Everyone loves YouTube Cats. Us Internet folk have known about this hilarious trend for aeons, and with the prime time television show Cats Make You Laugh out Loud gracing our screens here in Oz, it seems that the rest of society has officially caught up. It is now a truth beyond doubt; cats are hilarious beings. CatTube Famous is an accessible card game for 2-6 players that draws on this well-loved themed. While the sleek graphic design, impressive art, and solid core mechanic make CatTube a fantastic beginning, this card game would benefit from a little more strategic depth – something that I am sure will develop as this Kickstarter project progresses.
Played over a series of rounds, each participant must use the video cards in their hand to try and match current trends in order to obtain the most subscribers and win. In this way, CatTube Famous is quite simple – look at your hands, choose the relevant video cards, and play during your turn. The strategy is amped up by a few of the game’s features. First, players take turns to play cards face down; so you can never see which cards other players have used, only how many, until scoring. Second, in each round there will be three visible trend cards that you must attempt to match, and one unknown, which will be revealed after all players have ‘passed’ on playing cards. Finally, video cards respond to trends in different ways. For every video card you play, you automatically obtain one subscriber. You will then either gain additional subscribers, multiply the amount of subscribers, or even lose subscribers, depending on which trends are present. CatTube creators Liam and Josh prove the game’s accessibility with this video, wherein the game’s rules and scoring are explained in just two and a half minutes.
I find that the best way to discover whether or not a game is truly accessible is to try playing it with someone who is either under ten or over eighty. In this instance, I had the opportunity to play it with my 87-year-old grandmother and my mum. After three rounds of play, both had mastered the gameplay, and rounds progressed quickly – perhaps even too quickly. We seemed to spend most of the time we were engaged with the game tallying up subscribers and figuring out who had won a round, rather than engaging with the strategy. There does seem to be a deeper level of strategy in CatTube, but it involves bluffing and card counting – making familiarity with all the game’s cards a prerequisite for playing at this level. This poker-like ‘bluffing’ aspect of CatTube makes the social element of the game far more important than I initially thought. When choosing which cards to play, it is important to consider your hand size relative to the other players, as well as which video cards have already been played and which trends have already passed. While I can see how this kind of strategy could function in CatTube, after playing it with a handful of different groups – gamer and non-gamer alike – I must admit it did not feel present in gameplay.
One of CatTube’s best strengths is its art and video card names, which affectively tap into the game’s lovable theme. Sadly, the theme is peripheral to gameplay, rather than central. Core gameplay consists mainly of matching keywords and counting the points you have scored. Hand sizes in CatTube are so small that strategic choices to match trends are limited, and strategy usually consists of simply choosing the videos in your hand that match the trends in play. While this means the game’s accessibility is indeed high, I think that the gameplay would benefit from a few tweaks that aim to deepen the game’s strategy without relying on a full working knowledge of every card in the game. Perhaps making certain cards work in conjunction with one another, or increasing hand sizes so that players were choosing which cards relevant to trends they can play, rather than just choosing all the trend-relevant cards.
The core of CatTube is solid, and the theme is extremely likeable; however, the game feels as though it requires more polish and playtesting to reach its full potential. Accessibility has clearly been a prime goal in the design of CatTube, but straddling the balance between accessibility and deep strategy can be extremely tough. With the overwhelming amount of interest this Kickstarter project has already received, I feel confident that CatTube has the support it needs to reach its full potential.