There are some games that make use of clichés or tropes to build themselves up. Some do it well, while many more do it poorly. Ninja Cats vs Samurai Dogs really piles it on, employing the cats-versus-dogs idea and slapping on a coat of Feudal Japan paint to dress it up. Fortunately for developer Eutechnyx, it’s done pretty well and comes out as a relatively functional idea. Unfortunately for us, the game’s origin in mobile stands out clearly, and there’s not a lot of reason for it to have been dragged out of its kennel and onto the Steam store for PC.
The gameplay in Ninja Cats vs Samurai Dogs is pretty simplistic by nature, with a mix of tower defense and real-time strategy; imagine something along the lines of Plants vs Zombies with plants that march towards the ends of their lanes, and you’re on the right track. Rather than just a ‘protect the base’ objective, players are tasked with capturing enemy territory to advance. Victory (or defeat) is determined by which side in the struggle is the first to capture three lanes on the opposition’s side of the field, which consists of five horizontal lanes connecting the player to their foe.
Along your side of the field are five open spaces to use for constructing your buildings. With so few slots, it becomes very important to select carefully since your options in battle will depend on what you decide to construct, despite the fact that buildings can be razed at will to be replaced with others. In addition to the limited space, players must be mindful of three pools of resources: Gold, Mana, and Cookies. Gold is used to build basic military units under the “Might” tree, Mana for spells and other trappings from the “Magic” tree, and Cookies for upgrades and other trappings from the “Martial” tree. All building-produced items are represented by ‘cards’, which are another finite-space resource to manage while you decide what to produce and when to deploy it.
Let’s talk about these “trees” for a moment. Far from just a describing element to each building or unit, these are open-ended, choose-your-path skill trees that can determine which units or buildings are available to you, as well as their relative strength or effectiveness; for instance, a Might skill may open up the ability to build Archers or Cavalry, or to upgrade the Dojo at which your military is trained. A Magic skill may give you a healing spell, or a deadly attack that can harm and repel enemy forces. Choosing your skills wisely is almost as important as how you employ the use of each during play, where any decision can turn the tide of battle in your favor – or against it. Personally, I found a lot of success by dedicating much of my time to the Might tree and making my military the best it could be without extra distractions, but some pretty clear obstacles came up that required I branch out at least a bit.
Ultimately, the game’s biggest downfall – with a possible exception to an unforgiving learning curve – is that it’s so obviously a port of a mobile game, right down to using the mouse to ‘swipe’ for certain actions. Throw in the fact that it’s $2 more via Steam than via Apple’s App Store (or that it’s free for Android via the Amazon App Store), and there’s not a lot of incentive to buy in to the PC version of the game. While it’s a solid tactical/strategic game with a number of high points, I simply don’t see a reason that it needed a PC port, and I can’t recommend it over the mobile versions, which provide the same content at a greater value.
[+Great, engaging strategy game] [+Lots of variety to explore and play with] [-Unnecessary port from mobile] [-Price hiked up for PC] [-No functional difference between two factions]