I realised I don’t think I’ve posted a review of a game for a while and I recently found this game while looking around on YouTube at Let’s Plays and I thought I’d do a bit of a review. I will try to remain as spoiler free as possible, anything spoilerish is stuff that happens within very early stages of the game rather than any actual plotline information and explains what the game is about that makes it a bit different. If you want to avoid that then you probably shouldn’t read below the read more bit here.
Hustle Cat is dating sim game published by Date Nighto, basically you’re Avery Grey, you don’t get a choice in the name but you do get to choose which pronouns you want to be used in the game. There are six different character models, or rather two with three different skin tones, and you can use any combination of them with any pronouns. There are five characters, initially, that you can choose to go after with three of them being male and two female. They each have certain character traits, as with any dating sim, and they have a nice range of looks as well.
This game is £14.99 on Steam and from what I’ve read has an average of 10 – 15 hours gameplay, though I did kind of rush through the five main routes after the first one or two using the fast forward feature and I think I’d say it probably skipped half to an hour for each with an added hour and a half for the bonus storyline. Looking at my Steam account it says that I have played for 8 hours, though it was quite rushed in parts so I’d say 10 is probably about right if I wasn’t or if I’d waited longer between each storyline. Now the slightly spoilerish bits might start so don’t keep reading if you want to avoid anything, though I promise nothing too spoilery or anything that isn’t revealed really early in the game.
The idea behind the story of this game is that you’re Avery Grey, someone who is living in their aunt’s apartment while she is away and you have no job at the start. The main story is all based in a cat café, where you get a job, and it’s around the staff there who are the romantic interests you can follow. This isn’t just a normal cat café though, there is magic and witchcraft in this story which does add a bit of a twist and some action in there rather than just being a standard try and catch the cute people kind of dating sim. I did like the addition of this magic but there were parts of the storyline that I felt could have been extended as part of an option, there’s a hint at something fairly near the beginning that seems like it’d lead onto a big story but it disappears. This does become part of the story later but it would have been nice to have an option where it developed a different way. I know this sounds cryptic but I’m avoiding spoilers and anyone who has played it will probably know which bit I mean.
The characters you can choose are fairly stereotypical in a way but they do have some depth to them. There’s Hayes the shy guy with glasses who can barely look at you half the time, Landry the big friendly guy who reminds me of a puppy, Reese is the sassy guy who is secretly shy (maybe shy is the wrong word but he’s cute when you go down his route), Finley the pretty, flirty girl and Mason the quiet strong girl chef who, again, has a softer side. All of the characters have something a bit different about them, whether it’s an unexpected love for video games, collecting pretty rocks or knowing about magic. Each of the different routes does build on the story so it’s one of those games where you want to play them all to build up knowledge on the world itself not just the characters. Also, and this is probably slightly spoilery so skip right now to the next paragraph, they’re all so cute as cats, proper little talking cats, though I have to say I think Hayes is the cutest as a cat and I just want to hug him, though that’s also true in general.
You may have noticed the sixth person in the picture of the characters and that’s Graves. He’s the secret route when you finish the others and the one I kind of wanted all along so maybe the reason I ended up rushing the others. I will go back and play them again but I just wanted to see what the goth guy was like and he didn’t disappoint. His storyline brings it all together and explains the magic side of it, plus he’s just a nice nerdy guy and a fun route, for me anyway. It seemed the least rushed of them as the whole storyline was around the magic rather than any of the other things that were added to the others’.
When it comes to the different storylines with the different characters this dating sim is different to a lot that I have played in that once you’ve started a route you can’t really fail it when you’re beyond the point where you can see which one you’ve ended up with. When you want to talk to someone at a stage in the game the person that you talk to in the basement is the one you’re going to be heading towards and from then on you can’t change and I think there’s only the one ending for each. There are two bad endings but each of them is obvious when you’re going to do it and there’s a great autosave feature that means you can go to the most recent one and change the choice as it’s very quickly after your choice is made that you get the ending.
I’m the kind of person who likes to play through without a walkthrough and see if I can get everything like that but will go look for them if I fail, which did happen with me for Landry as I failed three times and gave up before searching for the right answers. The co-creator/writer has written one with the different choices you should make for points for each character. It’s over on Tumblr and can be found here so it’s useful for you if you need to know exactly which options to choose at each point, the rest of her Tumblr is interesting to read with the Q &As if you have already played or don’t mind spoilers. I did find that, after the first two go throughs, I pretty much knew which to pick for each of the other characters, they were fairly easy to guess and the only reason I failed Landry was because I was accidentally choosing ones that gave the others points without realising it, which I probably should have guessed by the fact the still images were showing up on the screen for the other characters but I somehow missed that.
