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About the Story
You are a twenty-four-year-old who just inherited $10,000. Can you run a successful cat-breeding business?
15th place - 27th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2021)
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Number of Reviews: 7
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I worried about failing to do full due diligence in replaying Fine Felines before sending my final IFDB review. It's not the game's fault, or if it is, it's in the most positive way possible. I just simply didn't want to breed the cats wrong on purpose. And yes, Fine Felines is about a year of breeding cats. Your life's fullness depends on how well you breed them and interact with others. Fortunately, there are no bad endings. But that didn't stop me from worrying about it, having owned a few cats. Fortunately, I read the helpful documentation/cheat sheet, and that started me looking into things. All I can do is say that I read through the source. And I'm glad the author added more breeds for a post-comp version. I think Fine Felines more than served a great purpose as a boost when there were games in genres that weren't especially my thing, the darker-themed ones. So it qualified as a "good-citizen" game, which I define as one that doesn't suck up much oxygen and does much like many shorter games, but it was the only long game to really do so. Which is impressive. I remembered things well once I started looking through the source.
Getting through all the IFComp games is tough, and you need to pace yourself, and I put off reviewing FF largely because I figured I would hit a rut, and it would bring me out, and it did. And it's far more than just cat pictures and even getting to name the kittens your cats breed, if you want. Of course, you can do that. And here I'll add some personal history: I can't say I know much about cat breeding, because my first cats came from a barn in northeast Iowa. One was scared of me for a day before jumping on my computer hard drive tower. Another showed over the years he would obviously have made a terrible barn cat, because he had no interest in fighting. Another, well, the barn owners' daughter brought him in, then they threw him back once she left for college, and he wound up sort of clinging to me when I got the chance at another cat. I heard "why'd you choose HIM?" and wondered, myself, as spent five minutes screaming inside a cage on the short drive back. Then after an hour he went and sat with with my other cat.
And one thing COVID ruined was being able to go out and just see cats for adoption at PetSmart or wherever. Seeing all these cats without any breed actually put me in a position where I prefer non-bred cats, because there are so many out there that just need homes, and comparing what people pay here to the $100 adoption fee is a bit of a shock. Breeding cats isn't big in the USA, certainly not as big as breeding dogs. But I wanted to see a few cats and have something more than just pictures, and I got that with Fine Felines. If it's not full spiritual renewal, it stopped the erosion in a big way.
At the start, your mother has died and left you $10000. You decide to invest that in a business. You have a choice of what sort of materials to choose. I went with most expensive, and everything worked okay. I didn't quite run out of money. But, of course, I (and my in-game character) didn't know anything about cat breeding, so I had to ask. And I wound up having to navigate a neighbor who didn't like cats as well as three people willing to help me get started. I confess I hoped for cat pictures as I asked around.
There's also a revealed diagnosis of fibromyalgia, which brought up more memories than you'd think. I still remember having knee surgery and hearing "What are you doing with crutches? You can walk! Are you just trying for attention?" or even bringing them to the athletic center to do rehabilitation and occasionally getting funny looks or comments. Or maybe feeling guilty moving weights up on a leg machine and still using crutches. So the part discussing where people say "you don't need a wheelchair! You're not really handicapped!" resonated with me--I've also received my share of "don't be grouchy" style encouragement, and the main character would certainly have that since raising cats is unpredictable, and that variance is something you may think about even if you're not officially on the job. So the main character has many such variables, and it's not melodramatic in-game. While they can only be dealt with on a basic level due to IFComp's two-hour time constraints, the way they're presented beat the stuffing out of the standard "ACHIEVE YOUR DREAMS" lecture.
So I went through and got a good ending, or one that seemed good, but they are all good in a way. The standard "if you like this sort of thing, you'll like it" praise applies here. And while I didn't replay this on my computer as much as other entries, I probably replayed it more in my head. But my an intellectual interest in finding "bad" endings got short-circuited here, as having owned cats made it much harder for me to make a Clearly Bad Decision. My heart wanted there to be no real way to mess up, but my head said "The more meaningful decisions, the better!" Similarly, my head enjoys games or problems where being a nice person is not enough, but here, my heart wouldn't want that. I mean, enough money for food and such, yay. I have a problem with trying out simulations of deliberate neglect of animals as opposed to, say, being a jerk to other people in your next playthrough, and I'm glad FF avoided that while still dealing with real-life issues. I'm also glad it didn't drag things out. One simulated year was more than enough to make me happy and steel me for far darker-themed games still in my IFComp bucket, both when I was writing reviews in the authors' forum and when I was touching them up for IFDB. It was legitimate spiritual renewal.
This game is a polished Choicescript cat breeding simulator.
You have $10,000 and a small monthly income, and have the opportunity to buy several different varieties of pedigree cats while buying different supplies and living areas for the cats.
Simultaneously, you have to deal with a new disability, which costs money and takes up your time.
I had remembered hearing before that buying pedigree cats was unethical, and you should get them from pounds. But looking it up, it seems like the main reason people say that its bad is because they have puppy mills or cat mills where animals are stored in unhealthy conditions. Even 'backyard sellers' can be problematic, with one website offering these red flags:
(Spoiler - click to show)
-The seller has many types of purebreds or “designer” hybrid breeds being sold at less than six weeks old.
-Breeders who are reluctant to show potential customers the entire premises on which animals are being bred and kept.
-Breeders who don’t ask a lot of questions of potential buyers.
-No guarantees-responsible breeders make a commitment to take back the pet at anytime during the animal’s life, no matter the reason.
Anyway, the point of the long digression is that my character did none of these things; quite the opposite in fact! So I was happy to do some ethical cat breeding.
The biggest strength of the game is, absolutely, its cute cat pictures. I like cats, but I spend very little time looking up pet pics online and don't really feel interested in such pictures in general. But the cats in this game are very cute, especially since you follow their story.
There are also several romantic options. It was actually a bit too easy to romance people; I thought I was picking a 'be nice' option but my character ended up asking the person out.
+Polish: The game was smooth and looked good.
+Descriptiveness: The game had plenty of detail.
+Interactivity: It was clear what different options I had and how it could affect my strategy, without being too easy
+Emotional impact: It was pretty cute
+Would I play again? Sure
This life-simulator deals with the ups and downs of a protagonist juggling a new and exciting cat breeding business with the grief of a parent passing away and the dawning realization that they’re suffering from a chronic illness.
The writing and choices here brim with compassion, creating space for the player to consider their character’s needs and those of others: close friends with active children, a budding romantic interest, a neighbor who worries about the presence of cats, and, of course, the cats themselves! I love that the cats have their own personalities, and each delivers their own laughs and adorable moments.
I was surprised when the ending seemed to arrive abruptly, perhaps because I assumed the story would last a full year (it ends halfway through). Some of the plot threads, like the relationships with the dad, friends, and romantic interest, are appealing but don’t feel resolved; I was left wishing for more of an arc structure to them.
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