Tag: Hong Kong

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.”

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.

Stray
“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.

“Stray” Lets Gamers Play As A Cat In Hong Kong

After 2015’s Shelter 2 — in which gamers take on the role of a female Lynx protecting her cubs in the wild — proved there’s a real audience for games from a cat’s perspective, there have been a few feline-centric games coming down the development pipeline.

None of them, however, look as unique and fascinating as Stray, a newly-unveiled title in which players take the role of a cat surviving in a post-human future Hong Kong.

The game’s trailer is spectacular, following an orange tabby cat navigating a neon-lit urban landscape populated only by machines. Details about the narrative haven’t been revealed and it’s not clear what happened to humanity in the game’s universe, but cats are alive and well in Stray, and it looks like they’ve manipulated robots into serving them the same way they had humans wrapped around their little paws.

“I will throw my money at anything that lets me play as a cat,” one Youtube user posted.

“There’d better be a meow button,” another wrote.

Although it’s early yet and we haven’t seen gameplay videos, the cat depicted in the trailer is exceptionally well-modeled and rendered by game artists who clearly love the little furballs. The feline’s gait, movements and vocalizations are spot-on.

Stray will be a PS4/5 exclusive at launch (boo!) but will also have a PC release, presumably at least a few months later. We’ll be watching eagerly for more news about this interesting and unique game, which is slated for a 2021 release.

Stray (game)
The feline player character seen in the trailer sports a backpack which could serve as a player inventory or hide gadgets. We always knew cats were smarter than they let on.

Shelter 2
A mother lynx and her cubs in Shelter 2, which employs heavily stylized visuals to represent animals and their environment.

Peace Island
Peace Island is another game currently in development that will allow players to control cats, who are the protagonists of the game.