Meow Motors is a classic Kart Racer with the unique twist being that all characters are cats. A Cat Racer if you will… Oh, yes, I should warn you: there WILL be cat-puns throughout the article. I’m furry sorry!
Now, I’m always on the lookout for games I can play when my kids are spectating, so I was happy to give this cute racer a go and my 4-year-old daughter was an immediate fan of the characters and cartoony art style. The various playable cats all have a unique design (and skill) and the various stunts they perform when all do a good job at adding some charm.
You’d be surprised, but there is some attempt at a story here, albeit only told through a few cartoon/comic-book style cutscenes. There’s a bad guy who taunts you at the start of the game and you have to move through the different tournaments to be able to challenge him. Along the way, all the other cats join your crew (and they each have a different skill that adds some gameplay modification, like extra boost time). I realise nobody gets this kind of game for the story experience, but it’s nice to have a single-player campaign with some purrpose.
The progressive unlocking of cat characters & cars are fine and it makes sense, but I wasn’t very big on the weapons unlocking one by one. When you unlock the second one, a homing shark attack, it’s very annoying to get hit by them every 4-5 seconds or so.
Luckily this all balances out near the end when you have all the weapons unlocked and a lot more variation to your attacks, bringing an extra level of tactics into the game. This is something the game actually does better than Mario Kart or Crash Team Racing: you see what item you’re about to pick up and with a little bit of aimed steering you can change your plan of attack: do you go for the homing shampoo bubble, drop a bomb behind you or do you want the shield to protect you from incoming projectiles?
Another element the game does well is how the energy bar is used. You fill it up by hitting opponents or getting some air, but most importantly: drifting. Then, you can use it in two ways: you can boost ahead or you can drop some oil slicks behind you. It’s an interesting mechanic that I could appreciate.
There’s three different modes in the game as well:
- Strike (Battle)
The racing is rather obvious, Strike is basically just getting in as many kills as possible and while those two were very easy to get three stars on, even on the highest difficulty, Drifting actually required some additional finesse. You get more points the further you drift, but angling your car further also starts a multiplier which you obviously want to keep chaining as high as possible. Hitting a wall sets you down to zero points, and hitting a laser on the track only resets the multiplier.
The drifting controls are a bit floaty, but you get the hang of them rather quickly and I found myself enjoying this mode the most in the end, challenging myself to beating my own highscores (and getting that 15 000 score achievement!)
Something that deserves a lot of praise are the track designs. While some of them feel a tad uninspired, there are others like this medieval fantasy village that really made me want to stop and look around instead of zooming past.
Or the lava-filled level in which you also face the final boss:
Meow Motors is not an ugly game by any means, but sadly there are some presentation issues that deserve a little more polish. The characters and tracks may look good, yet some effects look blocky (like the fog in one particular level) and the text overlayed on the screen lacks depth. A few simple changes here and there to the UI could have gone a long way.
While the game sadly doesn’t include any online multiplayer, I was very happy to see that it supported up to four players split-screen locally. It’s a feature that more and more games seem to forego and I’m happy it was included here. As were my daughter and wife, who where excited to have another game to play against me.
While the game is kid-friendly in theme, I do have to say that it wasn’t all that easy for my four year old to control. Yes, she’s perhaps still too young for games that require these specific skills, but I can’t help but look at Mario Kart with its settings that allowed for automated acceleration and guidance through corners. Features like that not only help young kids enjoy games, but they can also be important for inclusivity so people with reduced motor skills or other handicaps can still participate.
Meow Motors is a great racer if you’re looking for some good old arcade fun and aren’t looking to spend too much. It may not be purrfect, but you’re guaranteed to have a few hours of fun with it by yourself and it makes for a great local multiplayer experience to enjoy with your family and friends.
Need to see it in action? Here’s me playing through all the different game modes, including some split-screen action in the end!