Hackycat is a departure from artist and designer Ken Wong's previous work.
American McGee's Grimm — a game for which he designed the characters — was based on the Grimm Brothers' fairy tales. Alice: Madness Returns — a game where he served as art director — was a dark and twisted take on the story of Alice. Hackycat — Wong's first solo game project — is a "dork sport" about kicking cats.
"Cats are always a winner," Wong tells Polygon. "And that's kind of it: it's such a silly idea, but if you take a silly idea seriously it becomes interesting and absurd."
Hackycat sounds exactly like what it is: Take an innocent game of hacky sack and replace the ball with unimpressed cats. Wong says the impetus for designing a game of his own was the desire to create something that takes advantage of a touchscreen interface. Rather than have the player kicking balls, which wouldn't be particularly interesting, he decided to experiment with the absurd.
"If you take a silly idea seriously it becomes interesting and absurd."
The player, a pseudo-athlete with skinny arms and knobbly knees, has to kick cats as they fall from the sky. The game begins with the player only needing to keep track of one cat, whose facial expression changes from bored to annoyed with each kick, which Wong says is "very cat-like." As the game progresses, more cats, each with a different name and design, fall from the sky and players must furiously tap at the screen to comically extend their skinny legs to kick cats. Kicking several cats in succession increases the player's combo score while airborne targets like cheeseburgers give players something to literally aim for.
"The overall look is meant to be very simple and very naive, and it was inspired by films like Napoleon Dynamite and Nacho Libre," Wong says. "Those two movies are about very unlikely heroes who figure out something they're very passionate about and will do it no matter what anybody else tells them. They kind of don't fit into this world except while doing this one particular weird thing. It's also inspired by Wes Anderson films, which also share this dorky aesthetic.
"I think of Hackycat as a dork sport. It's not a macho sport. It's not very glamorous. It's kind of just weird and dorky and for outsiders."
Hackycat will release on iOS devices soon. The game currently contains more than 20 cats, including "Mustachio" (a cat with a mustache), "Tofucat" (wears a tofu), "Sundae" (cat with a pretty bow) and "Khan" (has fierce eyebrows).