Category: Cats in Games

Little Kitty, Big City: Play As A Cat In Tokyo

It looks like 2022 is going to be a banner year for the fledgling “play as a cat” genre of video games.

There’s the long-awaited adventure game Stray, slated for early next year, in which the player is an orange tabby navigating an eerie future Hong Kong with heavy cyberpunk vibes. Then there’s Peace Island, an open world mystery game that gives players the choice to switch between nine different cats who are tasked with finding out what happened to their humans and all the other people who have suddenly vanished.

Now there’s a third feline-centric game in the mix: Little Kitty, Big City, which offers players the chance to adventure as a playful black cat with bright green eyes. The goal of Little Kitty, Big City is to help the title kitty find its way home, but as the trailer below repeatedly points out, cats tend to get side tracked:

One thing that stands out immediately is the art style. Stray is all dark urban environs drenched in neon, with neighborhoods inspired by Hong Kong’s former Kowloon Walled City. The title cat is determined, resourceful and adept at navigating dangerous situations, with a big part of the game’s focus not only on achieving goals, but achieving them the way a cat would.

Peace Island occupies a halfway point between Stray’s hi-fidelity noir realism and Little Kitty’s polygonal pastels. The titular island is picturesque and the game emphasizes beautiful sunsets, heavy undergrowth and local animal life. The environment itself is a character of sorts, as the players will have to mine their surroundings for clues about the missing people.

By contrast, Little Kitty, Big City offers us a heavily stylized Japanese metropolis with blue skies, bright colors and a whimsical narrative. The feline protagonist has a goal, but there are also so many boxes to explore, so many trash cans that might yield yums, and yes, plenty of laptops to sit on during grooming sessions. There aren’t mysteries to solve or enemies to watch out for, just a journey that rewards the player for doing what a cat does.

The game’s creators write:

“You’re a curious little kitty with a big personality, on an adventure to find your way back home. Explore the city, make new friends, wear delightful hats, and leave more than a little chaos in your wake. After all, isn’t that what cats do best?”

Above: Stray leans heavily into the cyberpunk aesthetic with Bladerunneresque visuals in a futuristic city.

Above: The cats of Peace Island investigate their eerily quiet home town as they piece together the mystery of the missing humans.

Stray was originally slated for late 2021, but has been pushed back to early 2022. Delays in the video game industry aren’t unusual, and as many publishers have learned the hard way, rushing to release a buggy, unfinished game is always a mistake.

Peace Island doesn’t have a release date yet, and as for Little Kitty, Big City, its Steam page simply says: “Planned release date: Cats don’t have deadlines.”

Dodgers Pitcher Shows Off His Love For Cats

The Dodgers’ Tony Gonsolin was rocking a unique look during his appearance Saturday against the Atlanta Braves.

The Los Angeles reliever, known for a repertoire that includes a mid-90s fastball, an extremely effective splitter and a nasty slider, was wearing a custom pair of cleats with fake cat fur to represent his kitties, Tigger and Blu. The custom kicks also featured a graphic of a cute ginger tabby on the sides.

catcleats
Tony Gonsolin’s custom cat cleats, which he wore in the National League Championship Game 2 against Atlanta on Oct. 17, 2021.

The 27-year-old hasn’t exactly been secretive about his love for cats, tweeting often about his furry friends and taking the opportunity to show them off every Caturday, but his Oct. 17 appearance was notable because he took it to a whole new level.

Alas, the Dodgers lost Saturday’s game on a ninth-inning walkoff single by the Braves’ talented Austin Riley. The 24-year-old has had a breakout season this year for Atlanta, hitting .303 with 33 home runs and 107 RBI, numbers that easily put him in the top echelon of offensive third basement.

But Gonsolin’s no slouch either. The righty boasts an impressive 2.85 ERA in three seasons in the MLB — all with the Dodgers — striking out 148 batters in 142.1 innings and posting a tidy 1.089 WHIP.

For our non-baseball-loving friends (me and Bud love us some baseball), that means Gonsolin is an extremely effective reliever, allowing few baserunners and keeping the ball out of play by frequently striking out batters.

Stray’s Feline Protagonist Is Picture Perfect

Determined to get inside an apartment, the ginger tabby leaps onto the ledge of an air conditioner unit, then onto the roof, where he drags a piece of debris to the edge, swipes it off and watches it shatter a skylight.

Boom. Kitty door created!

The scene isn’t part of a Youtube video or a documentary about smart cats, it’s a gameplay sequence from the upcoming Stray, a game in which the protagonist is a lost cat who’s been separated from his family and dropped into an eerie, near-future Hong Kong.

