Claws of Furry is a side scrolling beat em up in the same style as something like Streets of Rage or Castle Crashers, although with many interesting additions. Released and published by Terahard Ltd this little-known title recently appeared on the Nintendo Switch store to next to no fanfare, but does it deserve your time and money?
Claws begin with its simple plot hook, which is pretty much the entirety of the premise. You are one of many cat ninjas training under your sensei when a mysterious attacker (dog in a robot suit) kidnaps him and kills you all. Returning to your body, you go on a quest through a variety of locations to save your master and defeat the dastardly mutt. It’s a very generic plot but it’s worked for movies so it’s hardly a surprise they’ve used it. The switch to animals is an interesting one, especially when the big bad is a sinister pupper, and I must say that although it’s simple the opening is pretty well executed.
The main game mode – Rogue – is a standard rogue-lite affair; you get one life and return to the beginning if you die. Pussycat is the same mode, but without the risk of having to start from scratch. (No pun intended) There is also a horde mode, but I found that to be a little tedious due to the lack of separating elements.
The gameplay itself also follows the trend of simple but sophisticated. Claws mixes classic beat-em-up action with rogue-like elements and a whole heap of 90’s morning tv show nostalgia. Each level consists of a procedurally generated side-scrolling metal-slug style course full of enemies, which must be defeated in order to progress. As you navigate the four separate worlds the enemy variety does increase vastly, and whilst you could argue that many enemies are simply reskinned of the same enemy variations their designs are flawlessly put together. I especially loved the dog enemies later in the game as they wore their inspirations on their sleeves and nailed it. My favourite fights were definitely against the bosses, as they mix up the rhythm of the game. A particular highlight is the final boss, which had a whole unexpected vibe which I was just not expecting. They’re pretty difficult honestly, which made me glad for the inclusion of a “pussycat” mode.
Combat consists of a few different strikes and some movement-based abilities; you have a standard attack, an uppercut, a ranged (fish?) attack and the abilities to teleport and roll to avoid enemies. Chaining these together to destroy your enemies is fun and does require some precise timing, but I can’t help but feel that the game would have benefitted immensely from a deeper combo system. Yes, it’s fun and works well as is, but it would be so much more satisfying with that extra level of depth.
Progression does also feel a little shallow. Understandably, like most rogue-lites your character does reset at the start of each run, but luckily you are able to unlock individual costumes which come with their own abilities. These costumes are excellently envisioned, however, alluding to a variety of different pop-culture elements including characters inspired by both Marvel and DC’s catalogues. I love it, and whilst it does take a while to unlock the more relatable characters they give you a good reason to keep playing. However, I do wish there was some form of continuation between runs other than this, or just something extra, but it does arguably give you extra targets to aim for.
Graphically I can’t fault Claws, as it somehow combines a modern engine and style with the style and feel of a 90’s/00’s Saturday morning cartoon; a little like Cats meets Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The sound design works nicely to add to this feel, and whilst some of the effects don’t quite hit the mark overall I was pleased with what I heard.
Overall, whilst I enjoyed my time with Claws of Furry I couldn’t shake the feeling of something being missing from the experience. I love the style, I love the concept, but I can’t help but feel that it’s too simple. It has a true Castle Crashers vibe but none of the complexity, and it just leaves me cold, especially considering the lack of replayability. Yes, this would work really well on an arcade machine, due to it’s easy to learn nature and fantastic graphics style, but in this day and age, I would have expected more for £8.99.