Cat Cafe Manager Review
Welcome to Cafe Purrfect!
Publisher: Freedom Games
The beautiful thing about games is that some of them let you live out your fantasies, whether that be being a fearsome, awesome dude, someone with amazing abilities (that may or may not be high schoolers), or someone that more or less is managing something perfectly (or trying to manage something perfectly and miserably failing). For me, I sometimes fantasize about owning my own cat cafe, so when I see a game aimed towards having a character that opens one and manages it, it grabs my attention. Especially when the game has a straightforward name like Cat Cafe Manager.
Cat Cafe Manager doesn’t have much of a story past giving you a reason for you to be there as well as some bit of conflict that has happened since you were last living in the area. It has been years since your family moved to the City and you are finally returning to a small countryside town named Caterwaul. The only family member that stayed was your Grandmother and it wasn’t until you were moving back that you learn that she was running a business which you seemed to have inherited. However, as you get to your Grandmother’s building, you just see an empty plot of land with an old man standing there. It turns out that the building was damaged a “teeny bit” by a storm (my definition of a teeny bit of damage differs from him it seems) and the old man is Bonner and was a friend of your Grandmother’s. He helps you initially set up your cat cafe before going back to manage his own store.
In addition, you quickly learn about some ancient cat shrines. You get visited by a mysterious cat named Grimalkin who takes you into a forest clearing where four cat shrines are at. He tells you that the Delight you bring with your cafe has helped the shrine and he asks for you to continue doing so. Of course, you do, and you do get rewards for doing so. These shrines are technically upgrade trees as there is a shrine for Cats, Food, Decoration, and Service. You can set one of the incomplete, but available to select, shrine goals and the Delight points your customers gives off will go to the goal (and it even keeps track of leftover delight so it’ll carry over to your next goal). Once you complete it, you get the rewards. The rewards range from giving you more things available in the shop for your cafe or cats to raising the maximum amount of cats, chairs, or staff you can have in your cafe. You can actually get Delight pretty quickly.
Starting out, you get to name your new cat cafe, some currency to start out with, pick out your starting trait (giving you an advantage in either Cooking, Cat Care, or Service), and a cat that you start out with. I named mine Cafe Purrfect (I needed a cat pun name okay), started out with the Cooking trait, and choose the cute, fluffy black cat with a tiny tummy. My cafe started out as a small cozy little cafe with the limited amount of materials and furniture you get to start out with. And with the new cafe built and everything set up, it’s time to open for the first day and for many days after that.
Every day, from 7am to 7pm in-game time, your cafe will be open for business and the costumers will come rolling in. The amount of customers you can have at a time is dependent on how many chairs you have set out (and specifically chairs facing a table). If you have an empty chair, a new customer will come in and after a while they’ll be ready to order. And then all you have to do is go to the kitchen equipment that lets you make it, make it, and serve it to them. Though, there will be more and more to do as the days go by and you upgrade your cafe and get more tables and chairs. Of course, having more chairs will mean more customers to serve, but sooner rather than later you’ll see that they’ll want food that you haven’t even gotten yet (though they’ll just order a substitution), will want to chat with you, want to go to a bathroom, and will need higher stats in the decorations they lean towards and cats with stats favoring their customer type. I do think this ramps up too quickly, it could be a bit slower, but it also could also be taking into account on how I was unlocking things as well. This all factors into their satisfaction meter which will give you Delight points and more currency the higher their satisfaction is. At least you can hire on staff to help you with this workload.
Oh and don’t forget, that you’ll need to clean up any messes your cats make, fill up their food bowl when needed, and clean up their litter boxes. As well as making sure they have enough toys and scratching posts. Having dissatisfied cats is not a good look for a cat cafe after all.
The staff (including you) and the cats gain experience points by just doing their thing and once the bar fills up, a point will become available. While these points are shared, the amount of EXP needed to get one doesn’t change and only the amount of points needed to level up does (to a max of 3 as of time of writing). This does get spread out thin when you get more staff and cats, but it isn’t too bad. The cat’s EXP goes up slower, but the EXP for you and your staff goes up pretty fast. The only time you’ll really be hurting is when the stat requirements to not do an action slowly raises (which I can’t tell if it’s based on how many days you’re in, how far you fixed up the shrines, or maybe both). These points can then be used to level up yourself, your staff, and your cats. For you and your staff, putting points in particular skills will get them to be more efficient and thus do the task quicker. Like raising your Cooking skill will let you cook food faster or raising the Service skill will let you take orders, serve, and socialize with your customers quicker. Sometimes even a trait slot will unlock and you’ll be able to choose between three which may be a straightforward trait or one where it’s dependent on the time of day or how many items of a certain furniture type you have. For cats, their stats more leans towards their appeal to a customer type. They all start with at least two that they appeal to and the more points that goes into it, the more appeal they’ll have to those customers, with their traits either giving them a boost with certain customers (or unlocking it if they didn’t appeal to them before) or something useful as an owner like not needing as much food.
