Quilts and Cats of Calico review for PC, Nintendo Switch

Platform: PC
Also on: Nintendo Switch
Publisher: Monster Couch/Flatout Games
Developer: Monster Couch
Medium: Digital
Players: 1-4
Online: Yes
ESRB: E

Quilts and Cats of Calico might be one of the strangest games I’ve ever played. It’s based on a board game called Calico – which, full disclosure, I wasn’t aware of going in – but it’s unlike any board game port I’ve ever played before.

For one thing, it doesn’t really explain the rules before you play. There’s a tutorial, sure, except it assumes you’re coming in with a basic knowledge of the game, so it doesn’t explain all of its concepts that well. It elides over some important pieces while spending a lot of time on other parts that don’t really matter all that much, so you’re left to figure out quite a bit on your own. Admittedly, some parts of Quilts and Cats of Calico are pretty intuitive, but not all of them, and that gap is the difference between the game being accessible for everyone and the game being mainly for people who already know the board game.

Secondly, while there’s a board game component to Quilts and Cats of Calico, if you’re playing solo, it’s really not a board game at all – but, rather, an absurdly difficult puzzle game. There’s a story mode (which I’ll get to in a moment, because it’s bonkers on its own) that entails you traversing a board, meeting up with people who ask you to complete some insanely hard puzzles in order to progress. While the first couple of puzzles are pretty simple, early on in the second chapter the challenge level increases exponentially, which puts a lot of the gameplay here at odds with the game’s cozy exterior.

Of course, the other thing that’s kind of at odds with Quilts and Cats of Calico’s cozy facade is the fact that the story in its story mode is completely and utterly insane. The narrative centres around a quilter who’s returned to her home – the Free City of Tomkitty, of course – to find her father, who disappeared years ago. Also, Tomkitty’s kingdom, Scratchington, is at war with a rival kingdom, so you’ll see a lot of wounded veterans who need your help. And why do they need you, a quilter? Because you need to craft quilts that will be attractive to cats – and in this game’s world, cats are literal gods, and the townsfolk need your quilts to earn their favour.

As I said, it’s a little bonkers. And it doesn’t help that everyone you encounter looks a little grotesque, so – like many other supposedly cozy games that seem to mask something a lot darker – Quilts and Cats of Calico ends up feeling like it’s telling you how cute and wholesome it is while it’s decidedly anything but.

To the game’s credit, if you ignore the trappings and focus on the puzzles, it’s actually much more interesting. The levels really make you think, and you’ll make good use of the retry button after you inevitably screw something up.

Also, there are cats wandering around the game board, so if you like kitties, there’s that going for it.

But even as someone who likes cats and puzzles – in other words, the target audience – I wouldn’t say I’d recommend Quilts and Cats of Calico unless you’re already a fan of the board game. No matter how cute and cuddly it may present itself as, the reality is much more demanding.

Monster Couch/Flatout Games provided us with a Quilts and Cats of Calico PC code for review purposes.

Score: 7