Kittypocalypse is a first-person tower defense game for Oculus Rift that wants to liven up some pretty well-trodden territory. With its army of infectiously cute alien kitties waddling ever closer to your base, your only hope is to find the correct combination of weapons to fend off the horde and reduce them to a green goo. Attention all cat people: don’t be deceived by their adorable faces. The only good cat alien is a dead cat alien.
Internet junkies of the days of yore (and covert timewasters such as myself) will immediately jump into Kittypocalypse without missing a beat, considering the gazillion-or-so tower defense games out there you’ve undoubtedly played. This can be construed as either a good or bad thing, depending on how much of a fan you are of the genre. If you’re looking for a VR version, you’re in luck. Looking for something new in the genre specifically? Then Kittypocalypse may disappoint you somewhat. In its defense, there is a wide variety of enemies, over 50 upgrades to unlock, and 15 cohesive and beautiful maps to defend, so there is definitely some meat on the bone to be had here. It just depends if you like cat meat or not.
Levels last anywhere from 10-20 minutes to complete successfully, and each level adds a new enemy class and corresponding weapons and upgrades to the mix. Take too many kitties into the core of your base (effectively turning me into a foul-mouthed manchild) and you predictably fail the level. I sat for well over 6 hours to beat the game—no easy task considering the wide variety of armored enemies, each with their own elemental strengths and weaknesses. Some levels throw an abundance of a certain enemy type that requires a specific weapon with a specific upgrade to kill, and since there’s very little handholding, you’ll have to fail your way to success. You can plan ahead with a holographic map preview, but you’ll still need to stay flexible.
Because the game only has a limited number of spots to deploy weapons, the later levels become very puzzle like—making your task a game of anticipating possible enemy types, something the game’s weapon testing room is particularly created for.
That said, I do feel like there’s a specific solution to each level. If you’re a completionist, there are definitely moments when you’ll be banging your head against the wall trying to not only fulfill the level’s ancillary goals, like only using a certain amount of money, deploying less towers, or taking in less kitties to the core, but just trying to beat the damn level.
As a first-person game that gives you a god’s-eye view, you’re allowed to move anywhere on the floating island map to suit your needs. Being able to select and upgrade weapons from any distance means you can go for an easy overhead view of the map, or a much closer POV that puts you in the heat of the battle. Getting up closer to see incoming enemies (and general kitty carnage) however means you’ll be flying around the map non-stop, something that can be a bit on the annoying side. You can’t help but giggle a little though when you see a densely packed group of alien kitties ambling towards your base, and promptly scatter them with a heavy missile explosion.
There is one glaring issue I consider a barrier to immersion in Kittypocalypse above all. The story line is painfully thin. You’re waging war against the
kitties aliens dressed as kitties, and each map is a bid to defend plants that are somehow important to the overall war effort, ie medicinal flowers, trees for cloth, etc. I really do like the joke—cats attacking house plants—and the fleet of waddling alien kitties tickles me to no end, but the problem is that none of this really matters to the game, or gives the narrative any more depth than simply saying “Hey, now we’re protecting ____ for some reason.” This essentially makes the narrative completely superfluous, and while not all games need engrossing stories to win me over (a few measly cutscenes would have done well), I personally see it as a missed opportunity.
Overall, I found myself concentrated on a specific task, which requires your head to be on a swivel, but I never really fell into what you might call a sense presence.
Teleporting, snap-turning—also known as VR comfort mode —combined with a helmet HUD in the lower register of the display all keeps you from feeling pretty much any of the ill effects of flying around the map. Speeds are variable, so you can choose between slow, medium and fast speeds depending on your ‘VR legs’. Teleporting takes some of the sting out of zooming from place to place as well.
Regardless of my OG status as a VR-person by trade, I still preferred staying high up most of the time so I could keep a better eye on my base, swooping down only when I was bored of waiting on the kitties to get mashed up in the beginning levels, or sneaking by the kitties’ starting point to get a glimpse of what units were up next. While flying and snap-turning mostly takes care of the comfort issue, this does detract from the immersion significantly.
Personally, I didn’t enjoy Kittypocalypse enough to warrant the $30 price tag, even despite the fact it occupied 6 hours of my time. It goes down some very well beaten paths gameplay-wise, and doesn’t necessarily offer much in terms of immersion for me to get too excited about it. Watching kitties scatter and explode into green plumes adds a measure of humor to the game, but it’s too standard of an experience to really sink my teeth into. If you’re looking to get a taste before you buy however, you can download the demo here for Oculus Rift CV1 and DK2.
We partnered with AVA Direct to create the Exemplar Ultimate, our high-end VR hardware reference point against which we perform our tests and reviews. Exemplar is designed to push virtual reality experiences above and beyond what’s possible with systems built to lesser recommended VR specifications.