The folks at WayForward have delivered a number of unique experiences throughout the company's 30-year history. Titles like Shantae, Vitamin Connection, and The Mummy Demastered have given WayForward a reputation for quirky titles. In terms of quirkiness, however, Catgirl Without Salad: Amuse Bouche just might top them all. The game began life as an April Fool's Day prank back in 2013, but when fans of the developer started to request a real release, WayForward decided to actually develop the title. Thus, Catgirl Without Salad: Amuse Bouche was born, and now finds itself on Nintendo Switch. The game might have started life as a prank, but it's definitely no joke.
In Catgirl Without Salad, players find themselves in the role of junk food-loving Kebako. With her trusty sidekick Squiddie, Kebako hunts bounties across a trio of vertical shooting levels while avoiding salad floating through space. Kebako's default weapon is a Pea Shooter, which doesn't do a whole lot of damage. As she progresses through each level, though, she'll find a handful of power-ups based on different video game genres. These weapons are (generally) more effective, but the real highlight is watching how they work.
The game features six weapons in addition to the Pea Shooter. The Sports Gun fires golf-ball like objects that bounce around the screen. The Puzzle Gun fires blocks that can deal heavy damage if Kebako can line up three of the same color. The Dance Gun initially has the same effectiveness of the Pea Shooter, but it becomes more powerful as players fire when the directional arrows line up. The Arcade Gun sends a character that looks like Ms. Pac-Man to attack. The Platformer Gun sends a character that definitely isn't Mario to jump on foes. Finally, the RPG Gun gives players various choices similar to a turn-based game, including the ability to heal.
These six weapons are extremely clever, but their overall effectiveness is a bit of a mixed bag. For example, getting three like colors to line up when using the Puzzle Gun is really difficult outside of a boss battle. As such, sometimes the Pea Shooter ends up being a better option. It's fun figuring out how the various weapons work, but once the cleverness wears off, players will regret picking up some of them when they appear. Once the three levels have been completed, players can choose a mode where the various weapons can be selected at will, and that's a much more enjoyable way to experience them.
If there's one area in which the game truly shines brightest, it's in the humor. Catgirl Without Salad is fully voiced, and Kebako talks throughout the entire game, without taking any kind of a break. Her rambling is often nonsensical, but the greatest challenge the game might offer is playing through without laughing out loud multiple times. Voiced by Cristina Vee, Kebako's lines never repeat during a playthrough, so players won't have to worry about sitting through the same jokes over and over again. If anything, sometimes the gags come so quickly that it's worth playing the game a second or third time just to get a better feel for some of the humor. Unfortunately, there aren't many other reasons to revisit the game once it's been completed, particularly since Catgirl Without Salad can be beaten in under an hour.
While the title is a joy to look at, players may experience the occasional hiccup. Notably, there are some moments where players will experience slowdown, such as when there are a lot of enemies on-screen at the same time, or when using items like the Sports Gun, because of the number of objects bouncing around the screen. These moments are infrequent, but worth pointing out. It will be interesting to see if WayForward releases a patch, as they did with some of the more frustrating elements in The Mummy Demastered.
Catgirl Without Salad: Amuse Bouche is a delightful, sugar rush of a game that's over far too quickly. It's a wildly funny game with gorgeous visuals and terrific voice-acting. Unfortunately, the game is over far too soon and once the three levels have been cleared, there just isn't much else to do. The game doesn't overstay its welcome, and that helps the joke land in a way that few other games could pull off. As such, many players will find that the game's humor and style are well worth the $7.99 cost of admission, but others might want to wait for Shantae and the Seven Sirens, instead.
Rating: 3 out of 5
Catgirl Without Salad: Amuse Bouche is currently available on Nintendo Switch. A retail code was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review, and it was reviewed on a base model Nintendo Switch.
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