Box art for Astro Aqua Kitty. A bunch of cats pose in various heroic positions. Oh, and there' a rabbit, I think?

The original Aqua Kitty, a kitten-ified homage to 16 bit home computer takes on Defender, is one of my favourite games of the past decade.

It also has the dubious honour of being the only game I’ve felt compelled to buy PS4 themes for too. Look, I really like turning my PS4 on to be greeted by jolly pixel cats. Yes, I’m that easy.

I’m not entirely sure what I was expecting from a sequel but Astro Aqua Kitty isn’t it. This is a very good thing! Astro Aqua Kitty is lovely.

The player is inside a giant mechanical boss. A purple sphere sits behind the player.

Leaving the arcade behind, Astro Aqua Kitty is a game of cave exploring, shooting and the occasional bit of inventory twiddling to make a number go up.

Each world (so far, anyway) has popped me into a small hub area and charged me with heading out, exploring the surrounding area and bringing back a number of things to open some other things. The caves are chock full of things to shoot, invariably they’re reasonably durable things to shoot so that’s where a bit of stat juggling comes into play.

Lasers! It's the player in a darkened underwater cavern, their route through blocked by lasers.

It’s a familiar formula and one that thankfully isn’t a Metroidvania game or a roguelike so I can actually enjoy myself with it. Hooray!

It really helps that there’s few games that tread 16 bit home computer territory. So many games seem intent on replicating the experience of playing on a Nintendo console that there’s a huge amount of videogame history left untouched.

Home computer homages seem to be Tikipod’s speciality. Rock Boshers is a modern ZX Spectrum game and both Aqua Kitty games are tremendously reminiscent of Amiga games. Obviously, the graphics are a giveaway but also, there’s a really specific rhythm and speed to a lot of Amiga games that’s replicated here perfectly.

The player by an underwater docking station. A cat in spacey futuristic diving gear is asking the player to find some batteries.

It’s slow. Not in a super padded out way, not in a numbers going up slowly way. I guess a better word for it would be “relaxed”. Here’s a game that knows it’s being played at home so there’s no need to rush, take your time a bit and all that.

The pace being more relaxed means it’s much, much easier on the reflexes and on the noggin. Yeah, there’s moments where the screen is full of bullets and enemies to clear but it’s never really frantic. There’s zero stress here and in 2021, I’m grateful for anything that goes a bit easier on my brain.

I tend to play this sort of thing slowly where permitted. I’ll clear a few small areas, pause the game, go do some reading or pop the kettle on, unglue the kids from the ceiling or remedy whatever pickle it is they’ve gotten themselves into this time. I prefer to play games this way these days so I’m always glad when a game is designed with that in mind.

I’m fairly certain it’ll take me much longer to wade through than most other people but I don’t really mind. Not whilst I’m in the company of space cats. And a rabbit.

More lasers! I like more lasers.

It is a game that fits around me, not requiring me to dedicate myself to it and not requiring me to think beyond “that’s a higher number, that’ll do”. Obviously I want the game to be enjoyable too and Astro Aqua Kitty clears that barrier with ease.

All told, a more than pleasant surprise of a game. Some absolutely gorgeous graphics (with a special shout out to the portrait art which is universally glorious), a chill game and cats. Lots and lots of cats. It all adds up to a properly brilliant videogame that I’m super happy losing myself in.

Astro Aqua Kitty – it’s properly brilliant.

As usual, I’m playing on PS4 but other formats are available. If you’re quick, there’s even a Vita version.

I’m not saying my eldest knows me well at this point but I had to nod shamefully when they asked did I buy this game just because it had “Willy” in the title.

I’m not sorry though.

A side view pixelly alien landscape, brown rocks covered in blue grass and purple plants, a waterfall plunges into a lake below, alien looking trees sit in the background. The player, a small astronaut, stands by the lake.

I’m sort of ducking in and out of this a bit. It’s not that I don’t like it, it’s that it’s such slow progress getting anywhere that I find I get the most out of it playing through small chunks at a time.

I’m a fair few hours spent and really, I don’t feel like I’ve made it far at all. Just looking at the huge amount of upgrades still unavailable to me and the cost of them suggests unless the game surprises me, it’ll keep me going for a while.

It’s not even an especially difficult game so far, anyone used to sort of 8 bit arcade adventures won’t find much in the way of surprises. You meander round a bit, do a bit of jetpacking here and there, shoot some baddies and grab objects to plonk in another object.

The slow progress is largely down to enemies taking a long time to chip away at and the materials for upgrades being slight whilst the cost of upgrades are high.

It's a pixel cavern with a rocky entrance, a metal save point and a very videogamey shop.

I can totally understand if that’s off putting – certainly, me of ten years ago would be having none of it.

But! I’m not me of ten years ago and I largely don’t care. I tend to like this sort of arcade adventure, thanks to no longer needing a multiface to save me having to repeat sections (and to save at all, I suppose) I’m fine with pushing forward achingly slowly providing I’m fine with the rest of the game. Which so far, I am.

Well. Except for the ‘jokes’. I’m rarely fine with videogame jokes but even by videogame joke standards, I definitely pulled a few faces at these. Still! Worse things happen at sea, eh?

Anyway, unless it does something especially awful I’m likely to see it through to the end. Can’t complain too much then and it’s maybe worth a look if you fancy a slow crawl through one of the older videogame formats around. Luckily, I do.

Willy Jetman is available on a few machines, as usual I’ve been playing the PS4 version.