After achieving more than 23 million downloads on iOS and Android, The Battle Cats POP! stormed onto 3DS, but is it worth its £8.99 price tag?
The concept of The Battle Cats POP! is simple – you must destroy the enemy’s tower before yours. You control various different types of cats, though obviously, you’ll start with just a couple of basic units. The enemy army, meanwhile, consists of a wide range of creatures, from dogs and snakes to bears and kangaroos capable of fierce uppercuts.
Yes, as you may have guessed, The Battle Cats POP! is a typical, utterly crazy Japanese game. There’s not much of a story – apparently, in a world full of terrorism and war, the latest weapon is cats because they are so cute. Nope, I haven’t got a clue either, but let’s be honest, a tower defense game doesn’t need a proper narrative.
Through the main game, you’ll go from country to country destroying towers. The levels don’t differ all that much design-wise – the tower is themed according to the country you’re in, as will its distance away from yours, which in many of your earlier battles will have an impact on your tactics. The main variation is the enemies which spawn. Some will cause you more problems that others (don’t get me started on the seals), and so you’ll need to fight them using the most effective cats – more on that later.
To deploy troops you need money, which generates as time passes. Defeating enemies earns you more cash instantly, allowing you to deploy tougher units. The cats then spawn out of the tower and start walking towards the left-hand side of the screen, attacking as they go. And, as you might have guessed, the tougher cat units cost more to deploy than the weaker ones.
The gameplay may seem simplistic at first, but you’ll need to do much more than just spam as many units onto the battlefield as possible in order to defeat the tougher enemies. You need to be tactical. The more you play The Battle Cats POP!, the more units you’ll unlock. These range from the cute to the bizarre – Lizard Cat, anyone? – and each has its own strengths and sometimes, weaknesses. For example, if you need to push back the other enemies pretty swiftly, Cow Cat is ideal. Need to take out a red enemy? Axe Cat is your soldier.
How you spend your money will have a big impact on how successful you are in battle too. As well as deploying troops, you need to upgrade Worker Cat using your hard-earned cash. Worker Cat boosts the maximum amount of money you can hold, so if you have some expensive units on your team, you’ll need to upgrade Worker Cat as the battle progresses in order to be able to deploy them.
They’ll be times when you’ll feel all-powerful, smashing through each level without any bother at all, but sooner or later you’ll reach a battle that feels impassable at first. This is when you’ll really need to think about tactics and which units to take out with you – you can only equip up to ten different units in your team. You can also choose to power yourself up; when you lose a battle, the game will give you the option of spending cat food in order to try again but with additional perks. For example, you may start off with Worker Cat fully upgraded, or the boss may spawn with half its health.
You can also buy other helpful items outside of battle, which you can equip beforehand, though some feel a little cheaty. It’s certainly much more satisfying to defeat the enemy without any extra boosts. Cat food, your currency, is earned by logging in to the game and winning battles. The original Battle Cats was free to play, and so cat food wasn’t given out so generously.
Whilst the 3DS version of The Battle Cats POP! has no microtransactions (and so it shouldn’t for that price), there remains evidence of its cash-cow past. To start a battle you need ‘energy’, which generates over time. When you run out, you must buy more with cat food, or wait for that energy to replenish.
This is a strange system to put into a micro-transaction-free game – surely you should be able to play to your heart’s content, without having to save up on cat food? Which brings me onto the game’s price point; at release, The Battle Cats POP! cost £8.99 on 3DS, yet it is free-to-play on smartphone and tablet. The only real advantage of buying it on 3DS is the lack of additional costs should you get addicted and want to play for several hours rather than a few minutes. Plus, you’re not draining your smartphone’s battery.
That said, The Battle Cats POP! is by no means a short or small game. There are three main chapters, which consist of 48 levels each, plus a challenge mode and a multiplayer mode (should you have a friend that also adores cute but violent cats). You’ll also be compelled to ‘purfect’ each level, as you’ll unlock special boosts for doing so. Then there’s the cat collecting – rare and super rare units can be unlocking via a gatcha, the tickets for which you can earn during battle.
The Battle Cats POP! may seem expensive for what is a free-to-play game on other platforms, but once you start unlocking cats you’ll be hooked. It’s a cute, strange and rather charming tower defense that will no doubt have you coming back for more.