Review – Neko Secret Room
Some of the most dangerous words in any language are hyperboles. The world, you see, has a way of making you instantly see that whatever line in the sand you’ve drawn can be easily crossed in a matter of seconds. When Homer correctly pointed out to Bart that today was the worst day of his life so far, there was a bit of truth to that: you can never truly know if something is the absolute of your life unless you’re going to die in the next ten seconds. You find the best bakery ever, you’re bound to end up at an even better one two decades down the line in a small corner of Hoboken. You think that this is the worst pain you’ve ever experienced, chin up: there are a convoy of incidents just idling to come and help you rethink your definition of “indescribable.” When I sat down and reviewed Pretty Girls Speed and thought “this is the worst game I’ve played this year,” I had no idea that I was days, not weeks or months, away from surpassing that bar. Yet here we are, with EastAsiaSoft really driving home my disappointment with Neko Secret Room.
A couple of things you should know before entering into this review. First, Neko Secret Room is an inexplicable re-release of an already existing game, Neko Hacker Plus, with nothing changed between the two except the price and the title. It was probably rebranded because the Steam version is only on the side of positive as it’s full of joke reviews praising it, despite there obviously being no content.
Second, there is already a sequel – Neko Secret: Homecoming – that has significantly better sprite graphics and more puzzles. If you’re hellbent on adding another game to your library of lightly lewd software, then you might as well pick that up instead. It’s not on the Switch, but we’ll address the whole “Switch” thing in a moment.
Third, this is one of the few titles that I have deleted off my console upon finishing it – not archiving, deleting – because it’s such a waste of space I don’t even want it there to entertain me as a reminder of what I’ve done. I’ve got so many games on there just to look at and say “I remember this!” but I will not give such attention to Neko Secret Room.
The concept, if it’s not clear, is that you are some kind of catgirl that is sneaking into someone’s secret room. The idea is already a bit strange, because this secret room is literally a decently sized living room with a bathroom. There’s nothing secret going on here: you’re just breaking into someone’s domicile for catgirl reasons. Once you’re in there, you’re going to hack into the computer in the room to look at the photos on the computer. Nothing about the hacking is in control of the player whatsoever, and by “hack” I mean put in a four digit password. Then…that’s it.
There are pictures to look at, seemingly arbitrarily grouped, and they each have certain levels of nudity to them that increase if you can unlock the pictures. You unlock these by doing a scrambled puzzle, which, as we all know, is standard computer encryption protocol. “I don’t want anyone to see these secret documents. Might as well make them into a mixed grid formation that you can brute force in about five minutes or less. Take THAT, Anonymous!”
In total, Neko Secret Room lets you do three and a half things: picture puzzles, play darts, change clothes/appearance, and dance. The last one is so pointless that I need to mention it so no one accidentally does it. If you walk near the bed, your character starts dancing. The music doesn’t change, you have no control over the dance, and it has all the appeal of watching someone reenact the Buffalo Bill dance from Silence of the Lambs, having horribly misconstrued it as “provocative.” The same four dance moves cycle through with no apparent reason or change, so if you miss watching kids at junior high school dances keep trying to copy moves from TRL during Destiny’s Child songs, then you might get a modicum of enjoyment out of it.
The dress-up portion is also odd, but it at least has variety in the same way that the injuries you get from paintball have variety. You can change the height, skin color, outfit, ear type, thigh size, and bust size of the avatar, so if you prefer a fox girl or elf girl then go right ahead. Prefer the long sweatshirt look or one piece bathing suit? Go ahead, swap those outfits around! You can make your character have tree trunk legs and beach ball boobs, and the whole thing quickly shows you that algorithms were made without any inspection as to how they would look in practice. It’s like if someone decided that they could make Slenderman sexy. It has all the eroticism of slaughtering a chicken and the same appeal to the breasts afterwards. It’s a weird and frankly pointless endeavor, and it’s still not the worst thing that you do in the game.
The picture puzzles are the core appeal of Neko Secret Room, though EastAsiaSoft is still not willing to commit to full frontal nudity, even on a game made for degenerates with patience and a beautiful mind. The way the photos are cut and mixed up create two effects. One, a majority of the artwork give the impression that the poses are unnatural, like someone is either being blackmailed or physically forced to pose. A catgirl with her bum high in the air gives more of a Bunker Wife feeling than Naughty Schoolgirl.
Two, once the photos are scrambled it takes an earnest amount of patience to put the pieces into place because you end up with multiple panels of pillow, ocean, bedspread, or just background that all blend into one another. This is further complicated by making it a very unresponsive setup, in which you either must commit to touchscreen controls or commit to never finishing the puzzle, because the button controls are maddening. You have to constantly have one piece selected in order to swap it with another, resulting in sometimes accidentally moving something around when you didn’t need to. Also, if you’re unfortunate enough to accidentally click on the puzzle selection on the side, it results in the whole thing resetting with no warning. Awesome.
I suppose, in some perverse way, it would all be justified if the pictures were exciting or especially naughty, but they honestly aren’t. We get to see boobs, that’s it. Though I’m still incredulous that people will buy games on the Switch just to see female nipples, it’s a category of software that’s still bringing in cash regardless. My guess? Tweens and teenagers who want to see softcore nudity without having a footprint on their browser history, and also have parents who believe a video game is only for kids and thus they won’t even bother looking into it. So if you’re up for breasts, cool, here they are, but everything from the waist down is blurred out using a clouding technique that would make Mormons call this game uptight.
If you’re going to take your Switch – a handheld machine capable of Doom Eternal, Breath of the Wild, and CLANNAD on the same system – and use it to try and catch a glimpse of The Spice Channel, it should at least be something more suggestive. Instead, it’s Cinemax after dark, but not too late because I gotta get up early to make it to soccer practice tomorrow.
There’s also darts. There’s no prize for winning, you almost always lose. The controls are a drifting set of crosshairs, a split second of timing, an insanely powerful AI, and the very real potential to see how many times a Switch Lite can skip across a lake. It almost feels like it was added as an afterthought, but a malicious one. “Hey, the dedicated creep is going to unlock all the photos in forty minutes or less, what’s a good way to waste more of their time? GOT IT, a game that has no prize for winning, no chance of winning, and has nothing to do with anything. I’m taking myself to Applebee’s after this. I deserve an eight dollar margarita and vomiting in a strip mall parking lot.”
People will see Neko Secret Room for what it is and almost assuredly not get it, but I’m here to confirm that you should not, under any circumstance, get this onto your Switch. I’ve never been more certain that I could catch a communal disease from code, and I think the physical release should be bundled with a rapid antigen test.
It’s not sexy enough to justify how bad the gameplay is, there is no story that could possibly explain anything that’s happening on screen (why am I hacking into a computer to look at nude photos of strangers?), and the number of titles out there that deliver more eroticism with less blatant sex pandering are high. Everyone will judge you for playing this, and no one will be your character witness in court afterwards. It’s hot trash, and if you’re seriously into the character design here, there are better games that are actually games. Please, don’t do this to yourself. You deserve better.
While some of the pictures are cute, a majority look like someone isn’t happy and the avatar came from Skinwalker Ranch.
The puzzles can be finished. Whether you want them to be or not is totally up to you.
The same loop over and over again reminds you uncomfortably of the concept of hell in Storm of the Century.
I bought myself Tropical Freeze and promised I would play it if I finished this.
Final Verdict: 1.5
Neko Secret Room is available now on Nintendo Switch and PC.
Reviewed on Nintendo Switch.
A copy of Neko Secret Room was provided by the publisher.