Management sims generally put you in right in the thick of running an up-and-coming business, but you’d be hard-pressed to find one cuter than Cat Cafe Manager. The setup is pretty simple, your character travels to a remote town to take over their grandmother’s dormant cat cafe, and it’s up to you to make it flourish again. I had the chance to play a 30-minute demo and talk to Rick Sorgdrager from Roost Games. What I found was an adorable management sim with a laid-back feeling that lets you just take everything in.
Cat cafes are still a bit of a novelty, with their popularity mostly spread because of the internet. The idea for Cat Cafe Manager sprung up from Roost Game’s personal experiences.
“I used to live in Japan for a little bit, back in 2013. At the time I was pretty much obsessed with cat cafes because they were so strange to me. By now they’re a global phenomenon like there’s cat cafes here in the Netherlands as well. Specifically, I remember I left a cat cafe in Kyoto and I had been petting this one cat and they gave me the cat’s business card when I left,” says Rick.
When the game opens you’re presented with a Pokemon-Esque choice, deciding which of the three starting cats will be your first for the cafe. I chose a wiry black cat that looked like he hadn’t slept enough.
The first order of business in establishing your very own Cat Cafe is to set up the size of the building, as well as the wallpaper and carpet. The building area for the cafe is made up of grids that represent different tiles representing where to place items. After the basic contruction it’s time to start placing the furniture and setting up your food preparation.
The demo gave me access to a wide array of different items and resources, although the full game will start players out at a much slower pace. The core gameplay loop of Cat Cafe Manager sees different customer types visiting the cafe, with each one having different preferences. There are a handful of customer types but the ones I saw were Vagabonds, Witches, and Artists. You can alter your cafe’s advertising to determine which customer types you want, which can help when trying to get a specific resource as different types pay in different ways.
You’ll need to manage the happiness of your cats along with the demands of customers in order to run a successful business, thereby getting more resources to upgrade the cafe. Doing all that can obviously get a bit stressful, so Cat Cafe Manager also allows you to hire AI employees that will help serve customers. Much of the work will still need to be done by you, of course, but the one employee I had during the demo managed to be a huge help. Both your employees and cats will level up as you play, getting a boost to their stats and how well they perform. You can, of course, hire new employees and adopt new cats as your cafe expands.
After making it through the first day Cat Cafe Manager threw another wrinkle into the mix with an ancient cat shrine that basically functions at your tech tree. Here you can pick which upgrade to focus on, like gaining litter boxes for your cafe, bumping up how much customers pay, or gaining access to new cooking areas and furniture. The shrine functions as your improvements but also helps push the story forward according to Roost Games.
“There are credits in the game, there is a way to finish it. That is what happens when you manage to fully renovate the mysterious cat shrine in the forest. As you sort of build that out and figure that out the Grimalkin keeps popping up, and can slowly start uncovering why that weird shrine is here, why there are so many stray cats skulking around the village, and the weird sort of history of the village comes to life as well,” says Ryan.
What I loved most about my time with Cat Cafe Manager was just how relaxing everything felt. Yes, there are some deep systems underneath the aesthetic, but it’s not quite as demanding as other management sims. The game’s cartoony art style feels perfect, and building your ideal little cafe and managing your cats is surprisingly engaging, and I can easily see hours slipping away trying to get that cute new design piece. For anyone looking for a wholesome more laid-back style of management sim, Cat Cafe Manager may just fit that bill.