The overlap (or Reuleaux triangle) in a Venn diagram of gamers and cat-lovers is pretty sizable, and for that enthusiastic cross-section, there’s no game more highly anticipated than Stray.

Stray
Our hero gets his sustenance from bowls, needs to pause for a scratch every once in a while, and likes to rub against the legs of friendly characters he meets.

Previously we’d seen a short trailer and still screenshots, and now a video from the developers shows off more than four minutes of glorious game footage following the feline protagonist as he explores Hong Kong’s streets, back alleys and noodle shops.

The developers are clearly cat lovers: The kitty hero of Stray moves with the grace, energy and caution of a real domestic feline, and the game forces players to tackle obstacles and challenges the way a cat would. The protagonist cat gains access to a vent shaft, for example, by swiping a coffee mug into fan blades to get them to stop spinning. In another scene, the cat is startled, jumps a full pace back and lands on all fours in a way only cats can.

Everything from gait to reactions is perfectly cat-like. In the opening moments, our kitty hero is clearly injured, nursing one of his back legs as he hobbles down an alley. In a later scene he bats curiously at a drone the way a house cat would with a new toy.

There are no magic abilities or impossible inventories here: As the player, you can only do things a cat can do in real life, although you’re given a boost later on when a friendly character equips you with a harness on which B12, the above-mentioned drone, can dock. B12 can interact with man-made inventions, understand your cat’s intentions and facilitate rudimentary communication.

If, for example, your kitty character is dehydrated and stops to paw at a vending machine, B12 can send a signal to the machine, order it to dispense a beverage, then open it for the adventurous cat. B12 also helps your catagonist fight off enemies. By flashing a purple light at hostile machines, for example, the little drone can render them harmless and deactivate them.

Ultimately, though, the game designers want you to think in cat terms to make your way through the game world, and that means considering feline physiology when encountering obstacles, and feline psychology when trying to solve puzzles.

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“A new toy?!” Stray’s hero cat is curious as he meets B-12 for the first time.

The project’s lead designers are both industry veterans who decided to strike out on their own by forming an independent studio after years of working for UbiSoft, the game industry giant known for game franchises like Assassin’s Creed and Watch_Dogs. Like those games, Stray gives players the opportunity to explore a highly detailed open world.

“Our goal is to create a unique experience playing as a cat. We are inspired everyday by Murtaugh and Riggs, our two cats,” creative director Viv said. “Most of the team are cat owners as well, giving us all a lot of helpful first-hand references. Cats are always so playful, cute and lovingly annoying that it’s an endless stream of gameplay ideas for us.”

Stray_gameplay

For the game’s atmosphere, the creators were inspired by Hong Kong’s Kowloon Walled City, a former military fortress that became a slum in the days of British-ruled Hong Kong, with Chinese triad gangs serving as de facto authorities in the lawless zone. Today, the former Kowloon Walled City is a park.

“It is also a very unique point of view for an adventure game. Exploring the strange world we are building feels really fresh when you’re sneaking under a car, or walking the rooftops with the inhabitants below unaware of your presence. Or if you want them to be aware, you can just meow endlessly to annoy them.”

Stray was originally slated for a late 2021 release, but it’s looking more likely that we won’t see it until the first quarter of 2022. Given the recent history of highly anticipated and rushed projects like Cyberpunk 2077, few gamers would begrudge a development team taking its time and getting things right rather than going into a months-long crunch period to meet a holiday deadline. Good things come to those who wait, especially in the complex world of game development.

How One Cat Changed The Fortunes Of Two Baseball Teams

The Yankees were getting drubbed.

It was the eighth inning of a humid night in the Bronx, and the Bombers were facing yet another loss, this time in humiliating fashion — they were down 7 to 1 against the last-place Baltimore Orioles, who smacked four home runs off of recently-acquired starting pitcher Andrew Heaney.

Fans cried out to the Baseball Gods for intervention, and their prayers were heard: With Yankee slugger Aaron Judge at the plate, a tiny shape streaked across the left side of the infield, just behind the foul line.

“The one and two,” Yankees TV play-by-play man Michael Kay said as the Orioles’ pitcher delivered. “Uh oh…”

The shape moved, and the gait gave it away: It was definitely a cat.

“How in the world did he get out here?” color commentator Paul O’Neill asked.

For a moment it looked like play would continue. Then the stadium’s cameras zoomed in on the little interloper, a brownish tabby. The kitty took off toward left field and the crowd went wild.

Orioles left fielder Ryan McKenna stood and watched as the little guy streaked past him, heading for the outfield wall where a door — which remains closed during play — leads to the bullpen.

