Maybe you’ve seen your friends on Twitter sharing screenshots of a cartoon garden with some cats. I’ve gotten so sucked into it that I even modeled my latest Twitter avatar after it.
The mobile game Neko Atsume, which translates to Cat Collection, is free to download even for US iTunes accounts (you can copy and paste this to search for it: ねこあつめ), but unfortunately has not been translated for English-speaking audiences. If you can’t read Japanese, fear not! I will tell you what you need to know to get the most enjoyment out of the game.
In the game, you have a space that you can decorate with cat-friendly furniture and toys. You put down a bowl of food, close the app, and wait a bit.
When you open the game back up, you’ll see some cats! When all the food is gone, the cats go away, but not before giving you some dried sardines in return. Dried sardines are the currency in this game, with gold fish having more value. You can actually purchase 10 gold fish with 500 silver fish in the shopping menu, which isn’t a bad idea if you’re saving up to expand.
You can start by refilling the bowl for free with the pink bowl, but to get better cats you’ll want to change up the food, which you’ll have to shop for. The gold food bowl is a good bet to see some rarer cats, but you should experiment with the higher quality canned food to see some really cool ones. Just remember to check the app frequently if you do, otherwise you may come back to an empty bowl and list of missed rare cats.
Sometimes when you open the app the screen will darken and a cat will titter onto your screen. It wants to give you treasure!
There are a lot of treasures you can get, and they include such gems like “strange spoon” (aka a spork), cicada husk, bell that doesn’t ring, an old 10 yen coin, and damp matches.
Unlike a tamagotchi, nothing dies if you don’t bother putting out food, so there is no punishment in not playing the game for a while. You can save up fish to buy better furniture and toys, and ultimately upgrade your space in a variety of ways.
The game has a level of detail that betrays its simple premise. Each cat has their own personality, fighting strength (whatever that implies!), and top 3 favorite items from your set up. You can also use the in-game “camera” to take a screenshot of the cat itself, which you can then assign to their profile.
In their profile, tap on the yellow square towards the bottom-right corner to view the pictures you took of it. Double-tap on any picture to assign it to their profile as their best photo.
You can also tap on their name at the very top to change it! This is a good way to keep track of which cats are visiting if you can’t read Japanese. (h/t @newcrobuzon).
That’s about it! Hopefully that’s enough info for you to get sucked into the game. It’s best to play whenever you’re trying to kill time. I usually check it during commercial breaks on Hulu, between errands, and before I hit the sack. I try to make it a point to always have the bowls full even if I won’t be checking the phone for a while, because even though I will have missed out on a slew of cats, I’ll still have a steady stream of incoming sardines.
Have you played Neko Atsume? Is there anything I overlooked, or something you’re stuck with? Let me know in the comments! Happy collecting!