I really like the art in this game, it has got the anime style, like a lot of dating sims, but the stills that you save in the gallery seem more hand drawn and a bit different than in others. There aren’t many backgrounds, then there aren’t many settings in the game, and they each look good and show enough of the area that you get a good idea of what it’s like. I do like how in the interior for the cat café there are different positions for the cats at times, they move in between the scenes so you have different cats on the sofa or sitting on the floor. I also like the range of expressions on the characters, there are quite a few different gestures and poses for each as well as different expressions on the same pose with the more standard poses.
One thing that I really like is the choice of pronouns and the fact that any of the characters are mix and match with any of the pronouns. However, as there are only two body models really and they are the same apart from hair length, you can check by going into the gallery and you choose which character you want in the art which is a nice touch but shows only the face and skin colour change, it means you don’t have a very masculine man or a very feminine woman in there. Your character is androgynous which is good in some ways as you don’t get stuck with an ultra feminine character like in some but at the same time I know some people are put off by the fact it’s hard to see the difference between the male and the female character picture. This doesn’t really both me and I know it would have meant quite a bit of redrawing for those pictures which would add a lot of work so I understand why they did it, it’s just something that’s worth mentioning as I know it seems to have been one of the negatives in reviews so if that would bother you then this wouldn’t be the game for you.
Gameplay time for this is good but I think that it could have been improved by making it a bit longer, I know it would have made more work but some of the storylines seemed a bit rushed to me as if they tried to fit so much in and keep the storyline down the two hour mark. A lot of the storyline is exactly the same for each of them, beyond the point where the character is chosen. Some of the biggest events are identical, no changes in the wording at all and there’s a fair chunk of dialogue in the one especially so there was a lot of it I had the fast forward going on. In some ways the fact that it’s the same bad guy and the same event but different ways of solving it is nice and keeps all the stories together but at the same time it would have been nice for maybe these encounters and explanations that are the same to vary slightly, even if it’s the same art but using different words would have ended up with the same outcome.
Although it is technically a dating sim and you do have the different people to choose from there aren’t all that many choices to make and they’re all two option choices, apart from the interview at the beginning which has no impact on any character other than Graves so do what you want there. It’s more of a visual novel with some different options to take but they don’t actually impact the game as in you can’t fail it without it being really obvious that you will, one example pretty much has a second are you sure you want to do this type option to back out and keep playing.
There aren’t really any controls, you have to click on the option you want and the various things like settings, fast forward, save, check the recent dialogue and exit to main screen are all easy to see at all times. I did have a bit of trouble with the fast forward not really working at times, even knowing how it worked it seemed a bit temperamental so I was having to click through quite a bit of dialogue I wanted to skip.
The music in the game is ok, it’s nice enough and it’s pretty relaxing to sit and listen to while you play so it does go with the idea of a nice relaxing game to play but it doesn’t actually stand out as a great soundtrack. The title song has a lot of autotune in it, which does kind of distract me, but it’s a nice enough theme song. Again it doesn’t stand out or get stuck in my head like some of the in past games but it only comes up at the beginning and you can skip it if you want. Plus it’s not too long so you don’t have to sit through two minutes or so of it building up and showing some of the scenes from the game itself (something that does annoy me with some of these dating sim games when they show the main pictures or scenes, like a trailer for a movie).
Overall it’s a fun dating sim, it’s shorter than a lot I have played but at the same time it is cheaper than quite a few of them unless you get them in Humble Bundles or other offers. If you like cute storylines with a bit of magic and plenty of cats thrown in then this is worth checking out. Especially with the fact that you have both male and female romantic interests, the inclusion of the choice in pronouns including they/them, and the bonus with the extra character (who is my favourite at the moment). I think this will have replayability, I have replayed Graves already, but it’s one that will be sat on my computer for a while until I forget the storylines a bit rather than one I feel like replaying knowing exactly what will happen.
I do love these dating sims with a bit of a twist, or possibly in this case a visual novel with options and a bit of a twist. I have played quite a few but are there any that you guys would recommend? Preferably computer ones as they’re generally easier to get but any suggestions would be appreciated. I never know how to find the good ones as there seem to be so many poor ones out there.
In case you want to see more of the game without buying it I watched some of the playthrough that Dodger and Octopimp did, it’s why I bought the game in the first place, which you can find here. There are others on youtube, a quick search will find others too I just liked this one and it’s still going I think.
Final thing, a little disclaimer, that all of the images are copyright to Date Nighto, as far as I can see, and I am using them in a review under fair use. If you want me to remove them from this post then I will 🙂