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Little Kitty, Big City review – the cat’s meow

Little Kitty, Big City review – the cat’s meow
Little Kitty, Big City – it’s all an excuse to eat more fish (Double Dagger Studio)

After the success of Stray, a new indie cat simulator has appeared, with a more cartoonish style and a suitably laidback attitude.

As cat lovers, we’re perfectly fine with them always playing the bad guys in movies. Cats can be as affectionate and loyal as any other animal but what makes them so fun is their unpredictability and their absolute indifference to what you, or anyone else, wants them to do. This is a difficult thing to get across in a video game and, although it seems to have been popular with many, we never particularly liked 2022’s Stray , whose overly altruistic feline could’ve been any kind of creature and it wouldn’t have made any difference.

In Little Kitty, Big City though the cats actually act like cats. The one you control is young and inexperienced, and altogether too polite towards birds, but the other, older ones are as marvellously lazy and manipulative as they should be. This is clearly a much cheaper and low-tech game than Stray but it’s also more light-hearted and fun. Plus, you get to knock flowerpots from walls for no reason other than you want to.

The resultant game is essentially a laidback 3D Metroidvania and while it’s very short, and a bit too expensive, it really does feel like a gamified version of what a day in the life of a cat would actually be like. Assuming you don’t go for an ultra-realistic version where your protagonist is asleep for 23 hours a day.

The game begins with your unnamed kitty asleep on an outside window shelf and, startled by a crow, ends up falling off. It’s a long way down and when he ends up at ground level he decides he lacks the energy to climb back up – which we suspect is just an excuse, to himself and others, to procure a lot of fish, in order to give him the power to climb back up.

The visuals for the game are a lot more cartoonish than Stray, with a Tokyo backdrop that looks straight out of Katamari Damacy (even though developer Double Dagger Studio is based in Seattle) and anthropomorphised facial animation. Despite the simplistic visuals, the animation in general is pretty good, if also exaggerated when doing things like landing from a jump.

As a cat, your special abilities are limited to swatting things with your paws and rubbing yourself up against humans when you want something. You can also carry small objects, from rubber ducks to cans – which can be deposited in recycle bins in exchange for shiny trinkets that crows use as currency. Although the most fun is intentionally tripping up humans to steal their sandwiches or run off with their mobile phone.

Jumps are handled more realistically than Stray, in that you hold down the button and then direct a dotted line in an arc to where you want to jump, like throwing a grenade in a third person shooter. It’s not terribly accurate though and while that usually works in your favour it makes the times when it doesn’t all the more frustrating.

Climbing is not dissimilar to Zelda: Breath Of The Wild, in that you can keep going for a short while before your stamina runs out. Increasing the number of things you can climb on is what the fish are for and one of the key Metroidvania elements, as you’re initially only able to scramble up ivy. This and other platforming elements can cause confusion for the camera though, which feels very old-fashioned in its inability to keep up with the action.

Little Kitty, Big City – collecting hats is a major side quest (Double Dagger Studio)

The game’s an odd mix of the relatively realistic and the purposefully cartoonish, such as trying to retrieve a duck’s children, one of which can’t tear himself away from watching the attract sequence of an animal-themed parody of Street Fighter 2 – until you work out a way to turn it off by leaking water onto its power plug.

Little Kitty, Big City is a purposefully mellow and trivial game and there’s a very great need for such things at the moment. Although you could easily spend three times the time finishing every side quest, you can get through the main story missions in around two hours and there’s something very appealing about that – even if the price doesn’t reflect the game’s length.

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We would’ve preferred the game edged more into Untitled Goose Game territory, in terms of the attitude of the cat, but you can be pretty mischievous all on your own, so that’s fine. The game’s fun and charming and it’s also perfect for casual and non-gamers, as the challenges are very mild and the controls uncomplicated. It is a proper game though, with some clever Metroidvania style obstacles that never feel patronisingly simple.

We definitely enjoyed it more than Stray, both as a game and a cat simulator, even if it falls short of being the perfect feline-themed video game. Either way, and unless you absolutely hate cats, this is a fun little amuse-bouche to play between other, bigger games and that’s certainly something the games industry could do with more of.

Little Kitty, Big City review summary In Short: A charmingly short and sweet Metroidvania style adventure, featuring an ordinary cat doing ordinary cat things, in a game that’s perfect for casual gamers and for enjoying between larger epics.
Pros: The premise works very well, with a tidily designed open world environment and simple but non-patronising controls and puzzles. Plenty of side quests, even though the short length is a positive.
Cons: Skittish camera and jump controls. Quite expensive.
Score: 7/10

Formats: Nintendo Switch (reviewed), Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, and PC Price: £22.49 Publisher: Double Dagger Studio Developer: Double Dagger Studio Release Date: 9th May 2024 Age Rating: 3

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