Puzzle games have come a long way since Columns, yet here's Nekoburo to offer a refreshing take on a classic. Full of kitties, humour, and new gameplay twists, this Vita puzzler is definitely intriguing. Should you let this stray into your home? Grab your catnip and let's see.
If you've ever played a Columns game then you know what to expect when it comes to Nekoburo's gameplay. Three cats descend the playfield at a time while you move them and rotate their formation in order to match at least three of the same colour horizontally, vertically, or diagonally when they land. However, this isn't your ordinary Columns clone since there are quite a few complexities that actually make the game much more satisfying. The most notable aspect is the power-up system. Cats with symbols over their heads can perform such stunts as eliminating entire rows and columns, exploding all surrounding blocks, ridding the playfield of all similarly coloured cats, and even wiping out every single block in sight. Things start to get tricky when special blocks emerge that require you to make matches with adjacent cats while some can only be destroyed by unleashing power-ups. To make this easier to deal with, you can hold up to two earned power-ups at a time by simply tapping the shoulder buttons. Talk about a fantastic way to reinvent a classic formula!
Believe it or not, Nekoburo: Cats Block actually has a story. A dorky girl stumbles upon a square cat hiding in a box and feels compelled to keep it. Little does she know that this cat is part of an alien species. Over the course of the game, whenever she leaves her house and returns, she's surprised to see yet another kitty pop up. If she only knew that the cats were using her TV to teleport their pals over then she probably would've never adopted that poor doe-eyed stray in the first place. When you combine this silly premise with the sharp and vibrant visuals, an overwhelmingly humorous and adorable setting is established. Even the way the playfield is rendered at an angle is cute and adds some enjoyment to gameplay. The audio which consists of a bubbly soundtrack, endearing sound effects, and a wacky Japanese voice cast helps to further shape the lighthearted atmosphere. This is quality cuteness for sure.
Nekoburo: Cats Block consists of two main gameplay modes. The first is a story mode with each of the fifty stages being a challenge that'll have you accomplishing feats like clearing a certain amount of cats within a time limit, executing a specific power-up successively, or simply trying to survive before the time runs out. Every ten completed stages will reward you with some hilarious cutscenes and other goodies. Besides these challenges, an unlockable survival mode will test how truly skilled you are as you try to beat your high score over and over again. If you're looking to relax then you have the option to visit your room that you can decorate with unlockable furniture and play with your cats using a variety of toys. This may not provide any long-lasting enjoyment, but it is fun watching the little furry fellows romp around. You don't have to hog the kitties all to yourself, however, since you can show them off on the big screen as this game is fully compatible with PlayStation TV. Viewing the collection of comics, videos, and pictures is always more amusing with friends.
The only downside to Nekoburo: Cats Block is the fact that there isn't enough gameplay content. Apart from the story and survival modes, there is a lack of substantial replay value. Of course, you can play survival repeatedly to outdo your previous efforts and work your way through the story challenges again to try and get better ratings (while unlocking additional content), but that's all you can do. Also, there are no online features which would have offered some motivation to better your skills and climb the leaderboards. In the end, there may be a lack of modes and online functionality, but that shouldn't deter you from giving this puzzler a try.
Nekoburo: Cats Block is one of the most impressive portable puzzle games that I've ever played. If you own a Vita or PlayStation TV and love puzzlers (and/or cats) then I highly recommend downloading this meowsterpiece of a game.
- + Awesome classic puzzle gameplay with new power-ups and twists
- + Manages to be both cute and hilarious
- + Wonderfully vibrant visuals and audio
- - No gameplay content besides the fifty stage story mode and a survival mode
- - Online features such as leaderboards are unfortunately absent