Puss might be the strangest video game I’ve ever played.
In Puss, you play as a small pixelated cat head navigating short mazes. The mazes are often filled with obstacles and bullets impeding your route to the end, and if you touch a wall for too long, you’ll get zapped and lose a life.
That’s only part of the experience, though. It’s the mind-meltingly psychedelic aesthetic that permeates every aspect of the game that makes Puss stand out.
Nearly every maze in Puss offers an entirely new visual experience, and most have bright colors that regularly change, shift, or flash as you navigate through the level. The intensity of the graphics can sometimes feel overpowering, often distracting me from actually completing a level. In one, for example, nearly the entire background was taken up by a looping video of giant, chattering teeth.
Every once in a while, I would even notice that my eyes hurt while playing, forcing me to stop. When you boot up Puss, it suggests consulting a doctor before playing video games if you have epilepsy or have had reactions to flashing lights. There’s also a very brief message that “player discretion is advised.”
The music doesn’t make the game any easier to play. The soundtrack regularly mashes up different genres and sound effects to create weird and often uncomfortable soundscapes. In one section of one song, a low, industrial hum rumbles beneath occasional guitar twangs and incomprehensible mumbling voices. Sometimes these mashups created interesting, lo-fi hip-hop-esque beats. But more often than not, the music just put me on edge.
The mazes themselves are short, and each has different mechanics and puzzles that are fun to figure out, despite everything that’s going on. Some mazes have you time movements across ever-shifting platforms. Others have timer buttons that reveal a new platform you’ll have to race across in order to get to the end. Sometimes you’re just dodging a lot of bullets.
I was able to finish many of the mazes on my first try, and the ones that tripped me up at first would get easier with practice. The game also has truly outlandish bosses. During one stage of a boss fight, there’s a dog with three heads fused into one that shoots lasers out of its eyes. The bosses often reminded me of Undertale’s memorable final foe.
Everything about Puss is overwhelming, and I’m convinced that the game is trying to make you feel like you’re high on catnip. But the absurdity of that conceit works. A part of me was always looking forward to what unexpected combination of visuals, sounds, and puzzle-solving awaited me with each new maze or boss fight. It just sometimes hurt my head to try to comprehend it all.
Puss launches on February 19th on the Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One. It’s already available on iOS, Android, PC, Mac, and Linux.