As we noted on Sunday, Larry the Cat just celebrated his 12th anniversary as chief mouser at No. 10 Downing St., the UK prime minister’s residence and office. The Atlantic has a new gallery featuring photos of Larry’s adventures over the years, and it’s fantastic.
See Larry chase a pigeon, tolerate former President Barack Obama, pose for the press, bolt from a Mitsubishi bigwig, cautiously supervise a police dog working on his turf, hang out with photographers and steal the show during meetings of world leaders.
The gallery also includes rare photos of Larry inside No. 10 (during which he’s mostly gazing longingly at his turf outside) and other amusing moments from his long tenure as de facto head of government in the UK.
(Top image credit: Pete Souza/White House photo)
The camera pans from a wet, neon-lit street to the jagged remains of a wall spray painted with “Death to Humans” when a tiny head pops up, with the unmistakable shape of cat ears and the markings of a ginger tabby.
Zoom in: An orange tail speeds by, its owner just out of the frame, then the guitars kick in and Gori the cat stylishly disembowels some freak monster from atop his trusty Back To The Future-style hoverboard.
The game is called Gori: Cuddly Carnage, and it looks completely ridiculous, absolutely glorious and a hell of a lot of fun.
It’s from Angry Demon Studios and Wired Productions, the same people behind the well-received 80s/90s nostalgia trip Arcade Paradise, so the production values look great and Gori shares some elements of the retrowave aesthetic prevalent in Paradise.
It probably won’t get the kind of hype that the feline-centricStray received, nor will people laud it for educating players about cat behavior, but that’s okay. It’s not that kind of game. Gori: Cuddly Carnage is still in development with no announced release date, but we’ll be keeping an eye on it.
When volunteers in Elkhart, Indiana, went to trap a mom and her kittens near an industrial site, one of the babies panicked and ran straight into a hole, taking a tumble into a drainage pipe beneath.
The rescuers from a non-profit TNR group called Catsnip didn’t give up on the four-week-old baby even after finding her proved to be much more difficult than they imagined. They called off the search in Elkhart — about 160 miles north of Indianapolis — the first night when it was too dark to keep working. They dropped food for the scared fluffball, whom they could hear but still could not locate in the dark, tight subterranean space.
The next morning they were back at it, trying to literally flush the kitten out before a volunteer named Ashley descended via a manhole 75 feet from the spot where the kitten had fallen in.
The entire saga took about 48 hours and hinged on Ashley who, because of her small size, was able to squeeze into a pipe and crawl 30 feet to the terrified baby cat — then had to crawl out backwards the way she came while cradling the little one.
It was worth it for the volunteers, who named the kitten Piper in honor of her adventure, gave her fluids and formula from a dropper, then reunited her with her mom. Read about the whole encounter at The Dodo. (And serious props to Ashley! Just thinking about what she had to do makes me shudder. Cats may love tight spaces, but most humans do not.)
Hey! That’s Buddy’s MO!
As gamers who generally prefer more depth, the Buddies never got on the Fortnite bandwagon, so we weren’t aware that Fortnite has a character named Meowscles until encountering this article from Cracked.
As you can see, Meowscles was clearly inspired by Bud, who is known for his incredibly ripped physique and totally isn’t a bit chubby. (“That’s all muscle, not fat!” Buddy insists.)
Fortnite is a battle royale-style game in which up to 100 players compete against each other in live matches. The game is free-to-play, with developer Epic Games making its money by selling cosmetic items as microtransactions. Meowscles is one of about 1,400 different “outfits” players can purchase to customize their characters.
The game has been a monumental success for Epic, earning billions and leading the company to launch the Epic Games Store, the first serious competitor to Steam, which has been the dominant platform for PC gamers for years. Epic has been so flush with cash that’s it’s been giving away free games every week to lure customers away from Steam, even upping the freebies to a new game every day during the holidays.
Cat and Owner Costume Contest?!?
In Massachusetts, the Cat Fancier’s Association held its ninth annual cat and owner costume contest on Sunday. Unfortunately, the only story we can find about the event comes from the local public radio affiliate, so there’s not much in terms of photos.
