shpxvat navzr svtugvat tnzr punenpgre.] Backgrounds are also a pretty big thumbs up for me.
The music is also generally neat, which I didn’t expect that to be an aspect I’d be into. For me, the best theme has got to be Walkabout. It’s just so energetic and upbeat and it carries this “seize the day” vibe that I honestly need in my life right now. I’m kinda divided on the game’s main theme, because it feels a bit silly to me with the singing, but after a few playthroughs, I sort of started appreciating it in the same way I appreciate Kingdom Heart‘s Simple and Clean.
Hustle Cat is a delightful visual novel that takes several hours to play (though this also counts the time I spent fast forwarding through scenes I already went through). It’s not exactly complex, but it’s a nice lighthearted read. Its base price is $19.99, which I feel people may balk at. However, I had a good time and I think it’s something casual visual novel fans will enjoy.