Cat Girl Without Salad

The new Humble Monthly bundle contains a game written specifically for the bundle and available nowhere else. That actually isn’t new; the previous three bundles had similar exclusives. But this time, instead of a slim piece of indie nonsense, it’s a slim piece of nonsense by an established company: WayForward Technologies.

I’ll always think of WayForward mainly as the perpetrators of a couple of terrible puzzle anthologies licensed from Games Magazine, but they’re probably better-known these days for the Shantae series, platformers starring a kooky bellydancing genie. Cat Girl Without Salad is clearly descended from that, despite being a shoot-em-up instead of a platformer. It takes the “kooky girl” aspect and turns it up a few notches. There’s so much kooky banter in the game that it can’t be limited to the cutscenes, and instead plays out nonstop while you’re playing the game, providing an extra distraction. I’ve commented before on similar talking-orthogonal-to-gameplay in Advent Rising and GTA, but I think this is the first time I’ve seen it done in a shmup.

More than that, though, the wackiness even affects the core gameplay, which is where humor in games belongs. The basic idea is that your weapon power-ups all imitate different genres of game. So, for example, you can collect a “platformer gun”, which fires little man who runs rightward and jumps when you press the fire button again, or a “dance gun” that fires much more powerful bullets when you hit buttons in time with a DDR-like arrow cascade, or various other things. Note that you still have to dodge incoming fire while playing these minigames. It’s long struck me that the fundamental challenge of the shmup is paying attention to two things at once — that is, aiming at enemies while dodging their bullets. Bullet Hell shooters de-emphasize aiming in favor of dodging. With its complicated weapons that require more attention that just firing them, Cat Girl Without Salad does the opposite.

Apparently the whole thing started off as a joke, an April Fool’s Day announcement from a few years back that promised “elements from several gaming genres, including puzzler, platformer, shmup, action, shooter, adventure, strategy, fighting, rhythm, arcade, horror, tactical, RPG, TPS, RTS, and visual novel“. I’m generally down on April Fool’s Day on the Web, but every once in a while, this happens. Someone decides to take their outlandish claims and make them real, or as real as reality allows. And that’s a good thing.