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Game Info:

Kitten Squad 
Developed By: Sagency
Published By: PETA, Arcade Distillery
Released: September 15, 2015
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, Android, Microsoft Windows, iOS, macOS
Number of Players: 1-4
Genre: Twin-Stick Shooter
ESBR Rating: T for Teen- Blood, violence
Price: FREE

When my two impressionable children crowd around and attempt to coerce me into downloading a game onto our Nintendo Switch, I usually hold fast and refuse. After all, games that are worth playing cost money, and dog-gone-it, we are on a budget! My kids have gotten wise, however, and only pull me into their snare when they have searched for FREE games that they find interesting. FREE is a lovely word that hits all the right notes with me, so who am I to deprive my lovely little cherubim a game that they can enjoy? One such title is Kitten Squad, a free twin-stick shooter that has been on the market since 2018. The download thumbnail has no title attached to it, just a picture of a cat wearing a hoodie and holding some sort of laser gun. Well, it's got cute cartoon cats wearing people clothes, so how bad can it be?

Before I critique this…interesting game, I want to point out that my kids love it. For all the shredding that will be going on in this review, I can’t deny the fact that my children enjoy Kitten Squad, and that means the world to me. There are other games that I would keep far away from my children, but I have no problem letting them play this goofy and weird title. With that said, the adult in the room must now get to work and unravel this unusual game.

To understand why Kitten Squad just seems “off” in the gaming world, one must first acknowledge where the game came from. It was produced and developed by an investment firm called Sagency, which owns a game development company called the Arcade Distillery. In 2015 Jan Roessner, the CEO of both companies, was approached by the activist group, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, a.k.a. PETA. The group wanted to create a video game that taught children about the abuse of animals in the world. The game would feature a ragtag group of kittens who have been tasked to free abused animals from the clutches of industrialized robots, like dangerous milking machines and automated sheep-shearers. Roessner agreed to this, and the game was put together quickly. Kitten Squad went on to become one of the most downloaded titles on Android and iOS in 2016.

Kitten Squad
Highlights:

Strong Points: Great weapon selection, customizable characters, and excellent multiplayer. A good message about treating animals with dignity and kindness
Weak Points: Simple graphics with repetitive gameplay, rigid controls, and stiff difficulty spike. The PETA message may also be too explicit for some younger players
Moral Warnings: There are some depictions of blood on meat hooks and other devices used to hurt animals. The kittens destroy robots that resemble machines and people that abuse animals. This message borders on propaganda disguised as a children’s game

At its core, Kitten Squad is a twin-stick shooter, much like Smash TV or Enter the Gungeon. The animal “elders” at the opening hub task the kittens with saving any number of animals that are being held captive by the robots. Before each mission begins, a scrolling dialogue describing the torment that the animals are going through slowly moves across the screen with an option to skip the scene. The kittens then go from room to room in a linear fashion dispatching robots with a plethora of powerful weapons. After about a dozen rooms or so, the kittens rescue the helpless animals and then return to the hub to start a new mission and learn about another tortured soul. Rinse and repeat.

Of the few redeeming qualities that this game has, the weapons, character customization, and multiplayer mode are probably the best parts. The weapons range from powerful rocket launchers to tomato cannons; each one dishing out a heaping helping of pain to robotic foes. I personally like the carrot launcher, because nothing says “leave the meat alone” like a carrot to the face. The kittens can be customized by purchasing different accessories and skins using coins that are dropped by enemies. Players can earn more coins by completing bounties and quests that are handed out by their fellow animals. This game actually allows for a great deal of customization, which is nice, especially when playing with some friends.

Speaking of friends, the multiplayer mode in Kitten Squad is fantastic. Up to four players (locally) can join in with each other to blast baddies together. A wonderful part of all this is when a player dies; they just need to wait until they are resurrected automatically. All this requires is for the remaining players to survive until the others resurrect. With the harsh spike in the difficulty of this game, you will soon learn that it is best not to fight animal-abusing robots alone.

Despite the cute and cuddly features of the kittens, this game is not very pretty. Though I wouldn’t go as far as to call it “ugly,” the animation style looks like something that was rendered using Flash. The character models and sprites are very rigid and show little movement when running and dodging plasma blasts. The hitboxes are very inconsistent, and that proves to be the death of many kittens who were clearly a safe distance from their pursuers. Most enemies simply lunge themselves at the players; there are very few variations of attack patterns and techniques. Regardless, this game can get pretty tough, and the action can get difficult to follow when four players are blowing up robots left and right. The controls are not very forgiving, providing no variations of speeds for players who dig into their analog stick. Some attacks, like from the bosses, can’t even be dodged. This frustration is compounded when you find out that you have to start all the way over at the beginning when you die. Bummer, man.

Kitten Squad
Score Breakdown:
Higher is better
(10/10 is perfect)

Game Score - 62%
Gameplay - 14/20
Graphics - 4/10
Sound - 10/10
Stability - 3/5
Controls - 3/5

Morality Score - 90%
Violence - 6/10
Language - 10/10
Sexual Content - 10/10
Occult/Supernatural - 8/10
Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 8/10

With all of these weak links in the chain, most people still believe that the worst part of this game is the message. I will admit to having read all of the mission descriptions in the game, and yes, they are very explicit. Some describe how sheep are castrated without anesthetics and seals are beaten with clubs. I have an 8-year-old daughter who plays this game, do I really want her reading this? Well, why not? What PETA is saying in this game is true, and it is your job as the Kitten Squad to save these animals from this terrible fate. Allowing my children to read these descriptions encouraged dialogue among my family about tending and caring for God’s creations (Gen. 1:26, Prov. 12:10). If anything, this game helped to bring to light to an issue that my family has not talked about much; taking care of that which God gave us to enjoy.

I understand that Kitten Squad is basically PETA propaganda wrapped in a child-friendly sleeve, however, the truth is that my kids love the game and its message resonates with them. Sure, the animations are crude and the action is very buggy, but the overall theme of protecting helpless animals from a cruel industry of abuse is, at least, endearing. Christians have tried to produce games in the past to promote their views with little effect, yet PETA seems to have pulled it off quite well. Perhaps the Christian video game industry can learn a thing or two from this.

Good or bad, this game is free with few ads and provides great co-op play. The price is most certainly right, so why not try out Kitten Squad for yourself? You might even learn something along the way.

About the Author

J.R. Sommerfeldt

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Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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