When hiring staff, I did find it odd they would only have low Service and Cooking skills, but they do have a chance of you having an option to give them a trait that gets them to clean and socialize with customers. I did find it a bit weird, as I was looking for someone specializing in cleaning, but at least they’ll eventually get it. However, if you don’t have a recipe that a customer is asking for, they won’t try to take that order so it can be quite hectic until you get all of the recipes. And sometimes your staff will also just stand there even though there’s a customer right there ready to order. I do wish you could assign staff to only do something like serving customers or cooking, as they zero in on only one customer needs chain at a time, but once everything is in perfect sync it’s great and all tasks that only you can do is cat related or calling in a Regular. I went from having to run around catching orders that the customer originally wanted something I don’t have yet and socializing and all that, to the staff being mostly on top of it before I even got over to the customer or to my kitchen area.
Also, after I already fully repaired the shrines, adopted all the cats, and got all the recipes I found out there was a menu that you can display 13 recipes on. I don’t know how significant this is, as I went through the whole game without using this mechanic, but it does seem like it’s a way to limit what recipes you’ll make for the day. Towards the end of my playthrough I noticed that none of the orders asking for soup or stews were going through (and by go through, I meant that it was doing a substitution instead) despite having it and while I thought it was a bug at first, it turned out to be because of the menu mechanic.
Every customer will fall under six different types, with the different types having their own currency in the form of resources. While I’m still neutral on this aspect, I did end up not really finding it much of a problem most of the time. Vagabonds will pay with Fabrics so you can buy chairs and tables, Witches with Nectar so you can buy recipes and ingredients, Artists in Jewels that can be used towards decorations, Fisherfolk with Fish so you can buy cat stuff, Punks with Materials so you can expand on your cafe, and Businesspeople with Gold so you can buy the more extravagant items. Though, items will often require you to have enough in two different resources, like while litterboxes are essential for cats, it is also considered a quality item so it’ll need both Fish and Gold.
Luckily if you need a specific resource, like say you want to expand your cafe, there is a mechanic where you can choose to only advertise to the customer type you need (in this case, Punks) and they’ll be the only customers to come through the door. This doesn’t affect how many customers you’ll get, only the amount of chairs do, but the ability to advertise to specific customers does help you gain the resources quickly. Though, I wouldn’t recommend not advertising towards Witches as their Nectar is used towards ingredients.
Each customer type will also have a corresponding Regular which you’ll befriend throughout the game. Every day you’ll be able to call up one Regular to come over to your cafe. Your friendship with them will rise with how much Delight they end up getting and they each have a short storyline attached to them that gets unraveled with each friendship level increase. Some do share some aspects, like how a company is trying to move in and buy up the whole town and some are friends with each other, but they have their own things going on. Like Arwel is the Punk Regular who is, well, a punk but he’s pretty passionate about cooking and totally doesn’t care about having friends; Carla-Lalla the Witch who is trying to decide what to do with her life; or Finley the struggling musician who works on her music while in the cafe. Each friendship level up will also give you a gift from them as well.
Of course, you need cats for a cat cafe, so where do you get more? Well, you technically lure strays to you and take them in. If you have room to take in another cat, you can buy a lure to put into the food bowl outside of the cafe. This will then draw cats twice a day, until the lure is used up, and you can slowly gain the trust of a stray until they fully trust you and you get to adopt them. Different cats will come depending on the type of lure you get. Most lures will attract 3-4 different cats, but special lures (which may or may not be rewards for having max friendships with Regulars) will attract special cats. Each cat has a unique starting trait, unique look and name (which you can change), and certain customers they appeal to starting out. All these cats are so cute and a lot of them have some really useful traits.
While you can upgrade to be able to hold more cats, you won’t have enough room to hold all of them. It’s hard, but if you want to bring in more cats you’ll have to give your current ones forever homes. This is easy enough as you just have to go to the bulletin board and pick the owner that the cat has the highest type appeal to. You will even get Delight, and you get more the higher the stat is, though there’s not that much fanfare when you give a cat a forever home like there is when you adopt one.
Though, at least pre-release, I did notice aspects that could be improved and some that I felt was a bit weird. Apart from what I’ve already said like giving cats a forever home strangely lacking the same fanfare you get when adopting cats and how the staff AI is, this really needs more organization and labeling. Furniture are in sets and considering some traits take furniture types into account, I felt like I needed some type of label so I don’t have to guess what set they’re a part of. As well as a way to organize by furniture type in stores/menu. I also wanted to sell furniture, but as of writing you can’t and while you can get enough money to get what you want in a day or two (as long as you advertise to those customers), it did feel a bit like I was wasting money. I didn’t find a way to take off doors or windows without deleting that part of the building, which is weird considering you can buy different doors and windows (though I could have missed it). Once you give cats forever homes, I would also love if you could organize the list with the cats you have on top (or an option to only show your current cats).
I do hope the developers are planning to put in at least QoL improvements, but in terms of bugs I have seen patches coming in so it’s as bug free as it could before release. In fact, one of the things I found weird was that Grimalkin just didn’t show up for me after his initial appearance, but it turned out to be a bug and after one of the recent patches it fixed it and all of his appearances he was supposed to have when completing a shrine was queued up so I can see them (as well as get the achievements associated with this progress).
If you want to play a really chill management game where you not only manage a cafe, but a cat cafe, Cat Cafe Manager would be your cup of coffee. There are still some improvements that can be made, Cat Cafe Manager is oddly addicting. There is a lot to like here, from all the different cats you can get, to the addicting aspect due to days only being a couple minutes (without much pausing), to the Regulars, that I will definitely recommend this to those that like chill management games.