Oculus 101: Konrad the Kitten

*DISCLAIMER: ALL VIEWS IN THIS REVIEW ARE MY OWN AND DO NOT COME FROM THE COMPANY THAT HAS KINDLY PROVIDED THE GAME. AS IN EARLY ACCESS, I AM REVIEWING WHAT THE GAME IS LIKE NOW AND NOT WHAT IT WILL BE LIKE WHEN FINISHED; CURRENT VERSION: Update 0.33*

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Konrad the Kitten is, “A hybrid virtual/real kitten designed for VR. By fixing a tracked Controller on one of your plush toys, you bring this toy into virtual reality.” – Steam Page

This game has caused quite a discussion amongst the staff working at UGNN. There are several questions that come to mind when first discovering this game;

  1. What is the desired age group for this title?
  2. Why is it out now?
  3. WOW! That is expensive. Isn’t it?

When I received this game, there were multiple people watching me asking, “Who is this for?” and “What is the goal?”. I was curious myself so I have sat down nearly everyday for 2 weeks playing this game and I now believe that I have enough experience with it to give a comprehensive review. The game currently stands at Positive on Steam with 87% of 8 reviews recommending this title.

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Gameplay:

When first entering the game you are prompted with a lovely help menu stating that the best way to play the game was with an actual plush toy strapped to your right controller. As I love making only comprehensive reviews, I decided that this was how I was going to play; However, this isn’t the only way that you can play the game, there is another option in which sticks the cat onto your hand if you grab it.

Main Premise:

What I gathered from playing is that the game is like a tamagotchi; you look after the cat and it unlocks more stuff. This is executed in the game by the user performing 12 “wishes” every day. This usually takes around 10-20 minutes depending on how quick you are and how long you spent setting up the stupid thing. Each wish makes you literally put the cat on a random object and it then plays/sleeps/eats/drinks it and you get hearts or “love” and collecting these rewards you with more mini-games and more environments. After completing all 12 wishes, you have literally nothing else that you can do that day and so, on exit, the cat starts begging you to “Please come back tomorrow!”.

For a VR game to request multiple simultaneous days from me, the gameplay has to be engaging and the incentive to come back must be strong enough for me to actually do it. Unfortunately this game doesn’t do any of those things, though an early access title, there is a clear lack of content present in the game; even after unlocking all that the game has to offer at the moment. Each wish is simply you placing the cat onto the desired item and you waiting until it is satisfied.

Mini-games:

Sometimes you get 1 or 2 random mini-games to complete on that specific day. There are currently only 3 mini-games that I have randomly discovered. These include:

  • Catch the mouse
  • Wire loop game with a cat
  • Clear the table

All of these mini-games are as exciting as they sound. The 1st is simply far too easy and lasts a tad too long; the 2nd is annoying as the cat’s hitbox is quite big and you have to be quite slow, but that means you don’t get many points; and the last game is the most broken mini-game that I have played in a long time. In the game, you have a table of pottery and other stuff to kick off. However, the execution of this mini-game is quite awful, the controls are 1 button to perform a very small kick from the cat. This very small kick results in no movement of the plates.

Though the mini-games are disappointing they are the best way to unlock more stuff as they give you quite a lot of hearts. Especially if you get the mouse one as that is so easy to complete.

Environments:

It says there are 3 areas/environments in the game at the moment on their steam page, however, I have currently unlocked 4 areas.

  1. Kitchen
  2. Bathroom
  3. Living-room
  4. Forest

Each environment includes the items required to complete the wishes the cat has on that particular day. These items are simply normal household items that a cat may use; for example, TV remote, Food, Water, Litter tray, Ball, String pillar etc.

The main problem with the gameplay is that there doesn’t seem to be any goal or progression of any sorts. Usually in a tamagotchi, if you leave it for a few days, there will be problems and so you have to fix them and that creates and incentive to play everyday. Also in a tamagotchi, the longer you played, the older and more mature your pet became; this gave a purpose to the gameplay and overall goal of keeping a tamagotchi for as long as you can. Both of these key and important features are not included in Konrad the Kitten and I think that this is the main problem with this title. To test this, I left the game for 4 days, but when I came back, everything was exactly the same; there isn’t any repercussions and that is important in a game like this.

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Comfort:

I can’t really say anything wrong with the comfort as when you are actually in game, there isn’t a comfort problem at all. The framerate is very smooth and I experienced absolutely zero occasions of motion sickness; However, the set-up isn’t very comforting. The problem is that whenever I wanted to launch and play the game, it would always set the camera view the wrong way (for example, today it was behind me). I believe that this is Steam VRs fault, however a simple View Reset button would be lovely in the game. This could be simply be added in another update so it’s not too much of a negative, but just be aware that setting up this game can be a hassle if you have purchased it on Steam and have an Oculus rift.


