Umbraclaw Review: Feline Adventure Falls Short

Umbraclaw Review: Doesn’t Quite Land On Its Feet

In the bustling world of indie games, there’s a peculiar charm that often comes from integrating cats into the mix. These feline-centric titles tap into a widespread affection for cats, and games like Stray (2022) have leveraged this to great success by featuring a cat as the central character. Inti Creates takes this concept further with their new 2D action-adventure game, **Umbraclaw**, where you step into the paws of a cat that has not only died but must also navigate the underworld to reunite with its beloved owner. Adding a twist, this game allows your feline protagonist to transform into a formidable bipedal Digimon-like creature, blending elements of myth and fantasy into the core gameplay.

Kuon, the cat protagonist of Umbraclaw, standing in a dark, colorful underworld.
Image Credit: Siliconera

Story and Character Development

You play as Kuon, a cat whose bond with her owner is depicted through poignant, yet straightforward flashbacks. These flashbacks are simple but effectively convey the depth of their relationship. While the overall storyline is relatively simplistic, involving Kuon collecting four seals twice and defeating the corresponding bosses to return to life, it’s the emotional weight of her connection with her owner that stands out. This connection is beautifully rendered in brief, yet powerful flashbacks that any cat owner can relate to, highlighting those tender moments that make pets integral to our lives.

However, beyond these touching moments, the narrative doesn’t offer much substance. The bosses you encounter have minimal dialogue, which adds a bit of character but not enough to leave a lasting impression. The primary focus remains on Kuon’s journey and her emotional drive to return to her owner, a narrative thread that resonates deeply with pet lovers but might seem underdeveloped to others seeking a more intricate plot.

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Gameplay Mechanics

Umbraclaw diverges from other cat-themed games like Stray by not leveraging a cat’s natural agility and movement for its mechanics. Instead, the game feels more like a traditional 2D platformer, and unfortunately, it doesn’t always handle as smoothly as one might expect. The controls can feel clunky, and Kuon’s movements lack the fluid grace that one associates with a cat. This discrepancy could be seen as a missed opportunity, especially when considering how Stray successfully used a cat’s agility to enhance its gameplay experience.

The central mechanic in Umbraclaw revolves around the concept of a cat’s nine lives. At the start, Kuon possesses basic abilities: jumping and a simple dash. Any hit is fatal, reflecting her vulnerability. However, each death grants Kuon a new random ability, progressively making her more powerful. This creates an intriguing dynamic where dying is not just a setback but a means to become stronger. Yet, Kuon remains fragile as each life can still end with a single hit.

As you lose lives, Kuon eventually evolves into a bipedal anime cat, significantly stronger and more resilient. On the last life, she attains her most powerful form. This system, while innovative, introduces a paradox where initial gameplay involves a lot of dying to become effective, potentially frustrating players early on. The levels must accommodate this mechanic by being passable regardless of the abilities acquired, which often results in unchallenging and uninspired level design.

After defeating each major boss, you can reset your lives and abilities, adding a strategic layer to how you manage Kuon’s growth and survival. This mechanic also ties into the narrative, as losing lives and evolving impacts Kuon’s feline soul, affecting her bond with her owner and ultimately determining the game’s ending.

Visual and Audio Design

One of Umbraclaw’s standout features is its visual presentation. The game uses bold colors and thick black lines to create a striking graphic novel aesthetic. The underworld is depicted with a stylish, twisted beauty that captures the eye. Each environment is richly detailed, with a distinctive, edgy design that, while sometimes bordering on over-the-top, remains undeniably cool.

The character designs, especially Kuon’s various forms, are well-crafted, showcasing a balance between cuteness and the more menacing aspects of her evolved forms. The bosses and other creatures you encounter are equally well-designed, fitting seamlessly into the game’s dark and whimsical world.

Accompanying the visual splendor is a melancholic piano-driven soundtrack. The music stands out for its emotional depth, providing a stark contrast to the game’s lighter treatment of its somber themes. The melodies evoke a sense of loss and longing, underscoring Kuon’s journey and her determination to reunite with her owner. This auditory backdrop enriches the overall atmosphere, making the experience more immersive and emotionally resonant.

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Challenges and Shortcomings

Despite its strengths in concept, visuals, and audio, Umbraclaw struggles with execution. The game’s level design, while accommodating its core mechanics, often feels uninspired. The necessity to design levels that are passable regardless of which abilities Kuon acquires leads to layouts that lack challenge and creativity. This can make progression feel monotonous and unengaging, diminishing the excitement of exploration and discovery that is central to great platformers.

Moreover, the controls and movement mechanics leave much to be desired. Kuon’s movements lack the precision and responsiveness needed for a satisfying platforming experience. This is particularly disappointing given the expectation that a cat protagonist would move with a natural grace and agility. Instead, players might find themselves struggling with imprecise controls, which can lead to frustration, especially during more demanding sections of the game.

