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Visual Novel / Hustle Cat

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Hustle Cat is a visual novel published by DateNighto, released March 2016 after a successful Kickstarter campaign.

The game follows the story of Avery Grey, a recent high school grad staying at their aunt's house in the city. Avery hasn't quite mastered this whole "growing up" thing, but makes a semi-valiant effort to find a job (in between eating pizza and watching cute cat videos...) with little luck. While out on a walk, they stumble across a cat cafe, and the place is hiring! But there's definitely more to the place than meets the eye...

Magic, shenanigans, and adorable flirting ensue.

One notable aspect of the game is that the main character is presented as gender non-binary and with several semi-ambiguous models to chose from. Chosen pronouns are actually an configurable setting that can be changed mid-game if the player so desires. This choice was in part to try a different method of fostering character-player connection, vs. the "Nilla Wafer hero"

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Tropes found in Hustle Cat include:

  • Adorkable: Several of the characters, to varying degrees. Reese's obsession with trashy romance novels, Graves' gothy theatrics, and virtually everything Hayes does comes to mind.
  • Age-Gap Algebra: Referenced by Nacht in Graves' route; specifically, he notes the "half your age plus seven" rule that is clearly being broken.
  • Animorphism: All of the employees can voluntarily turn into cats on the cafe premises, and involuntarily do so when they're off the cafe's property. Graves can turn into a cat anywhere and anytime, as it's his personal brand of magic.
  • Art Initiates Life: Reese's father has this as his magic, and to an extent so does his son. However, this is not Reese's natural magic, which is why the curse won't break for him.
  • Baleful Polymorph:
    • Though it's varying degrees of 'baleful', none of the employee of A Cat's Pawnote  specifically chose to be turned into cats.
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    • How Graves defeats Nacht on his route; he turns Nacht into a bengal cat.
  • Bland-Name Product: At the start of the game, Avery is looking at job postings on Gregslist.
  • Cats Are Magic
  • Cats Are Snarkers
  • Crush Blush: Avery shows one a few times. Reese is also very vulnerable to this.
  • Curse:
    • Everyonenote  who works at the cafe is cursed to turn into a cat once they leave the property boundaries.
    • Additionally, Landry is under a second curse which will make his heart explode if he gets too angry, due to an unfortunate encounter with another witch. Near the end of his route it's revealed that it was just the witch playing a trick and giving Landry heartburn for around an hour.
  • Curse Escape Clause: The cat curse is broken when the affected person manages to access their magic. This is because the curse was intended to be a way of protecting fledgling Witches and Adepts from those who would hunt them down for sport, by disguising them as familiars. So a person who meets the cursebreaking criteria is one who is able to defend themselves from magical threats, thus rendering the curse useless.
  • Cursed with Awesome: While admitting there are some downsides, Finley thinks the curse is awesome, and uses her cat form to become the viral internet sensation Jelly Donut. After growing up struggling with "not really being good at anything", she enjoys the fame and attention it brings.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Several characters demonstrate this, Mason in spades.
    Finley: "Maybe [Mason]'s found a comfy gig at an old cat lady's or something."
    Mason: "Haven't been to your place in ages, though."
  • Did I Just Say That Out Loud?: Happens on Graves' route.
    Avery: "But I don't want to be taken care of. I want you." D-did I just say that out loud?
  • Elemental Powers: The most common type of adept magic. See Landry's lightning powers and Mason's fire powers.
  • Emotional Powers: Adept magic, being heavily instinctual, can almost be classed as a manifestation of a caster's emotions. An example is seen the first time Landry uses his powers - since he's extremely angry when he does so, the resulting magical outburst is powerful enough to shatter most windows in the vicinity.
  • Everyone is Pan: There are several different romance-able characters, and since Avery's gender and appearance can be chosen this leads to a certain BioWare-esque fluidity of sexual preferences.
  • Fictional Video Game: Bl@st Zone, a virtual novel "about men's passions clashing in a life-or-death struggle!"
  • Foreshadowing:
    • The rust on the lamppost in the intro is the work of the main antagonist.
    • At the beginning of the game Avery makes an offhand remark that garbage and clutter seems to be constantly attracted to them. This is a hint towards their magical talent - namely manipulating trash.
    • Avery gets asked during the job interview, if they can speak another language or read cyphers. If Avery says no, Graves will be a little less engaged, if yes he is quite interested. And either way he will give Avery the book with the translation slip to support him reading the cyphers that hide spells.
