I don’t like coffee. I don’t like being around cats. Hustle Cat is a game about working in a cat café that specializes in coffee. What could go wrong?
…not a whole lot, it turns out. Part of the fun of playing games is being able to pretend you’re a person you’re not—in this case, a person who genuinely enjoys drinking coffee and being around cats.
One of the things that Hustle Cat is most famous for is its character creation. Rather than selecting a gender as in most games, Hustle Cat allows you to pick the protagonist’s pronouns (he, she, or they). There’s a minor element of appearance customization, with three skin tones (pale/medium/dark) and two builds (one slightly more feminine, one slightly more masculine—although both are heavily androgynous; the biggest difference between them is their hair length) which can be combined. And unlike many visual novels which allow the protagonist’s appearance to be customized, Hustle Cat actually shows your character in its CGs (and there are quite a few CGs compared to how long the game is).
Something I noticed is that, despite (or possibly because of) the pronoun selection, pronouns are rarely used for the protagonist at all, and they’re never explicitly gendered (i.e., if you pick “she/her” pronouns, Avery still isn’t referred to as a girl or woman, just a nerd). I’ve seen some people say that Avery is canonically non-binary because of this, though I haven’t seen anything from the developers confirming it. Regardless, it’s still pretty rare to even have the option of playing a non-binary character in a game.
Main characters (in order of introduction)
- Avery Grey is our extremely relatable protagonist. A recent college graduate, they’re looking for their first job while living in their aunt’s apartment. While going for a walk, they discover a cat café named The Cat’s Paw which just so happens to be hiring. After a strange interview with the café’s proprietor, Graves, Avery becomes its newest employee.
- Landry is a waiter-slash-unofficial-carpenter at The Cat’s Paw. He’s super friendly and kind.
- Graves Serling is the eccentric owner of The Cat’s Paw. He clearly is hiding things—a lot of very big things, in fact. Most importantly, the fact that he was in a goth band in the 90s named Xpidercoven. (Okay, that’s not the most important one.)
- Hayes is the café’s barista; he suffers from a pretty severe case of anxiety.
- Finley is the super-outgoing social media intern. (By the way, it’s a complete coincidence that I read two visual novels in a row with major characters named Finley…)
- Mason is the taciturn head (and only) chef of the café. I fell in love with her immediately, and hers is the first route I went through.
- Reese is the assistant manager. He talks himself up a lot. I hated him almost immediately.
The love interests of Hustle Cat: Finley, Mason, Reese, Graves, Hayes, and Landry