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Neko Atsume: Paws-on with this pointless but brilliant mobile cat game

Cat lovers will get a kick out of Neko Atsume, an adorable Japanese game about cats for iOS and Android devices. Check out our full review to see why this ‘Cat Collection’ sim is the best thing you can download right now.

You may never have heard of Neko Atsume, but this super-cute cat game for iPhone/Android recently hit the high cultural watermark of being translated from its native Japanese into English. There’s already a ton of merchandise, mostly third party efforts, available to buy from eBay and Etsy. And back in September for its huge Game Week event, Google Play Japan launched a live stream of Neko Atsume featuring real-life cats. There’s even a whole subreddit devoted to it. Yeah, Neko Atsume is a pretty big deal.

So what the hell is Neko Atsume and how can I get it? Well, the name literally means ‘Cat Collection’, and it’s available right now for iOS and Android – just head to the relevant store on your phone and you can download it right now for free. But prepare to be hideously addicted.

The object of Neko Atsume is to entice a variety of cats to come and visit your garden, which you do by leaving out various toys, beds and bowls of food. And that’s it. Seriously, that’s the entire game.

Neko Atsume: Paws on with the most pointless (and best) game ever

Besides that, there largely is no point. In a world of achievement unlocking and PBs, being able to dip in and out of a game with no immediate objectives is refreshing. 

Some cats are more selective than others and will only deign to pay you a visit if you leave out a specific item and serve up some of the pricier food. One example is King Xerxes, a pompous, permanently unimpressed cat who prefers the luxurious ‘Zanzibar Cushion’ (20 gold fish) and sushi, which costs five gold fish per plate. 

‘Fish’ is the in-game currency you use to buy food and toys. Once the cats have spent a certain amount of time in your garden, they’ll reward you with fish, as well as other random, non-currency prizes, before slinking away. Typically, you’ll get silver fish, the mundane currency, but on occasion, you’ll be rewarded with some golden fish. 

Gold fish is required to unlock some of the higher value items. As you might have suspected, you can buy more gold fish with real money via IAPs, but to be honest, there’s no pressure to do this and you can actually unlock everything in the game without having to spend a penny. If you’ve got enough silver fish you can even trade them for gold ones, though the exchange rate is terrible – 500 silver fish will net you 10 gold fish. It makes the current Sterling-Eurozone rate look positively OK. 

Neko Atsume: Paws on with the most pointless (and best) game ever

This relaxed approach to IAPs goes hand in hand with the game’s spirit. Possibily conscious of the psychological purchase barrier described by Amazon’s Aaron Rubenson, developers Hit-Point have opted to not constantly shove reminders of purchases in gamer’s faces. The passive, brain-off pleasure of Neko Atsume is one of the reasons why it’s the best between-commutes mind occupier going. Anything that overtly disrupts this zen state would be anathema to the experience. 

It’s testament to the game’s genius that, while you can turn on English via the settings, you really don’t have to. We’ve been playing for the last few months in Japanese and don’t see any reason to change it up. Also, this makes us feel smug and superior to the Johnny-come-lately baka gaijin

As well as translating its game into English, Hit-Point periodically updates the game with new cats, new toys and new venues. The default setting is a garden, but eventually, with enough gold fish, you’ll be able to move to an arty, constructivist-style apartment, an onsen bath house and more recently, a wild west-themed saloon porch.  

Your enjoyment of Neko Atsume will depend on how much you find cartoon cats amusing. Our own Chris Barraclough hates it (and he owns a real cat) so expect to see this featured in one of his ‘Arguments for the Apocalypse’ articles at some point. 

You can download Neko Atsume from iTunes and Google Play now. 

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