This year, as part of GDC, I was lucky enough to get an early look at Cat Cafe Manager from Roost Games. I was shown the first thirty minutes of the gold version of the game to get an idea of what players can expect when they first begin their journey.
The story begins with the player’s custom character arriving in a small town that loves little more than a good cat-pun. The player has traveled there after inheriting a plot of land from their grandma, who once ran the town’s most popular hangout spot: a cat cafe. So what is one to do with that land other than making a cat cafe of their very own?
Upon arriving, a strange older fisherman is inexplicably at the lot. He runs the player through a brief tutorial on building the first incarnation of their cafe from a small selection of walls, floors, and a box of rundown starter furniture. There isn’t much, but it’s enough to serve three guests at a time and sell them literal glasses of tap water.
It is then that the player also gets to pick a feat and their first cat from three options each. Each of the feats makes the player more proficient at one task, whether that be cooking, serving food, or cleaning up. Each cat also has its own defining traits. They look unique, have a preferred type of customer, and have a special trait, like going to the bathroom less often or adding food to the bowl for other cats whenever they eat.
With that said, your punny cat cafe is ready for business. Once your doors are opened, you’ll start receiving your first customers. When each comes, they’ll sit down for a while, and then you’ll have to take their order, make it, and then serve it to them. This is the time management part of the game, and it gets especially more complicated when you unlock more recipes. With over 30 unique drinks and food recipes to unlock, each with its own steps, ingredients, and equipment to make, it’s a good thing you can hire employees for additional help for each task.
As you play through days, you’ll also receive upgrade points to spend on your character and employees. Spending those points will allow them to move more quickly and deliver higher quality service and food to ensure customers leave satisfied.
After you open up, you can also put out food in a dish to attract stray cats that you can eventually adopt for your cafe. Once the food is in the bowl, you will attract three strays every once in a while that you can pet to grow closer with. Once you build a close enough bond, you will be able to adopt them and have them move into your cafe.
Over time, you’ll attract new regular customers that each represents one of the types of customers in the game and have a personal story you can unravel as you interact with them. There are goths, vagabonds, fishermen, and more. Each type of customer prefers different decorations and drinks while paying in a unique currency. Each of those currencies can then be spent at various stores in the town. Fish are used for cat supplies, fabric for furniture, and so on. So, if you’re looking to buy a specific type of item, you can change your cafe’s advertising to attract particular types of customers to get that currency.
Cats also have different preferred customers that they will interact with more frequently. This means that you’ll need to gather a mixed herd of cats to make sure that every type of customer gets enough interactions with the cats to leave happy.
As you play, you’ll also be able to keep upgrading and expanding your cafe until it gets exponentially larger than when you began. Customizing your cafe with various decorations and furniture is a blast, and there are plenty of options to make it match your tastes. Seeing your cat cafe grow from a small shack to a sprawling, super cafe is extremely satisfying, especially thanks to how gradually you grow it over time.
Cat Cafe Manager manages to find a delicate balance between resource management, time management, and pure relaxing vibes. I personally cannot wait to jump into the game when it launches and build a cat cafe for myself that I can put my own twist on and become proud of as I learn about the residents of the town and live out my inner dream of being a crazy cat lady but in a socially acceptable way.
Cat Cafe Manager releases on April 14 for PC and Switch.
Arron is a writer and video editor for But Why Tho? that is passionate about all things gaming, whether it be on a screen or table. When he isn’t writing for the site he’s either playing Dungeons & Dragons, watching arthouse movies, or trying to find someone to convince that the shooter Brink was ahead of its time.
March 20, 2023