Seeing no way out, the cat paused, then jumped on the padding that lines the walls, drawing more cheers from the crowd, who encouraged him as he tried to leap the rest of the way over the fence.

By the time a quartet of Yankees security guards tried to corner kitty and he dodged them — not once, not twice but three times! — the crowd was pumped, shouting “MVP! MVP! MVP!”

Almost four minutes elapsed from the time the cat appeared on the field to the moment when a Yankees employee with some brains opened a side door, allowing kitty to escape from what was undoubtedly a stressful situation. Quite an adventure for the little guy.

The Orioles won that game and the troubled Yankees looked like they were headed for a bitterly disappointing season.

The cat changed both narratives, at least for the kind of people who put stock in sports superstition — a group that includes the players themselves.

Rally Cat
Rally Cat, as he’s become affectionately known, on the field at Yankee Stadium. Credit: Bronx Times

Since that Aug. 2 game, the Orioles have suffered through a historically brutal stretch, losing 19 games in a row before finally earning a win last night. That epic losing streak represents the worst run of futility in Major League Baseball in 16 years and stopped just two losses shy of a 21-game losing streak set in 1900. (For British and international readers, you read that right: No other sport is as meticulous as baseball when it comes to continuity and keeping stats. Those statistics go all the way back to the first professional games in 1869. While seasons have been interrupted — most recently last year when the schedule was reduced from 162 to 60 games due to the pandemic — only World Wars I and II have scratched entire seasons from the history books.)

Fearing a curse, the Orioles’ players tried all sorts of things to change their luck, most noticeably growing mustaches. (Note to the Orioles: Playing like a major league team tends to work better than growing facial hair.)

The Yankees, meanwhile, have experienced a renaissance that has them looking like the perennial championship contenders they’re supposed to be, vaulting over five other teams in the standings and breathing down the necks of the first-place Tampa Bay Rays.

With their win over the Braves on Tuesday night, the Yankees are 18-3 since Rally Cat (as he’s now known) appeared in Yankee Stadium, and they’re riding an 11-game winning streak, their longest stretch of wins since 1985. It’s a stunning turnaround for a team that had been disappointing all year, looking lifeless for long stretches.

As for the cat, it’s not clear what happened to him. Local shelter operators and animal rescue organizations haven’t heard anything.

One thing was clear to anyone who is familiar with felines: The kitty’s body language clearly conveyed fear and confusion, and he was desperate to find a way out. Any cat would be, with 35,000 humans making a ton of noise, lights and huge advertising screens everywhere, and additional humans standing on the grass in what must look to cats like some bizarre ritual.

Yankees security didn’t do themselves any favors by the way they were trying to remove the cat, Elyise Hallenbeck, director of Strategy for Bideawee Animal Rescue’s Leadership Giving & Feral Cat Initiative, told the Bronx Times.

“They should be grateful that they weren’t able to lay hands on it, because the cat would have won that,” Hallenbeck said. “The cat was severely and terribly, terribly, frightened.”

Rally Cat, wherever you are, we hope you’re in the care of a loving human and you’re enjoying some delicious yums. You deserve it.

 

 

Kitty Barges Into Dodgers-Rockies Game, Tries Out For Center Field

A grey cat sprinted onto the field during Friday night’s Dodgers-Rockies matchup at Denver’s Coors Field, briefly taking over center field as thousands of fans cheered him on.

The furball may have thought the Dodgers needed help in the field after starter Trevor Bauer took a no-hitter into the seventh inning, then got smacked for a pair of homers and gave up six quick runs.

“He’s in center field,” one of the announcers said. “Sprinting into the gap, at the track, at the wall and…captured!”

https://mobile.twitter.com/Dodgers/status/1378199161175220225

Dodgers centerfielder Cody Bellinger cheered the little intruder on as he backed up to the wall like a true outfielder, trying to escape a pair of masked employees who scooped him up so play could resume.

Word after the game was that Mets GM Zack Scott offered a roster spot to the enthusiastic kitty, envisioning the fast feline as a pinch runner. If the unidentified cat signs, he’ll earn the league minimum 438,000 cans for his rookie season.

https://mobile.twitter.com/Rockies/status/1378196822242508802

Last night’s game was not the first time a cat has taken the field at a major US sporting event. On Nov. 4, 2019, a black cat scurried out while the New York Giants were hosting the Dallas Cowboys. Superstitious fans blamed the cat for the Giants’ subsequent losing streak, but the truth is the team was just terrible and kitty was simply reminding everyone of that fact.