Dunedin-based company Runaway Play has created a new mobile game that lets you dive head first into the cat café phenomena. The verdict? Chill, but addictive (and very, very cute), writes Jihee Junn for The Spinoff.
Two decades ago, the first ever cat café that we know of opened in Taiwan before quickly spreading in popularity throughout large parts of Japan. Since then, cat cafés have become somewhat of a mainstream novelty; so much so that you can now run a virtual one all from the palm of your hand.
And while Furistas Cat Café is by no means the only mobile game that's based on the concept, it's certainly one of the better ones out there. Even better yet, it's made by Runaway Play, a games developer and publisher based right here in New Zealand.
"We designed the game so that it would feel good - you're supposed to feel a little bit happy and productive when you log into the game," Runaway's creative director Emma Johansson said in an interview late last year.
"What I hope is that it can give you kind of a warm feeling and calmness while you are doing it… a lot of time and energy is spent maintaining the games' beautiful, relaxing and quietly addictive in-game mechanics."
And while Ms Johansson was talking about Runaway's butterfly sanctuary game Flutter at the time, the same could easily be applied to its newest offering.
The premise of the game is simple: you adopt cats, pair them with customers, and collect baskets full of goods which allow you to level up. There are various admin tasks that need to get done to keep the café up and running, like serving drinks, cleaning floors, and giving lonesome kitties a pat on the head.
You can also decorate your café with cat-themed furniture, although there's no incentive to do so other than wanting to pretty the place up. Luckily, emptying the kitty litter isn't an option - some things are better left in the real world.
There are daily tasks you can complete that earn you various types of currency to use in the game, like completing the 'Barista' Café Duty 15 times or pairing 50 cats up with 50 customers, which are all easily achievable goals if you check in every few hours.
Notably, there are no Candy Crush-style games or high stakes challenges that you can do to let you level up faster, which might make it boring for some, but it's actually what gives the game its zen, leisurely quality. No angry customers if you don't serve their drinks straight away; no crying kitties if you can't be bothered patting them.
With that said, it's still a thoroughly addictive timewaster, and luckily, nowhere near as soul/life/money consuming as some simulation games (I probably spent upwards of $30 on Township alone last year).
Another thing Furistas has over its simulation counterparts is that all the cats are just extremely f**king cute. They sit on their bums and lick their tummies, they make biscuits with their paws in a fit of post-cuddle pleasure, they do little blips (or bleps, as the internet likes to call them), and have names like Bon Chan, Muffin, Salem, and Mochi.
Apparently, they're all based off real-life pets, and Runaway is running a competition for cat owners to have their own fuzz-balls immortalised in the game.
Runaway says the message behind Furistas is to encourage ethical pet ownership which makes sense if you think about it, but will likely go amiss for most people playing the game. But regardless of whether or not the larger message gets across, Furistas is an impressive step in the right direction for the Dunedin-based developer.
Real life cat cafés have found an audience among the tired, stressed and weary. Furistas Cat Café might just do the same.