Quality:

The overall quality is something you would expect from an early access VR title and so I am going to be easy on it as I know that the quality is obviously subject to change. However at the moment there are still a few things that I would like to point out, both good and bad.

Cat and Animations:

As this is about looking after a pet kitten, you would expect that the kitten model would have to be quite high quality. I am happy to say that this isn’t a problem with Konrad as the actual kitten model is nicely designed and textured. There could be some touch-ups to the textures, but at the moment there isn’t really a problem.

The animations are also another key component in making a game like this good. It is one of the only visual changes that you would get to see in something like this. I am also happy to say that the actual animations whilst doing the wishes are pretty cute at some level. However, the cat just seems to snap into them when they are performing the wish, I feel like this could be fixed by creating “transitionary” animations. Even though that isn’t a word, I’ll still tell you what I think it means. Basically, a half way point between 2 animations. With simple morphing, this middle point can make the transition between the 2 animations smoother and better looking.

Smearing:

Smearing in a VR game is when you move your head, but a ghost of the previous position stays for a brief moment. Though that might not make sense to some of you, anyone who owns a VR headset will probably know what I mean. I have no idea how they are caused and therefore have no suggestions on how they could be fixed, but if the developers are reading this, you should probably get onto that.

Whilst playing in the 0.33 update, I have also started to have various glitches. In the “Hub” area, there doesn’t seem to be a floor anymore and all I sea is the texture of water instead of grass. Another graphical glitch that I have encountered is when you place the cat on an object that it doesn’t have a wish for. This results in the cat dramatically sinking into the floor and can obviously take you out of the immersion. It sometimes even does this when the cat wants to use the specific item and because it sinks so low, I can no longer do that wish as whenever I place it, it goes to low to use it.

photo-attachingcontroller


Music/Sound:

A lovely feature of this game is the limited, but well produced music tracks that are within this game. I have tried to search for who created the music for this title, but I couldn’t find it anywhere. I would still like to say congratulations to you for making a beautifully produced and mixed music track for this game. It would be great if you could create unique tracks for each environment as I believe that there are only 1 or 2 tracks in the game currently.

Sound Effects:

The sound effects in this game could be a lot better, but it is an early access title so I would still say that at the moment, the sounds are tolerable; I just wanted to mention that I think that they could be improved over time. I would recommend using an actual cat to create dynamic sounds depending on the action. Live-action recordings always help in immersing the player.


Final Thoughts:

Rounding this game up, I still find myself asking, “What is the purpose of this title? Who is it trying to cater towards?”. I ask these because the game doesn’t have a progression system at the moment and there doesn’t seem to be an end-game result at all. I feel like these are needed, because this game reminds me of when I had a tamagotchi like 15 years ago. With this, you would start with a young pet and it would slowly mature over time; this gave you the incentive to keep playing. This game however doesn’t have any of that and so I am questioning coming back to it. There is also no repercussions if you leave the cat for multiple days unlike a tamagotchi.

I feel like if this game wants to become something that it’s trying to be, it has to incorporate these various key mechanics to become worth the £8.99 price tag.

  • Start of as a small kitten that slowly matures over time.
  • If left for several days, there has to be repercussions or what’s the point.
  • Allow more creative use of items and utilise the room-scale to allow you to move around instead of staying put.
  • More areas and dynamic sounds (can easily be changed in future updates)


Developer’s Log:

“Hello to everyone, this is Konrad Kunze from FusionPlay. We’d like to thank everyone who supports us as we are a small Indy team which just wants to make unique games.

Currently we are working hard on our upcoming big 0.4 update. The new gameplay mechanics are already working but there is still a lot of work to do for finishing the UI. Be excited as the results will totally change the game like we’ve already did with the last major release (0.3); And there is more planned until the final release in spring! We’ve planned finetuning of all components (animations, sounds, etc.), adding “end-game”-content and some more surprises.” – Konrad Kunze (Lead Game Designer) – 18/01/2017


Summary

  Pros Cons
Gameplay The controls with the cat in the touch controller is unique and innovative. There are no negatives in this game and no repercussions if left for days
Comfort I haven’t experienced any motion sickness and the game runs smoothly. The game refuses to calibrate properly and so you must faff on quite a lot.
Quality The animations of the cat can be alright at times and the tracking is pretty good. There is extreme image smearing and the cat lacks dynamic animation trans.
Music/Sound The music track that is included is well produced and high-quality sounding. There seems to be only 1 or 2 music tracks and the sound could be improved.
Gameplay Comfort Quality Music/Sound Average Score
3  7 5 5  5

Review by Sam Elliott

Konrad the Kitten is available now for Oculus and Vive, £8.99/$9.99. Thanks go out to Fusion Play for supplying the game and assets used in this review. Be sure to let us know your thoughts in the comments section below and be sure to stay tuned to UGNN for all your gaming news and reviews and be sure to follow us on FacebookTwitter and YouTube.
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