When it comes to wholesome games, the Switch has a lot of heavy-hitters already vying for your attention, but if you're looking for a relaxing way to vicariously life your crazy cat person dreams, then you might be in the right place.
Each day your café will attract locals from one of these archetypes, such as punk, witch or fisherfolk, and grant you an amount of different resources to invest back into the café. You can adjust the advertising policy to control who you want, but certain customers, namely the witches, bring a currency which helps you keep your fridge stocked with ingredients for differing refreshments, so you're forced to keep bringing them back.
The cats themselves begin at one and go as high as seven in total. You have the option of sending them to a forever home and recruiting more cats, but we quickly grew attached to our Tudor king and queen-themed herd and kept them to the end.
There are skill points to invest in both cats and yourself, and later your café staff, to make tasks quicker or service better, but it's all very straightforward, and you never feel overwhelmed.
At a certain point you'll want to do lots of things at once and have to prioritise. Do you expand the space to give room for more chairs and therefore business? Do you invest in more toys for the cats? Do you get that toilet customers all seem to want?
A little patience quickly pays off though as a day flies by in only a few minutes, rewarding you with lots more goodies to spend on various things. We never felt like there was enough of a surplus to really go big and kit out your café mind, always chasing a plentiful inventory and keeping those ingredients stocked up.
It's a shame too that as things get more hectic, performance does start to take a hit. You can have up to 18 customers at once, as well as four staff and seven cats, and by that point there's so much going on that not only do things start to feel cluttered quickly, but regular stutters and even the occasional crash creep in.
To bring in new furry friends to the café you'll need to consistently pet the cats over a number of days to persuade them to stay...
Fortunately, these niggles don't bring the whole experience down, as the quest to restore the four cat shrines and revitalise the town is so compelling. You earn hearts, or Delight, by satisfying customers, and this in turn unlocks upgrade projects which give you more options, food and drink recipes and, most importantly, cats.
To bring in new furry friends to the café you'll need to leave out one of the various lures and consistently pet the cats over a number of days to persuade them to stay. At that point you can adopt them and give them a name before sharing them with your customers.
Unfortunately there isn't a huge amount of interaction between the cats and the multitude of furniture and accessories around the café. They will sit on customer's laps of course, and have a playful animation, but there's no clambering over some of the decorations, which, admittedly, might be for the best given how hectic things get already…
While you don't need to complete everything to save the town (turns out big business is bad guys, take note), you'll want to keep going to explore the rest of the upgrades you haven't been able to delve into yet, and even find new cats to play with.
Looking after cats is something you tend to do on their terms, since they usually aren't as obedient or predictable as dogs, so being able to build this tiny digital world for them is very satisfying.
Wholesome is the first word that comes to mind, but there is also a somewhat addictive challenge here, trying to balance the various resources, keeping all the plates spinning, and not being dismissively smashed by cats.
Cat Cafe Manager is an experience which kept us hooked for hours and hours at a time, with that urge to "just play one more day" pulling at you to just be able to afford that next thing, or coax that next cat into staying.
There isn't a huge variety of gameplay to be found, and once you have staff trained up to keep the café running you'll find yourself mostly fixing machines or planning your next expansion, but it is all immensely satisfying.
If you've had dreams of multiple cats then this is the best way to bring them to life.
Many of us, especially around here, have had a fairly long history with LEGO games, and an even longer history with Star Wars, so you could say expectations were high for LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga.
Characters each have different abilities, depending on their type, and the variety brings in the sort of range of gameplay we've seen across countless LEGO games all in one.
It can prove frustrating at times to keep straight exactly what tool is needed to deal with each different coloured glow, but once you've got the hang of it (or refreshed your memory), you settle into the experience quite easily.
The puzzles themselves aren't massively challenging, though you aren't always given a huge amount of direction, a lot of the challenge is piecing visual cues together to work out the way to go.
Combat isn't too tough either, especially if you've got one of the many lightsaber-weilding characters along for the ride, as between the sabers themselves and force powers, your characters will make quick work of most enemies.
If you do find you need a bit of extra oomph though, there is a rudimentary upgrade system, which lets you level up running speed or build time for LEGO, though most won't be necessary unless you're gunning for 100% completion.
there's always something new to discover whenever you are wandering around hub worlds, inevitably smashing everything in sight...
Speaking of, there is an awful lot of "stuff" in this game. Collectables are nothing new of course, but here the total number of Kyber Bricks alone numbers at over 1,000, on top of multiple part minikits per level, hidden costumes, characters and ships as well as cheat codes to unlock huge stud multipliers.
It's dizzying at times, though it means there's always something new to discover whenever you are wandering around hub worlds, inevitably smashing everything in sight.
