Dive into a world where cats are the dominant species in Taro, a game in development by Fantasia. You can back it on Kickstarter until May 2nd.
You take control of Taro, a lazy cat who loves to eat and hates school. Too bad that’s where he’s headed, despite his valiant efforts to avoid leaving his comfy bed. This visual novel is comedic in tone, which gives it a lighthearted slice-of-life feel despite the characters all being cats.
Throughout the demo, you’ll meet Taro’s family, who are all interesting characters. The highlight of the demo for me is the interactions they all share at the breakfast table. Taro’s father is lackadaisical, which is a nice contrast to Taro’s mother, who goes above and beyond to outwit her son. Taro’s little sister is the cutest little cat, with a sassy personality to match. The cherry on top? Seeing the cats all eating kibble from cat bowls as opposed to common human breakfast foods like bacon and eggs. It’s the little details in this game that really shine through.
The character sprites are all well done. The cats each have their own distinctive traits, whether it be the kinds of clothes they wear, the expressions they make, or even the color of their fur. Taro himself seems to have quite the wardrobe, and seeing the chubby cat in clothes that are just a bit too tight is adorable. It’s hard to not want to reach into the screen and hug all of the characters.
The development team did a wonderful job creating dynamic animations that further immerse the player into the action of the story. Sprites move around on the screen depending on where they are in the narrative. For example, Taro moves from under the covers to the floor, and his mother moves from her spot in the center of the screen to the table where the family is eating breakfast. These sprite movements all take into account the distance from the player, growing or shrinking in size as needed. In this way, the characters are interacting with the backgrounds as opposed to simply using them as decoration as they all stand in the center of the screen.
The story of Taro is perhaps the most charming part of the game. Yes, there are cats in school uniforms, suits, and dresses, but there is also a strong comedic narrative voice that is constant throughout. There’s a narrator that breaks the fourth wall and interacts with Taro, which lends to some hysterical moments. Taro himself is a goofy character whose dialogue doesn’t fail to put a smile on your face. Despite being a comedy, though, the game also brings up some pretty serious topics like bullying and adjusting to a new life after a move.
The biggest cons for me lay in the game’s technical aspects. There aren’t any options to change the settings, which is a strange choice. You can’t adjust text speed, change music volume, or handle how text or transitions are skipped. However, the developer states that these will be added in the full version.
Do you like cute fluffy cats and slice-of-life high school stories? I think Taro is well worth the time spent playing through the demo for the graphics alone, though you’ll also be left laughing the entire time, which is a nice added bonus.