Gaming On-The-Go is a weekly series that explores the mobile gaming industry, as well as uncovering current trends, with hands-on guides for the latest smartphone and tablet games.
What could be more adorable than cute kitties doing cute things? The answer is these virtual cats that seem to be taking over social media feeds and screens of mobile gamers everywhere.
Translated to "Cat Collection," Neko Atsume is the mobile game that has users gathering and caring for a small army of stray cats.
That's right, stray cats.
Since launching last October, this cat game from Japan has been downloaded approximately 5.5 million times for iOS and Android, proving that people really want to domesticate little fur balls of joy. What's even more baffling is that the game is in Japanese, meaning that many of these gamers probably start out clueless as to what's really going on: International Business Times reports that 40 percent of the game's downloads are from outside of Japan.
So what makes it so appealing?
To play Neko Atsume, gamers must put out food and toys so that stray cats come to their backyard. The objective is to the collect 45 different cats of a wide variety, such as ones with stripes and ones with spots.
I found myself wondering, why would anyone want to take care of a bunch of stray cats? Then my colleague brought up the point that technically they wouldn't be strays anymore — they would be mine. So I decided to give the game a go.
After downloading this cat game, I must admit: I was so lost. While the tutorial shows you how to select items to place in the backyard, I still had no idea what was going on for quite some time. But it no longer mattered once my first kitty appeared.
Neko Atsume got me thinking back to the days of the Tamagotchi — the handheld, egg-shaped digital pet that I would take with me everywhere, since I invested way too much time in it to have it die after being stuck with a Hershey's kiss for hours because I couldn't "clean" it.
But before I knew it, I was sucked into this cat world. And now I know what makes this game so addicting: it's just so cute.
The trick to the game is to always have food and toys laid out so the adorable freeloaders will appear on your screens — playing, sleeping, climbing and rolling around.
But then just like that, they leave you.
While this may leave you wondering what you ever did to deserve this abandonment, they do leave you the pardoning gift of some fish, which allows you to buy them more food and toys.
You can also collect photos of them in a notebook to keep track of your strays and reminisce about the moments you had together.
I really liked the fact that you don't need to always check on your strays to avoid having them starve to death. You simply play when you want.
I must confess that while I became strangely captivated by the game, figuring it out was frustrating. But once I learned to navigate, I could see why so many people think it's fun.
Since Neko Atsume is a bit confusing, here's a brief guide explaining how you can get started hoarding your own virtual cats.
Tap on the paw print to bring up a menu. To buy food and toys, tap on the yellow shopping icon that has a box and a ball. Double-tap to buy, and then place the item in the backyard, into the spots highlighted in yellow.
If you want to go back to the option window, tap on the paw print again. To see your cats, tap on the pink cat icon. Click on the pink notebook to see your photos. The middle icon will bring you to the backyard — something that took me forever to figure out.
Since the cats only come when there is food, check back every few hours and tap on the bowl to refill it. The more toys, the more cats, and rare cats come with the higher quality food. And that's the game.
Between the cartoony graphics that makes me think of Sanrio's Hello Kitty and Pochacco, the happy-go-lucky music and cute kitties playing doing cute things, I now know why this game is everywhere.