Catmaze – Review
Follow Genre: Metroidvania
Developer: Redblack Spade
Publisher: Ratalaika Games
Platform: Switch, PS4, PS5, PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S
Tested on: Switch

Catmaze – Review

Site Score
Good: A solid but unremarkable take on the genre
Bad: Minor issues with hitboxes
User Score
(0 votes)
Click to vote
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0.0/10 (0 votes cast)

Given the current global situation, it feels somewhat odd to take a look at a game that hails from Russia, but we can hardly hold a one man indie studio responsible for the war, not to mention that we’re also reviewing games from Ukranian developers of course. We’re not a political website but one dedicated to bringing you reviews and news after all. It appears that Spanish publisher Ratalaika Games is of a similar mindset as they brought Catmaze to consoles and provided us with a review code, so that we can give our opinion on it. If you feel like the game isn’t worth your hard-earned cash because you simply want to boycott Russia, that’s entirely fine of course, but if you want an unbiased viewpoint on whether or not you should buy this game, then read on.


Developer Redblack Spade puts a lot of emphasis on how Catmaze’s tale has its roots in Slavic mythology. Slavic folk tales have become a more frequent source of inspiration for game developers of course, from Mira’s fairy tale world to the folk tales of Yaga. Here, the focus is on Alesta, an apprentice witch, and her familiar Lad, a bat. The pair live in a small house, together with Alesta’s mother. When an evil spirit takes residence in the house, Alesta’s mother becomes sick. It’s up to Alesta to go on a magical quest to find Plakun-grass, a mystical herb that allows the summoning of a Domovoy, a protective spirit that will drive out the evil spirit. This is of course easier said than done, because between Alesta and the Plakun-grass stands the mushroom army of the evil Borovik. Ultimately, Catmaze’s main arc is a thinly veiled coming-of-age story about a young apprentice witch that matures as she faces the hardships on her way. We should mention that the game’s text was originally written in Russian and that the translation isn’t perfect, leading to some awkward idioms and sentence constructions.


With Catmaze having Slavic origins, you’d expect the game to look similar to games like Mundaun, or Yaga, and thus feature gritty, hand-drawn art. Of course, that presumption has to do with specific stereotypes that we’ve come to associate with media hailing from this region of the world. It’s also entirely wrong in this case, as Catmaze looks colorful, bubbly, and perhaps most surprising of all: anime-inspired. The majority of Catmaze’s visuals consist of cutesy pixel art, although the hand-drawn portraits shown in dialogue scenes wouldn’t look out of place in titles from Japan. We should note that there has been a bit of controversy regarding these portraits too -allegedly, by request of Sony, the original art was replaced by more modestly dressed designs. We don’t know if the art rework was implemented in the Steam version from 2018, but the Switch version of Catmaze appears to be using these newer images as well, in order to get a lower age rating.


The cute and bubbly atmosphere of Catmaze visuals can also be found in the whimsical soundtrack. This didn’t surprise us as this is a fairy-tale-inspired game after all, and although the narrative can get dark at times, the overall ambiance of the game emulates the feeling that this is a children’s book come to life. Unfortunately, there is no voice acting to be found here -which is a missed opportunity as a single narrator could’ve done the trick without breaking the immersion- and sound effects aren’t anything to write home about.


Beneath the fairy tale exterior of Catmaze, you’ll find a solid but standard Metroidvania platformer. Levels are filled with tons of secrets and areas that you can’t reach early on, but as you progress and unlock new magical abilities, you’ll be able to reach these when you revisit them. The Metroidvania design is also where the titular cats come into play: when you spot a cat, your best course of action is to follow it as it will guide you through the maze-like area (get it?) towards secret areas. Apart from the addition of these handy felines, Catmaze doesn’t really shake up the Metroidvania genre. There are the obligatory boss battles, there is a plethora of powers to unlock, and of course, a lot of back-tracking. The game is fairly challenging, so fans of the genre looking for a new title may find that Catmaze can scratch their itch, but it may prove to be a bit too much for newcomers, and there definitely are areas that could be improved upon.

The powers that Alesta has access to at any given time depend on the familiars that she has equipped. She can equip two of them simultaneously: one for melee attacks and one for ranged attacks, and these can be swapped freely at any given time. Ranged attacks tend to be more powerful but they use up magical energy, which can be replenished by picking up orbs that are scattered throughout the level or by heading to the in-game shop. Here, Alesta’s aunt Voronikha sells potions, powerups, and amulets that unlock new abilities. Revisiting Voronikha’s store is often key to progressing, as the assortment on offer regularly changes as you progress through Alesta’s story.

As we mentioned earlier, there are a handful of gameplay areas where the game could have used some more polish. Hitboxes and collision detection occasionally felt off. At first, we thought this was just us, but as we got better at reading the telegraphed attacks of the mushrooms, we noticed that we occasionally took damage without actually getting hit by an enemy. A minor design flaw that we felt was needlessly frustrating was that items dropped by enemies aren’t static drops. Instead, they’ll bounce away, and there is a good chance you won’t be able to pick them up if they bounce off-screen or into a pit. None of these grievances felt game-breaking, and the fun we had definitely outweighed these negative points. Catmaze isn’t a particularly long game either, clocking in at roughly 8-10 hours, depending on how much of a completionist you are. Luckily, the price reflects how short it is, so if you’re a Metroidvania fan, it’s definitely worth looking into.


Although Catmaze isn’t a perfect game -or even one that really stands out from the plethora of Metroidvania games out there- what it offers is definitely worth the price of entry. A solid but standard take on its genre, wrapped up in an adorable fairy tale package, Catmaze is sure to please fans, although it’s probably not the best introduction to newcomers. Despite its cutesy appearance, it offers a decent amount of challenge, which doesn’t just come from the handful of minor technical issues.

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0.0/10 (0 votes cast)
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)

No Comments

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.