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Simon’s Casual Cat

I’ve never really felt the urgent need to go ducking into a more recent block matching game when despite more than a few attempts from EA to trash it, Bejeweled 3 (or Bejeweled Classic as it is these days) has more than amply filled the niche for me.

However, I’ve been kinda more exhausted than my usual exhausted self (which runs at a baseline of 7 exhaustions out of 10 on a good day) and figured why not, so a quick rummage through Apple Arcade to find something and Simon’s Cat Storytime looked chill enough. One yoink and a few days later and oh sweet baby Molyneux, am I ever glad I grabbed this on Arcade rather than a game in a similar vein because it’s pretty damn evil.

And look, I know I’m the last to know here! I’ve sort of known that mainstream casual has been a shitshow for a while and I remember Em occasionally popping one on here and there when her more usual stuff was a bit too much and complaining about whatever one they gave a go of that time round but still, it’s a pretty grim state of affairs when this is the main face of games to the general public and that face is the face of non-stop exploitation.

Aside from the kinda middle class cute that is Simon’s Cat giving the game the appearance of being more gentle, it’s how absolutely unrelenting it all is. It. Never. Stops.

There’s always another currency to be drained, another temptation, the player perpetually kept on the back foot, another offer, another streak to keep up. Always. Never stopping. Of course the very core of the design has to feed all this so it’s going to be a game that’s happy to put the player on a losing streak, happy to let them churn through coins trying again and again, fighting the random nature of the game, forever convincing the player that this next time, they can totally beat the level and when they don’t? No biggy because it makes a number go down and a number going down amongst all this feeds addictions.

That in game purchases don’t even exist in this Apple Arcade release, it’s remarkable. Even without a way to empty your pockets, here’s a game that still manages to feel expressly exploitative. It’s depressing.

It’s depressing not just because of the sheer exploitation but because the effort that’s gone in to dressing this all up is remarkable. This stuff can’t be done like this – looking and sounding this good – without people spending a lot of time and a lot of money putting it together. Think of how many nice things we could have if that talent and expense wasn’t put to work on something ultimately designed to extract money from punters in the most distracting manner possible.

In some regards, I kinda choose to be perpetually shocked by stuff like this because I don’t want to ever be fine with it. And I’m certainly not implying that this stuff is the domain of casual games only. I mean, FIFA (or whatever EA have decided to call it when you’re reading this) exists, right? Games don’t half like to do some really shitty things. It’s also definitely not new, I’ve just wisely avoided things until I suddenly decided not to.

And yes, I know, I know, “Rob, you remember arcade games, mate?” and of course I do. I know videogames have forever been finding ways of getting someone to empty their pockets but this past decade or so has (much like in everything else, I guess) seen this stuff rocket out of hand.

And yes, I know, I know, “someone in games gets pissy at casual” is an eternal part of videogames. Fair enough, I’ll cop to that. Just think of it as my turn now. And yes, I also know that there’s a whole spectrum of videogames out there, some less, some more exploitative. I’m having a moan here, leave me alone.

Cats deserve better than this crap. Even fictional ones.

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