Rhythm games and kitties are two of my biggest loves in life. So it should come as no surprise that when Tappy Cat - Musical Kitty Arcade [Free] released recently I hurriedly downloaded it to see how these two things would mesh together. What I didn’t expect was one of the best rhythm games that I’ve played in a long while. With an incredibly tough (but very rewarding) difficulty curve, and an amazing array of cats to unlock, Tappy Cat should be on the radar for any rhythm fan.

Being a rhythm game, Tappy Cat’s general feel should be instantly familiar to most folks. There are 46 songs to play, most being interpretations of classical songs (with a few interesting newer songs thrown into the mix). Songs are unlocked via stages, meaning that players start out with one song and will unlock subsequent ones by successfully completing the previous one. A three star system provides the primary method of feedback with more stars awarded based on how well you play the song. It’s a tried-and-true system for a rhythm game and it is executed impeccably without any error.

The stars of Tappy Cat are the amazingly adorable visuals as well as an impressive cast of unlockable kitties that each come with their own backdrop for the game. Players start with a tabby cat, but as they play (and complete) more songs, other cats will randomly stop by for a feeding. Cats can be unlocked by feeding them fish, which is earned by playing songs and earning perfect streaks. A welcomed feature of Tappy Cat is the fact that you can keep all the fish you earn in a round even if you don’t successfully pass the song which offers a nice feeling of advancement even in the face of failure.

Maybe it’s because I’m a cat person, but I’m absolutely in love with all the different cats you can unlock. There are basics such as the tabby, the Ragdoll or a Midnight but Tappy Cat also has a whole other set of cats that are based on well-known figures. For example, “Zuck” unlocks a cat in a casual shirt and jeans with “The Social Catwork” signs in the background. Find “Great Leader” and you’ll be surrounded by missile billboards and a large amount of cats bowing down to you. Even though each cat is merely a visual skin and doesn’t impact gameplay, there are so many and each has such a personality that I find myself playing simply to unlock more.

Even the method of unlocking cats is an interesting experience (and is probably the most “freemium” aspect of the game). New cats will randomly show up when you complete a song. If you like it, you can attempt to feed it fish, which raises the percentage that it’ll join you. If it doesn’t work, you can try to feed it more fish to increase the likelihood even more. If you fail three times, the cat gets tired of you and walks off. There are always two quantities of fish you can choose from, so the game become a simple game of chance where you’re betting against using all your fish in the hope of recruiting someone (or hoping you can still recruit them with a small amount). While fish is earned generously during gameplay, you can also purchase it via IAP in case the perfect cat comes along and you don’t have enough in your inventory.

Make no mistake, despite its cuddly exterior, Tappy Cat is a rhythm game for hardcore rhythm players. Gameplay consists of four lanes with three types of moves (single taps, double taps and tap-and-holds). While the lane placement takes some getting used to, it actually makes perfect sense considering the widescreen format of the game and where your thumbs naturally rest while holding your device. Taps are also judged in only three different ways (Perfect, Okay, and Miss). Based on this description, Tappy Cat has fairly standard, slightly simplistic mechanics.

Here’s where Tappy Cat gets hardcore: if you miss one tap, it’s game over. That’s right, one missed tap, even on the hardest of songs, and you’re done. Players have the option of spending some fish to continue from where you failed, but honestly I wouldn’t recommend it except for the rarest of occasions. Tappy Cat also has a life system, where players have a set number of lives and each failure exhausts one. Run out of lives and you need to earn more by purchasing them via IAP or watching some ads (there are no timers available).

While I can imagine some players will be frustrated with the stringent difficulty of Tappy Cat, I personally love it. Each song is well designed when compared to the rhythm of the music, meaning that I encountered very little artificial difficulty due to a tap being out of rhythm. In addition, the added difficulty of not missing means that every song has you on an amazing edge as you try to complete it. Every completion is a true accomplishment, and earning a three-star rating on a song becomes a legitimate accolade. There’s a very special feeling that some rhythm games impart where you’re playing a hard song, hitting all the notes and are basically on a musical high. I encountered that feeling consistently in Tappy Cat, which really means something as a rhythm game fan.

There are two complaints worthy of mention when it comes to Tappy Cat. First, due in part to the lane placement and the small window of perfection, it’s pretty difficulty for first time players to consistently build up a perfect streak for earning fish. While it is an initial concern, I found myself slowly adjusting to the timing window to the point where I could get 90-95% perfects with ease. The second complain is regarding the difficulty and lives. Since hearts don’t replenish and most players will likely be failing songs over and over, one can argue that the game might be too heavy handed in the freemium elements. However, the fact that you can always earn more hearts for free via ads makes that complaint mostly moot. Hell, you can pay two bucks in IAP and unlock unlimited lives, which basically turns this game into a premium experience. You can even unlock fish with ad views, so you don’t even need to purchase those if you don’t want to.

Simply put, Tappy Cat is an amazing game with a large musical catalog, an adorable cast of kittens that you will want to unlock, a very welcomed difficulty for rhythm fans and an incredibly fair freemium system. Not only do I think Tappy Cat is worth checking out, I’d highly recommend that fans just purchase the unlimited lives unlock to turn it into a premium title. I’m constantly on the lookout for an amazing rhythm title on iOS, and I never imagined that it would turn up in this cat-tastic title.

TouchArcade Rating

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Tappy Cat - Musical Kitty Arcade Reviewed by Eric Ford on . Rating: 4.5