Combat, another crucial aspect of gameplay, also falls short. It feels clunky and lacks the fluidity that makes action games enjoyable. Encounters with enemies and bosses often devolve into repetitive and unsatisfying button-mashing, rather than strategic or skillful combat. This not only detracts from the overall experience but also fails to leverage the unique abilities Kuon acquires throughout her journey.


Umbraclaw is a game with a lot of potential. Its unique premise of a cat navigating the underworld to reunite with its owner, combined with the innovative nine lives mechanic, sets the stage for an engaging and emotionally resonant adventure. The game’s striking visuals and melancholic soundtrack further enhance its appeal, creating a compelling aesthetic and emotional atmosphere.

However, the game is held back by its lackluster execution. The uninspired level design, imprecise controls, and clunky combat undermine the potential of its core mechanics and narrative. While there is a good game somewhere within Umbraclaw, these shortcomings prevent it from fully realizing its promise.

For players who are drawn to unique indie titles and can appreciate the emotional narrative and striking visuals, Umbraclaw offers a worthwhile experience. However, those seeking polished gameplay and engaging level design might find themselves disappointed. In the end, Umbraclaw doesn’t quite land on its feet, but it’s a journey that cat lovers and indie game enthusiasts might still find worth taking, even if it’s not as smooth or satisfying as it could be.

FAQs for Umbraclaw Review

What is Umbraclaw?

Umbraclaw is a 2D action-adventure game developed and published by Inti Creates. In this game, players control Kuon, a deceased cat navigating the underworld to reunite with its owner. The game features a unique mechanic where Kuon uses her nine lives to gain new abilities and evolve into stronger forms.

Who developed Umbraclaw?

Umbraclaw was developed and published by Inti Creates, a company known for creating innovative and engaging indie games.

What platforms is Umbraclaw available on?

Umbraclaw is available on PC via Steam and on various console platforms, including PlayStation, Xbox, and Nintendo Switch.

What is the main storyline of Umbraclaw?

The main storyline follows Kuon, a cat that has died and must collect seals and defeat bosses in the underworld to return to her owner. The narrative focuses on Kuon’s bond with her owner, depicted through touching flashbacks, and her determination to reunite with them.

How does the nine lives mechanic work in Umbraclaw?

In Umbraclaw, Kuon starts with basic abilities and dies easily from any hit. Each death grants her a random new ability, making her progressively more powerful. Kuon evolves into a bipedal form after losing several lives, becoming stronger and more resilient. If she loses all nine lives, the game ends, but players can reset lives and abilities after defeating major bosses.

What are the main strengths of Umbraclaw?

Umbraclaw’s main strengths lie in its striking visual design with bold colors and a graphic novel aesthetic, and its melancholic piano-driven soundtrack, which adds emotional depth to the game. The unique nine lives mechanic is also an interesting aspect of gameplay.

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What are the main criticisms of Umbraclaw?

The main criticisms of Umbraclaw include its uninspired level design, imprecise controls, and clunky combat. These issues detract from the overall gameplay experience, making it less engaging and satisfying.

Is Umbraclaw suitable for all ages?

Umbraclaw is generally suitable for teen and adult players due to its themes and gameplay mechanics. It might not be appropriate for younger children due to its depiction of the underworld and combat elements.

How long does it take to complete Umbraclaw?

The length of time to complete Umbraclaw varies depending on the player’s skill and exploration. On average, it can take **8-12 hours** to complete the main storyline, with additional time for discovering all abilities and endings.

Does Umbraclaw have multiple endings?

Yes, Umbraclaw features multiple endings that depend on how Kuon manages her lives and the choices made throughout the game. The bond with her owner and the state of her feline soul influence the outcome.

Can you replay Umbraclaw with different abilities?

Yes, Umbraclaw encourages replayability by offering different abilities through the nine lives mechanic. Each playthrough can yield a unique combination of abilities, providing a varied gameplay experience.

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What is the visual style of Umbraclaw like?

Umbraclaw features a striking visual style with bold colors, thick black lines, and a graphic novel aesthetic. The underworld is depicted with a stylish, twisted beauty that is both edgy and cool.

Is there a demo available for Umbraclaw?

As of now, there is no demo available for Umbraclaw. Interested players can watch gameplay videos or read reviews to get a sense of the game before purchasing.

What are some similar games to Umbraclaw?

Similar games to Umbraclaw include **Stray** (2022), which also features a cat protagonist, and other indie action-adventure games like **Hollow Knight** and **Ori and the Blind Forest**, which offer engaging platforming and unique mechanics.

Where can I purchase Umbraclaw?

Umbraclaw can be purchased on Steam for PC and on the respective digital storefronts for PlayStation, Xbox, and Nintendo Switch.

Does Umbraclaw support multiple languages?

Yes, Umbraclaw supports multiple languages, including **English, Japanese, Spanish, French, and German**, among others. Players can select their preferred language in the game settings.

Are there any downloadable content (DLC) or updates planned for Umbraclaw?

As of now, there has been **no official announcement** regarding DLC or major updates for Umbraclaw. Players can check the developer’s official website or social media for any future updates.

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