Purrfect Date is a cat dating sim, but it's not like that. There's a little romance, sure, but there's also drama, mystery and a fair bit of humour, twisted together in a cleverly-unfolding tail. Tale. Sorry.
That one might expect Purrfect Date to be a game about having sex with cats is understandable given the creative way developer Bae Team has presented it. From last year's Steam Greenlight announcement (featuring Gabe Newell, sort of) to today's launch trailer, feline sexcapades have been teased... through song, mostly.
Well, set those expectations aside. Far off to the side. Maybe burn them.
Purrfect Date opens with the player accepting a position as a research assistant on the mysterious Cat Island. Working under the esteemed Professor Pawpur (get used to cat puns), the player is tasked with helping catalogue the indigenous feline population, treat the sick, and run various lab tests.
But all is not what it seems. In the middle of their first evening on Cat Island, the player is lured to the a no man's land on the other side of the land mass, a place where aggressive cats roam and a strange, weakening sickness affects any human that wanders too close. After passing out during an attack, the player awakens on the beach near where they arrived, surrounded by friendlier felines. Felines they can now understand.
Your dating choices have arrived! Well, most of them.
The player's character has been infected with a strange disease that, given time, will transform them completely into a cat. There is no known cure, but with a lab on the island and a science background, maybe there's hope.
From there on out, it's up to the player how they want to spend their days. They can do research for Professor Pawpur, though once three research projects are completed their time on the island comes to an end. They can perform recon, searching out clues to the islands various mysteries — where did the cats come from, how come no other animals are on the island, how the hell is there a cat-transformation disease and how can it be cured?
You're eyeing the first choice there, aren't you? Yes, the player can date cats, but it's about spending time with them. Bonding. Attending their needs. For example, the Sphinx cat, Snooty Booty, is an older female cat that's quite vain. But after a few dates, she begins to open up to the player character. It's a wonder what some coconut oil and nail polish can do.
I've dated five of six cats in the game so far, and while things do get a little suggestive with the painfully Irish mixed crossbreed, McMurphy (a hard-drinkin' cat), it's generally clean fun.
But all fun must come to an end. After the third research project is completed, the player character must leave the island, or at least end their time as a research assistant. Not to worry, though. There are six characters to choose from, and the story isn't complete until the player's taken them all on.
Each new assistant arrives on the island, gets infected with the cat disease, and goes through the task scheduling process. Each time a new character is played, progress on creating a cure for the disease progresses, and the mystery of what exactly Professor Pawpur is doing on Cat Island is closer to being solved.
For a game that Bae Team has mainly put forth as a cat sex sim, Purrfect Date is actually a very cleverly-constructed visual novel. Comments or observations that seem throwaway during one research assistant's play through cycle back later with more significance. Despite the silly trailers and cutesy hand-drawn graphics, there's a darkness to the game that caught me completely off-guard.
And there's also the potential for heartbreak."Romancing" one of the island's felines, an academically-minded Persian named Floofybutt, I found myself agreeing with his scientific observations and theories during our "dates," despite doubting them personally. When my researcher's time on the island came to a close, Floofybutt sheepishly admitted he had met someone else, someone who challenged him intellectually. Dammit, I put a freshly-killed bird liver in my mouth for that bastard.
That's fine. I'll always have Snooty Booty, and her bright-red polished claws.
Purrfect Date is available today on Steam for $US8.99 ($12), though I'd suggest spending a few extra dollars on the deluxe edition that comes with the game's soundtrack. It's all sorts of catastic.