My teenage daughter recently got hooked on a smartphone app called Neko Atsume, which simply means “Cat Collection.” At first I sort of brushed it off with a “aww, that’s cute, my daughter is such a weeb” attitude.
I don’t typically like CUTE things. It’s just not my style. And for glob’s sake I do not need another silly smartphone game to suck my time away. Don’t you know, I installed it anyway and was completely shocked at how much I loved it.
The premise is ridiculously simple. You put out food and toys in your virtual backyard. Close the app and come back later to find several cats have wandered in to play. When they leave, they’ll give you money that you can use to buy more toys and food.
That’s it. You don’t have to groom them or bug your friends for “lives” or any nonsense.
Really, it’s little more than a semi-interactive screensaver. You may be thinking, it sounds boring as snot. Why bother? It’s probably less interactive than a Tamagotchi. Checking in will take you a total of two minutes at most, which is honestly part of the draw for me. I don’t NEED to check in often or spend much energy on it.
I can’t explain why, but I get the most ridiculously ecstatic feeling by simply checking in on this app to see which adorable kittens have stopped by to play. My day at work might be absolute garbage but AWWW look at this cat! I smile, it brightens my day a little, and I get back to work just a touch happier than before, which can make a huge difference on days that I’m one email away from rage quitting.
Maybe it’s because I don’t, nor can’t have a real cat due to my rental agreement, but then, I know people who have two or more cats and still love this game.
As you play and buy new items, you might find that an elusive Rare Cat has dropped by, drawn in by one of the items you bought. If you’re lucky, they might occasionally leave a memento as well. Thus the collecting bit – the game keeps track of every cat you see, the mementos they leave, and all of the pictures you take of them.
Here’s the personal part that just might break your heart. I’m warning you!
You can rename the cats whenever you want. I typically don’t, because I’m a purist. However, I’m also a little morbid.
There is an orange and white tabby in the game who looks a lot like my family’s cat from when I was young. I renamed Pumpkin to Lucky after my own cat, who of course passed on many years ago. Whenever I see the digital version of her, there’s a bit of bittersweet nostalgia as I remember the stray, sickly little runt that we adopted from the shelter and became part of the family.
Interestingly enough, she’s one of the cats that visits me the most even though she’s pretty low on the pecking order.
I can’t say that this game is going to hold my attention for too long unless they end up adding more cats or items to collect, but in the meantime it’s the perfect quick little pick-me-up for an otherwise mundane day.