  • Functional Magic: Seemingly of the inherent-gift flavor, with some potential rule-magic. Various characters are shown to have specific talents or domains they can control when taught magic, that are particular to that individual. Frequently the abilities are tied to their interests and personalities. Trying to duplicate someone else's talents isn't very effective, and continuing to try can lead to mental corruption.
  • Gratuitous Iambic Pentameter: Hayes's route has a lot of this.
  • Guilty Pleasures:
    • If Reese follows you downstairs while you're trying to find clues to what's going on, you stumble across a partially hidden book called "The Witching Hour", which at first appears to be about magic. He tries to get it away from you before you can read further. Turns out it's actually a trashy bodice-ripper he's obviously been reading, and some gentle teasing leaves him mortified.
    • Avery attempts to make peace by asking Reese if he's ever read The Dragon Pirate, which is "about a pirate who's secretly a dragon, and also a princess. She's in like, three different love triangles. It's real steamy." When Avery offers to lend him the book, Reese says he's willing to forget this transgression...
  • Invisible to Normals: The only advertising for cafe positions Graves uses is the sign in the window, which can only be seen by those with magical talent.
  • Involuntary Shapeshifting: The main effect of the curse. This is played with to some extent, as within the cafe's grounds the cursed can voluntarily assume cat shape, and often do as part of their job.
  • Lap Pillow: Finley with Avery in her route.
  • Magically Binding Contract: Everyone who works at A Cat's Paw signed one when they became employed there, and to be absolutely fair, it does tell the signee that they'll be turned into a cat. It just so happens that other than Reese, nobody actually bothered to read the terms properly before signing.
    Reese: (upon hearing this) Oh my God. Oh my God, all of you.
  • Magic Music: Both Asmodeus and Kaz use sound as their magical medium; for Asmodeus, it's the tinkling of hand bells, while Kaz's magic is powered by... dubstep.
  • Mundane Utility: At one point Mason uses her magic to relight the pilot light in the oven.
  • No Ontological Inertia:
    • When Graves is "killed", the cat curse is immediately broken and everyone shifts back to human form, no matter where they were at the time.
    • Similarly, when Nacht is cut off from his magic, anyone who's been rusted recovers.
  • Office Romance: Avery with any of the romantic options, naturally.
  • One Head Taller: Avery when paired with Landry, Mason, or Graves.
  • Reality Ensues: After Avery is cornered and trapped by Nacht, Graves shows up to save the day. However, he knows he's badly outmatched and tells Avery to run, as Nacht is far more learned and powerful than Avery is. If you decide to stick around, Avery ends up rusted. And why? ...Well, because Nacht has been a powerful witch for decades, and Avery's only been one for a couple of weeks.
  • Rewriting Reality: Hayes' magic is very similar to this, albeit a spoken version, though the intent is definitely mimicking the written word and narration. May be better described as Author Powers. Finley also has something similar to this, though it's a bit less extreme.
  • "Shut Up" Kiss: Avery gives one to Graves at the end of their route.
  • Spell Book: Avery finds one on the creepy basement the first time you're sent down there on an errand. With the help of a magic bookmark allowing them to read the runes, Avery learns magic and is able to unknowingly break the curse on themself.
  • Taken for Granite: If touched, Nacht's rust will slowly turn someone into a rust-covered statue.
  • Terms of Endangerment: Nacht calls Avery "kitten", and he's not being cute.
  • Training the Gift of Magic: Both traditional witches (those possessing a personality-based magical talent that has its own unique set of casting rules and limitations) and adepts (those whose powers do not directly correlate to their personalities, and are more instinctual rather than rule-based) require training to use their powers to their full potential. Adept training focuses on applying precision and control to their innate abilities, while witch training revolves around finding new and innovating applications of their set talent.
  • True Companions: The group at A Cat's Paw is very much a family.
    Finley: We stick together, us cursed cats.
  • Voluntary Shapeshifting: Everyone can choose whether or not they want to be a cat... so long as they're on the cafe's premises. At the end of Finley's route, once the curse is broken, it's mentioned that Graves is teaching her how to transform voluntarily.
  • Wild Magic: Adept magic most closely resembles this.
  • Witch Duel: The finale of every route has one involving Nacht. There is also one in Reese's route, which gets cut short thanks to Landry setting the cops on the offending parties.

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