Cat Girl Without Salad: Amuse-Bouche Review
April Fools!!! But not.
Cat Girl Without Salad: Amuse-Bouche is a game with a surprisingly storied history – granted, it’s not a particularly long story to tell. Way back in 2013, developers WayForward put out an April Fools image advertising Cat Girl Without Salad: Amuse-Bouche as their new over-the-top, wacky shoot-em-up game; but it was only ever really intended to be an April Fools joke. Well, that is until the June 2016 Humble Bundle came around, where the full game was included for free and actually published by Humble on PC. This was a very limited release, however – so after June 2016 there wasn’t really an easy/legal way to play the game. That is until now. The game has now seen its first commercial, public release on the Nintendo Switch on April 1st, 2020. That’s right, the game came full circle as an April Fools joke image to a full eShop release 7 years later.
Cat Girl Without Salad: Amuse-Bouche is, in some ways, exactly what it purports to be – it is indeed an over-the-top, wacky schmup. You play as Kebako, an intergalactic bounty hunter (with cat ears) and her faithful sidekick Squiddie. You’ll travel through space on a 2D plane, shooting all enemies in your path as you reach your ultimate bounty which manifests in the game as boss fights. Each level of the game takes place with different themes to both backgrounds and enemies, and there is fully voiced dialogue throughout.
You start each level with a particularly underwhelming, underpowered peashooter of a weapon; but along the way, you are picking up extremely creative powerups to beef up your arsenal. This includes an RPG Gun (which allows you to select Final Fantasy-esque options from a menu), a Dance Gun (where you essentially play DDR to get super-powerful attacks), an Arcade Gun (that basically makes a Pac-Man facsimile show up on screen which you control independently from Kabako), along with a couple more. These are easily the highlight of the game, and the creativity behind them should definitely be applauded.
That being said, the game itself isn’t too much to write home about. For every aspect in which it shines, there are at least two criticisms to be leveled alongside. The gameplay feels pretty good; but a lot of the weapons can feel unintuitive to use, and some of them seem worth avoiding as they can be active detriments. The art is nice and colourful; but it also isn’t particularly interesting, and a lot of enemies are simply palette swaps which were given more health. The music is fine; but the sound effects can be pretty grating, and sometimes the audio stops completely. Kabako is a cute character who is well voice acted; but her dialogue is extremely grating, and if you ever die, you’re going to have to hear a lot of it over and over again.
The game throws its entire weight behind its “omg so random” brand of humour, complete with vocalized versions of memes (I mean, your arch rival is named “Cat Grill”), absurdly awful attempts at being self-aware, trying to make Kabako swap between appearing to be an aloof imbecile and a genius, as well as many other eye-roll inducing moments. She kind of feels like all of the worst parts of Tiny Tina from the Borderlands series; but perhaps even more frenetic. The characters are talking pretty constantly through each of the game’s three levels (yes, three whole levels) and there is no checkpointing.
The game isn’t impossibly hard; but it is definitely hard enough to where you’ll lose enough health while figuring out patterns that you’ll probably die. If you die right near the end of a level, you have to play through the entire thing again, all while hearing the exact same dialogue. They are at least somewhat merciful with the boss fights, however. If you die once you reach the boss, you can spend some of your score to start the fight over with full health (which is a pretty cool idea).
A lot of these criticisms about the game are ultimately dependent on your tastes. Maybe the humour isn’t for me, and someone else would love it – that’s totally valid. Maybe palette swaps are awesome, and I’m just being hyper-critical – could be! However, it has a few aspects which make it objectively hard to recommend. I ran into a few gamebreaking bugs, which is rough when the whole game is so short that it can be beaten in a single sitting (about an hour). On my very first run of the very first level, the game wouldn’t detect my input – I couldn’t move, nor could I shoot. The system-level buttons worked fine, so the joycons had not disconnected. I had to restart the game within the first couple minutes just to play. There were also moments with significant slowdown, along with audio bugs where the audio would cut out completely at random.
Ultimately, Cat Girl Without Salad: Amuse-Bouche is a game with a charming legacy, and I’m genuinely glad it came out; but I also can’t really recommend it as anything more than a novelty. I most definitely wouldn’t have been so critical of it had it come along for free in a Humble Bundle; but when looking at it as a standalone $8 game which is just okay and doesn’t really have replayability (unless you mute it and go for high scores with the post-credits unlock for weapons), I can only really suggest giving it a watch on YouTube and to check out how cool and creative some of those powerups look.
- Solid gameplay
- Extremely creative weapons
- For real, the weapons are cool
- Very bad writing and dialogue
- Extremely short
- No real replay value