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CAT Interstellar; Do Androids Dream of Electric Dogs?

By Andrew Powell, published 17/03/2017 in Byte-Size

CAT Interstellar is an intriguing little indie game project currently in Early Access by Ionized Games set on Mars, during a time where humanity is in the middle of terraforming the Red Planet. Rather wisely, rather than sending and risking a bunch of humans on the planet, the powers that be instead let teams of advanced androids handle all the tasks and day-to-day activities. In "CAT" Interstellar you play as an advanced worker unit simply called "DOG", who assists the androids. Confused yet?

It should first be noted that CAT Interstellar will set you back the price of a cup of coffee (and a cheap cup of coffee, by todays standards...) for a reason: it's in heavy development by a small indie team. This means bugs and constant updates and tweaks can be expected and the overall story may expand or change over time. You've got probably an hour, tops, of story and gameplay exploration combined here, as it stands, although the developer says it's really only 15 minutes. I racked up 77 minutes on my first play, though, so it all depends how much you look around and whether you rush. The developers do make a point of involving the community though, so if it's something you find interesting and full of potential, it could be an interesting game for you to try help out the devs with, even if it's just finding bugs or giving suggestions.

CAT Interstellar is a very interesting game though, because I feel it is somehow much more than the sum of its parts. In reality, it's an incomplete short story-driven adventure that is fairly pretty (thanks to the Unreal 4 engine) and has some effective, well done art. The interactive part comes from being able to trigger talking interactions with your android friends and doing some basic fetch tasks. But the majority of the game is really just progressing (traversing) the Martian base and some of the surrounding areas. Plus one very interesting twist in the (current) final level, which I won't spoil here.

But if you sit down, hit the metaphorical "zen" switch inside your body and just go with the flow of the game, even such as it is at the moment, you get a strangely compelling and immersive experience and one that you cannot help but be interested in seeing further development to.

It's also worth mentioning that the developers are aiming for a quite scientifically accurate story and experience, or at least as accurate as the future can currently be predicted. In that regard, funnily enough, it really is like a video game version of the excellent 2014 film starring Matthew McConaughey, Interstellar.

As stated earlier, you play as an advanced worker unit called DOG, who does somewhat resemble a robotic dog, albeit one that floats on four thrusters instead of walking on four legs. DOG is an extremely efficient mover, able to not only "jump" by using boosts of upward thrusts, but can double jump as well. DOG can't quite fly, but can get some serious air time and also doesn't take fall damage from very large jumps, as "he" (shucks, I'm still too affectionate of DOG to refer to him as "it") technically never hits the ground. DOG glides very quickly along the ground when using the Shift key combined with the usual WASD movement keys. The other main component of the controls is of course the mouse, which controls the camera and ultimately, the direction DOG follows.

I feel the controls for DOG are pretty well nailed at this point, which is possibly what contributes so well to being able to just pick up the game and appreciate it for what it is, even as relatively incomplete as it is. The controls are smooth, quick and feel pretty logical. Had they been awkward, clunky and just plain weird like some games can manage, we probably would have had a big problem here.

The androids are also pretty neat, quirky characters, who are certainly not devoid of any humour. These androids, unlike DOG, can communicate completely verbally and also have personality, which is casually explained as them being such advanced models that they have achieved a true form of digital consciousness. So you don't really feel alone while exploring CAT Interstellar, as these androids aren't just dumb hunks of metal, as literally faceless as they may be. And it will always be amusing to me when remembering a certain android reacting to a certain event with "Holy shit...!".

As far as anything else goes, it would be impossible to not spoil anything if I went too in detail about it. Suffice to say, though, that if you have a spare few bucks to throw around and don't mind investing in an early access game that's nowhere near complete, CAT Interstellar may well be worth a run through. And more than once, as there are sometimes new things to be discovered and interacted with, especially after new updates roll out. Most importantly, it does seem to be clearly a labour of love.

Finally, this write-up wouldn't be here, obviously, if the game didn't have Linux support. The surround sound was a little hokey, which meant I had to have DOG facing backwards to androids to hear them speak at full volume, but that is fairly minor. Thanks to the UE4 engine and some surprisingly good optimization from the developers (I assume), it actually runs very well for me, even on open source AMDGPU/Mesa drivers. No obvious visual glitches are present (none that aren't also in the game on other platforms, it seems) and performance is silky smooth. It really does purr. Heh, okay, that's it from me...

Get CAT Interstellar on: Humble Store | Steam.

About the author

Andrew Powell is the editor and owner of The Linux Rain who loves all things Linux, gaming and everything in between.

Tags: byte-size previews cat-interstellar steam indie gaming
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