The experience is always endearing and wholesome, with even the darker moments of the story poked fun at or even played for laughs.
Between gameplay sections you'll see cutscenes – so far, so normal. However with so much story to get through, these sequences can feel very rushed, with entire plot points or conversations truncating minutes into mere seconds. If this is your first introduction to the story then you'd more than likely struggle, which might be the case for some younger fans.
For most though, it's a well-known story, meaning it doesn't pose too much of a narrative stumbling block, it just means at times you can feel a bit of cutscene whiplash.
The voice acting is, for the most part, on point. Qui-Gon Jin has a bit of a Sean Connery twang, but some of the actors doing impressions of the original performers do a great job – particularly Rey. Others go in a different direction, which also works, as we've seen in the Holiday Christmas Special, from which many of the performers reprise these roles. Finally you have Anthony Daniels and a handful of other originals, so in all it feels like a really mixed bag.
John William's iconic score is included in its full majesty, and the sound design is, as usual, pulled straight out of the film universe, as are all of the location and character designs – many of which boast an impressive amount of scale, which is especially apparent when you're just bumbling about, exploring.
Space is less of a compelling setting, with many space sections already well-trodden more effectively in everything from the recent Squadrons all the way back to the original Rogue Squadron series. It all has the feeling of filler rather than having a real significant point to it.
LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga feels very comprehensive, and with it being the team's umpteenth trip to a galaxy far, far away – though the first in a few years – you'd certainly hope so, but perhaps this should be the swansong for the entire franchise in a way. (Besides further Mandalorian expansions anyway.)
The experience is fun and quite therapeutic, with tons of options of things to do and explore. What's more, the game offers a rare opportunity at some very engaging and varied splitscreen play, which is a huge thumbs up.
For those already itching to jump back into the LEGO Star Wars world, this is a no-brainer, but equally, despite its drawbacks, it's a great introduction into the genre and the galaxy overall.
It's clear that WolfEye Studios' wanted to do something different with the Wild West. From the beginning, there's an element of otherworldliness that not only permeates the whole game, but drives the story forward, pulling the player along for a wild (sorry, weird) ride, full of intrigue, mystery and a whole lot o' kicking.
With so many locations to visit, it seems there's an endless supply of goodies to unearth which encourages exploration and offers the chance to experiment with the skill trees without any risk of making a mistake.
Exploration can wear thin as most (but certainly not all) areas are relatively small and some are identical. There are different environments to discover as you're unveiling the world map but the graphical style, though it works well, prevents anything from being particularly noteworthy.
The sole purpose of exploring is for personal gain. If you're working towards unlocking a particular skill, you'll find what you need sooner or later, but, aside from a few core abilities that'll influence how you approach the game, there's nothing you can't live without.
Even stealthy types will want a few combat-focused skills though, as fighting is inevitable and, sometimes, it's just a lot quicker, especially with a companion or two supporting. Thankfully, firefights tend to be short affairs, as the combat itself is simple and not terribly exciting.
Plus, there's only a small number of ranged weapons available, though this, alongside the very basic crafting/upgrading system, can be a welcome change of pace. It cuts down a lot of the menu navigation that is required in other action role-playing games.
How much the story twists and turns is partly dependent on the player, making every action feel significant.
Weird West is more marathon than sprint and it seems a greater amount of time is spent with the first character than any other. This isn't a bad thing; the narrative can slowly build as players familiarise themselves with the various mechanics. Gameplay wise, characters play the same, with only a few select skills that are exclusive to each.
The story, however, deepens with every new soul you visit and every interaction you have. For a short while, the protagonists' lives are intertwined and their fates are in your hands. Many of your decisions will have consequences and, whilst it's easy enough to guide the overarching story where you think it should go, you could cause trouble for yourself in the short-term, by killing a key character before they can share useful info, attracting the attention of bounty hunters or having NPCs you've previously wronged start a vendetta against you, guaranteeing a violent altercation with them in the future.
It's not without its technical issues. Companions will sometimes freeze in place or completely disappear, your horse will often walk around whilst you're transferring items to or from your inventory (moving and, eventually, closing the menu) and at one point we became intermittently incorporeal. These issues, as annoying as they are, can be addressed by reloading an earlier save or forcing a loading screen by travelling somewhere.
Simplicity is at the heart of Weird West. Gameplay is straightforward, dialogue isn't long-winded, cutscenes are not littered throughout and the Narrator chips in sparsely enough to never overstay his welcome. The story being the only exception. How much it twists and turns is partly dependent on the player, making every action feel significant, as the big mystery surrounding these chosen few becomes ever clearer.
With enough dedication, you could spend 30 hours in the Weird West before reaching a satisfying conclusion and none of it would be wasted.