If you were given the chance to work in a cat cafe, you’d probably take it, right? What could be more fun than tending to tens of adorable fluffballs and serving coffee topped with cat foam art? (Try to put the inevitable clawing out of your mind). Well, now you’re getting your chance with Hustle Cat, a new romantic visual novel project that has launched on Kickstarter. Hustle Cat is from Brooklyn-based developers Date Nighto, who have also worked on the Kickstarter funded sci-fi visual novel Starfighter: Eclipse.
In Hustle Cat, you take up the role of Avery Grey, the new employee at Cat’s Paw Cafe. Hustle Cat uses the visual novel mechanics we all know well, but there are important differences that make this game stand out. The most notable differences are that players will be able to choose Avery’s gender and pronouns (including gender-neutral pronouns) and customise Avery’s appearance, choosing from several skin colour options, which finally gives us another visual novel with a non-white protagonist. Being romance-oriented, Hustle Cat also offers a diverse range of characters that you have the option to form relationships with as Avery.
On Date Nighto’s Tumblr, writer Kasey Van Hise says of Avery’s character:
“Avery Grey is a careful mix of specific and general ideas. I think presenting their motivations and their actions, without gendered commentary, will hopefully help to fit them under more than one lens. After all, anybody can love painting their nails, or sleep through two alarms every morning, or hate cooking, or shove their dirty socks into the couch. Everyone messes up the smaller stuff from time to time; everyone can be a good, kind person with unrealized potential; everyone’s a little rough around the edges when they’re just standing at the cusp of adulthood.
At the same time, there is no “canon” gender for Avery as far as I’m concerned, and that’s something I try to balance in the story. That isn’t to say that means Avery, by canon, has no gender; it means that I want to see what Averys are important for you, the players. Avery has no pronoun preference, and also all pronouns.”
It’s exciting to see this kind of customisability that welcomes all players, regardless of their gender, race, or sexual preference.
The game description hints that the adorable cat café isn’t all that it seems, and that there’s a mystery uncovered in the story. If you want to uncover this mystery yourself and support varied representation in romance visual novels, you can back the Kickstarter here. It currently has $11,466 of its $25,000 goal, with 16 days to go. If the game manages to get funded it will become available from February 2016 and Date Nighto will also launch a Steam Greenlight campaign to provide a downloadable version.
Main Image via Tumblr