If you were going to enter such a contest with your cat, what costumes would you and your fluffy overlord wear?
I’m thinking maybe I’d be a Targaryen with Bud as a baby dragon perched on my shoulder in honor of Game of Thrones/House of the Dragon. But that might offend little dude, who tends to think of himself as a hulking tiger. Perhaps the easier and more realistic “costume” would be Bud dressed as a king, snug in his own little carrier designed to look like a royal palanquin, with me carrying the palanquin as his dutiful servant. Thus, art imitates life.
More news in the world of Stray, the play-as-a-cat video game that’s taken the world by storm with rave reviews, plenty of memes and hilarious videos of real cats reacting to their humans playing the game.
Thanks to players who create custom game mods, short for modifications, Stray players can now replace the game’s ginger tabby protagonist with cats of their choosing. Currently there are mods that make the title cat a Siamese, a black cat with yellow eyes, a white cat with heterochromia (different color eyes), a tuxedo and a Calico, among others.
The most popular mod, dubbed Pick of the Litter, features many different coat colors and patterns that users can select and switch between.
There are currently at least two gray tabby mods, but neither of them match Buddy’s chubby incredibly muscular physique.
One modder is taking commissions from gamers and creating custom cat avatars based on photographs, so if a player’s cat has a unique color or pattern — or you just want something more accurate — they have that option. Perhaps we’ll inquire if it’s possible to add huge meowscles as well as edit coat patterns and colors.
Other mods allow players to substitute a dog as the protagonist (come on, now…), add snazzy spectacles to the kitty, and tweak graphics settings for greater photorealism.
Finally, if you’re a fan of a certain lasagna-loving cartoon cat, you’re in luck: He’s now in the game thanks to the efforts of one dedicated fan, and he’s as lazy and heavy-lidded as he’s always been.
It should be noted that mods are unique to the PC, which is an open platform. If you’re playing the game on a Playstation 4 or 5, you’re out of luck.
There’s been so much buzz about Stray, so many news stories, memes and people talking about it, that I’m probably not alone in feeling like I’m watching a TV series an episode at a time while most people binged it in a day or two.
But that’s not how I play, and it’s not how most game developers want players to experience their stories. Modern games, especially games like Stray with their bespoke environments and unique encounters, are built to immerse players in their worlds. The entire point of video games is the interactivity, the choices and agency of the players. They’re designed so when you choose to wander off the beaten path or take a few moments to linger over something visually impressive, the experience is rewarding.
Maybe you’ll find a rare item, a compelling vista, a secret passage or a funny sign. The point is, there’s incentive to look deeper. It gives games a feeling of possibility and the thrill of the undiscovered.
These stories are not meant to be passive experiences, nor are they meant to be devoured. I won’t be speed running through this mysterious alternate future version of Hong Kong. The journey is the entire point.
Picking up where we left off, the Good Boy (that’s what I’m calling him, for now at least) must learn to navigate this new and potentially dangerous urban environment, and he must do so with a feline’s skill set.
There are no opposable thumbs here. If our hero needs to move an object, he’s got to carry it in his mouth like a mom cat does with her kittens. If he needs to move a barrel, he’s got to get inside and run like a hamster in a wheel to propel it forward. If he needs to stop a fan’s blades from spinning so he can get through a window, he’s got to drop or swipe something into the blades to jam them up.
Appropriately, one of the main mechanisms for making new routes is knocking things over. Knock over a piece of plywood and Good Boy has a bridge. Knock over a can or a box at just the right angle to flip a switch and so on.
Good Boy meanders through a seemingly abandoned Kowloon City, padding through quiet streets and taking shortcuts through empty flats. There’s power, the city is illuminated by incandescent lights, neon and the glow of TV sets indoors, so someone must be around.
Our feline hero soon learns new tenants have moved in, and they’re not friendly. I’m not sure what they’re called, and the game doesn’t name them, but Kowloon is now home to swarming, artificial tribble-like creatures that attack Good Boy on sight and can take him down if he doesn’t run and shake off any enemies who manage to latch onto him. (Side note: I do not like dying in this game. What did Good Boy ever do to deserve being attacked?)
