The video game community has long held a fascination with the detritus of the world wide web. Initially showcased in such niche examples as the discovery of a long-forgotten Space Jam website, eventually the phenomenon known as vaporwave would hit the internet, blending a retro aesthetic, chillout music and memes into one bizarre package. It’s something that was picked up in the game PUSS! from developer teamCOIL.
Initially released for PC and mobile devices in 2018, PUSS! is essentially a puzzle game. The player must get their cat avatar through occasionally labyrinthine one-screen mazes while avoiding the various dangers that each level provides, which covers everything from projectiles to the walls themselves. Now, the game has made its way to the PS4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch.
Before discussing the content of PUSS! it is worth sharing that the game is not suitable for people with photosensitive epilepsy. The title regularly has flashing images and screen glitches, and as such it could trigger seizures in players, so those affected by this should avoid playing it. Thankfully, PUSS! is upfront with a clear warning, unlike some high profile games.
It is a shame that there’s not the ability for everyone to play this game in a safe manner, because PUSS! is an aesthetically-unique experience. Although it’s not the first game to make use of the vaporwave style, it’s arguably the most effective and direct use of it, filled with cute sprite work, rotating 3D models, and shifting pastel and neon colors. PUSS! is a striking game to look at, and there are customization options available to switch things around should the player choose.
Although vaporwave is limited (and many of its fans grew tired of it several years ago), teamCOIL successfully adds some variation in its visuals, too. To balance out the brighter and more garish moments, PUSS! has some darker sections, particularly in its impressive boss battles. Understandably, the look of PUSS! still isn’t for everyone, and it’s often so full on that people will want to take regular breaks – particularly given the routine visual glitches.
The vaporwave feel rolls into the music and sound design too. The score works extremely well, full of chillwave beats and random samples, while the game’s own sound effects tap into that fleeting moment when vaporwave was on top of the world well, with digitized miaows and distorted fuzz when the player takes damage.
Gameplay-wise, PUSS! is thankfully also successful in a lot of ways. Underneath all of its visual layers and deliberate confusion, it’s an efficient puzzle game, with teamCOIL referring to the title as an “avoid ’em-up.” This means forward planning and swift movement to escape the game’s various dangers, and at times it falls into becoming essentially a bullet hell shooter without the shooting – although there are more aggressive gameplay moments in some of the aforementioned boss battles.
PUSS! is not without its flaws, though. Although there’s plenty of variety in its levels, they vary wildly in their difficulty and a steady progression curve isn’t easy to come by in the game, particularly as levels can crop up multiple times for repeat playthroughs. It’s a situation made worse by controls that aren’t quite as precise as they need to be, although it’s never a big enough problem to cause a major issue.
Overall, though, PUSS! is a lot of fun and manages to successfully give players something refreshing. Its levels are never boring thanks to its well-crafted puzzles, and that’s without going into its impressive visual stylings. Players after something a little bit different will want to check it out, even if it’s best played in short bursts.
PUSS! is available now on PC, PS4, Nintendo Switch, and Xbox One. Screen Rant was provided with a Switch download code for the purposes of this review.