PUSS! is a conflicting experience. Its appealing style contrasts heavily with how much it demands from the player. The game takes its gameplay from the popular Flash game, The Scary Maze Game, where you would navigate through tight corridors with only your mouse. However, PUSS! expands beyond its inspiration through a varied and colorful array of levels. The game has you playing as a cat that has entered another dimension through the television. It’s cute, quirky, and a little unsettling as the cat traverses the many strange levels.
PUSS! is so hard that I’d only advise a masochistic or those who don’t value their time to play it. Usually, I’m open to difficulty in games, but this is taking it too far. The game runs off of an archaic life system that really keeps players on their toes. Clearing each level is absurdly tense and usually unsatisfying until the world’s boss is defeated. They tend to vary from difficult to overwhelming in a way that is easily disheartening. More often than not, I would carefully go through most levels and then, as carefully, lose all my lives in a way that feels incredibly punishing. If only the game provided a way to practice each previously encountered level, thereby reducing the tedium.
As a result, PUSS! suffers its rigid difficulty. It’s a game about patience, muscle memory and cold, hard practice rather than skill. Regardless, beating a boss after all that practice is satisfying in a strange way. Practicing never feels safe as it’s always tied to lives. The game also makes it difficult to practice some of its harder levels.
This is due to the game’s randomization of levels. The game chooses them from a pool of levels, providing a sort of rogue–like element. It’s like a college test where the professor randomly chooses a couple of questions covering very specific topics. This forces the student to study for all the topics, resulting in the student aiming to be a sort of jack of all trades. In PUSS!, all it takes is one level to completely ruin your progress, as you’ll keep dying as in the test analogy.
The gameplay is lackluster and it feels like a Youtube bait. I can easily imagine Jacksepticeye, Markiplier, or Pewdiepie overreacting to the game from either its difficulty or horror elements. As a game, PUSS! really let me down. The controls are irritating, the difficulty leans to close towards masochism, and the gameplay is mechanically shallow. It really is a game you either know or you don’t as memorization is the law.
Bosses vary in all sorts of creative ways. One boss will have you essentially playing a shoot-em 'up, while the next will have you dodging insane barrages of fast-moving projectiles. Unfortunately, they add even more challenge to an already tough game. Though I like how surprising and chaotic the bosses are, the challenge often distracted me from really appreciating much else.
Visually, PUSS! is magnetic as it takes inspiration from the trippy, glitchy, and strangely nostalgic vaporwave aesthetic. Personally, I love the art style, as vaporwave has always had this strange appeal to me. Levels often repeat endlessly, both musically and visually. Occasionally, the game juxtaposes these repetitive loops with an unexpected horror sequence that added a lot to the surprise factor. When these sequences take place, the levels distort into a nightmarish fever dreams of deep web-esque surprises.
Musically, PUSS! doesn’t really focus on providing anything enjoyable to listen to. Rather than providing enjoyable vaporwave tunes, the game focuses on offbeat, uneasy tracks. At times, it would distract or irritate me enough to completely mute the game. Other tracks would provide esoteric vocal tracks that leave more questions than answers. Regardless, the auditory experience was full of diverse soundscapes that differentiated each bizarre level.
Overall, PUSS! is a game that appeals to those looking for a real hardcore challenge in an uncommon genre. The presentation sold me at first, but as I gradually toiled away at the many difficult challenges, my interest eventually waned. It’s not a game I’d recommend to anyone other than those primarily interested in a high difficulty. Even then, it’s a game that relies on sheer memorization and muscle memory rather than any skill and inventiveness. For a game so heavily inspired by the often calm and melancholic vaporwave, it’s surprisingly tense and aggressive.