The first encounter with these enemies turns into a twisting chase through dimly-lit alleys, crumbling staircases and tight streets. Good Boy manages to evade the evil robot tribbles and finds sanctuary in a secure flat.
Once he attends to his needs, which include some carpet scratching and rehydrating, he’s contacted by a machine who uses TVs, computer monitors and other electronics in the apartment to communicate with the tabby.
The machine directs the cat through a few simple tasks necessary to free him, then meets Good Boy in the flesh.
The bot, a palm-size drone named B-12, is damaged and his memory is corrupted. He’s as lost and confused as Good Boy is, and he proposes a partnership. Good Boy, who sees the value in a drone who can open locks, translate signs and communicate with others, agrees. B-12 outfits his new feline friend with a harness that allows him to dock on the kitty’s back, then he saddles up and the new teammates venture forth.
For the first time, the protagonist is able to glean real information about his environment and has a sense of direction. He also gets to travel by makeshift ziplines, hopping into buckets hanging from the city’s ubiquitous wires.
Next episode: Our duo fights back! Same cat time, same cat channel.
Stray is the real deal. The game is beautifully atmospheric and slipping into its world feels effortless.
The adventure begins amid beautiful urban decay, with the titular feline and his family of three other moggies waking from a nap on the ledge of a concrete reservoir in the process of being reclaimed by Mother Nature. Tangles of branches and leaves push through the crumbling man-made structure everywhere, creating canopies, waterfalls and pools, and our hero and his buddies navigate their idyllic home in perfectly cat-like manner, leaping up, dropping down and pausing to lap water from reservoirs of running water.
The game gets you started with a few classics from the feline repertoire. You can walk, run, leap, hop up and, perhaps most importantly, meow by pressing the Alt key. A general interactive key allows you to sidle up to your feline friends for some head bunting and allogrooming, and the furry family members purr at each other in appreciation.
But things don’t remain idyllic, of course, because this is an adventure.
Our cat, an adorable ginger tabby, is separated from his tribe when he follows them across a chasm via a rusty pipe and the metal gives way.
It’s an enormous credit to the animators that they’re able to convincingly convey the panic and fear on kitty’s face as he tries to stop his fall, clawing at the edge futilely until he takes a nasty tumble onto hard concrete a few hundred feet below. Conveying authentic emotion on the faces of human characters is challenging, but doing it with a non-anthropomorphized animal is another thing entirely.
When you land, you can hear the distressed cries of your fur friends far above but can no longer see them, and your cat is injured: He limps along on three legs through a dimly lit sewer before passing out from his injuries.
An indeterminate time later he awakes, sniffs out a cat-size path of egress from the sewer and finds himself in the neon-tinted Walled City of Kowloon in an alternate future. (The real Kowloon Walled City, infamous for its urban density and its status as a hub for Hong Kong’s triad gangs, was demolished in 1994. It’s now a park.)
There’s so much that could go wrong with a game like this. It features a radical shift in perspective, putting players closer to the ground than they’re accustomed to and in the paws of an animal who isn’t particularly well-represented among game protagonists. Animating a feline is an enormous challenge, and cats have their own version of the uncanny valley: The slightest mistake in the rhythm of a moggie’s gait, for example, can throw the whole thing off, rendering the character unnatural. (See the wacky gallops of Assassin’s Creed’s horses, for example, or pretty much any third-person game in which a human character can run. More than two decades into making modern third-person games, developers still have trouble animating human running sequences that don’t look broken or comical.)
The care that went into animating kitty is evident, as is the work that went into controlling him feel effortless and instinctive. There’s no adjustment period here. From the first moment moving like a cat feels like second nature.
We’ll have more on the gameplay and story as we spend more time in Stray’s world. So far, the game gets an enthusiastic thumbs up from Buddy the Cat and me, his humble human servant.
In the meantime, as Stray sets sales records for an indie game and continues to generate incredible buzz on social media, publisher Annapurna Interactive is using the opportunity to help real life kitties, including a game code giveaway with the Nebraska Humane Society that netted more than $7,000 in donations.
We're teaching these kittens how to turn on a PlayStation so they can play Stray, the new cat adventure game from @HKdevblog and @A_i! 🎮